2014 Feature: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Today is an especially exciting day for me because I get to welcome one of the loveliest people I know to the blog, Paula Stokes. Paula wrote the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series (which I adore) under the pen name Fiona Paul, but today she's here to talk about her contemporary debut under her own name, The Art of Lainey! I am crazy excited to get the chance to read this one and today Paula's here to give us some background on how the book came to be.

First, a bit about the book:
The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes.
To be published: May 20, 2014
by: HarperTeen.

I'll skip the blurb because Paula's going to tell you about the book in her own words as she tells the story of where it all came from. So without further ado, here she is:

Hey everybody. What’s up? The fantastic Jessica Reid invited me over to talk about my first contemporary novel, The Art of Lainey. One of the questions everyone asks is always “Where did the idea come from?” so I thought I would share that with you today. The Art of Lainey is the story of Lainey Mitchell, a seventeen-year-old girl whose charmed life starts to fall apart when her boyfriend, Jason, suddenly and inexplicably breaks up with her. Desperate to restore the status quo, Lainey hatches a plan with her friend Bianca to win Jason back. When the online dating advice seems lame, the girls turn to Bianca’s copy of The Art of War for strategy. After all, love is a battlefield, right? Sun Tzu’s military strategies lead Lainey down a path that results in her not just discovering the person she’s meant to be with, but also discovering the person she’s meant to be.

This story was ripped straight from the headlines of my own life :-) I was living a fairly charmed existence with a great job and a book deal on the side. I was seeing a guy I was absolutely crazy about and for once everything felt perfect. And then, after almost a year, the guy just quit talking to me. Perhaps both Lainey and I would have been more enlightened if our response to this sudden and hurtful disappearance was to “Whatevz. I deserve better.” But that’s not real life to me. When you care deeply for someone and they behave erratically, you tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, don’t you? I do. My immediate response was to think the guy was “going through something” or maybe that I had done something wrong. So just like in the book I googled things like “how to win him back.” And just like Lainey, I found the tips to be rather unhelpful. And that’s where real life and the story diverge. Alas no, I did not pursue him Warlord-woman style. I wrote a book instead :-)

But before I decided to write The Art of Lainey, I did a freewriting exercise for a local writers’ group I was attending. It was this short passage that helped me to see the possibility for fun and humor and love in something I had been experiencing only as sad. The prompt was “community and communication.” Here it is: the writing assignment that gave birth to an idea that became a “book of my heart.”


I haven’t talked to him in eight days, unless you count a one-word text message reply as talking. I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the needy type. He’s busy. I’m busy. I could go weeks without seeing him and be okay. Weeks without talking, well, I’m less okay with that. I mean, experts at both glamour.com and cosmo.com clearly state that a week without contact is a bad sign.

Only one way to clear things up. I type the words “he quit calling me” into the search box. 400,000 hits. At least I’m not alone. Alanna416 at dearcupid.com informs me he’s not that into me. Over at girlsaskguys.com, Optimus_Prime replies “Get over him. He’s hooking up with someone else.” I refuse to take relationship advice from a Transformer. Next. Some British chick on yahoo answers tells me I’m too good for him.

They’re probably all right, but none of them gave me the answer I really need. None of them told me how to find the off switch, you know, the one for my feelings.

My friend Connie watches me google with a mixture of amusement and dismay. She steps in before I can spend 27 bucks on some chiseled dating coach’s “how to win him back” handbook. 
“Tell me again why you’re pining over this moderately attractive man-child?” she asks.
“Because he makes me laugh?”
Connie takes note of my puffy eyes and the crumpled tissues spread across the floor of my bedroom. “Obviously.” She grabs his picture out of my hands. “I think I’ve seen him before. Yeah, I’ve seen his pic online.”
She wrinkles up her tan forehead. “Hmm…”
“Where?” I repeat, a bit more forcefully. I have to know. Maybe it’s a clue.
“Oh I remember,” she says. “On urbandictionary.com. Right next to the entry for loser.”
I slug her, but not before cracking my first smile in days. “Pretty sure I saw your picture next to the entry for unsupportive bitch.”
“Here’s me being supportive,” she says. “Why don’t you just call him? Demand to know what’s up?”
“Worth a try, I guess,” I say. “But what if he still ignores me?”
“Then he’s not the guy you want to be with anyway.”


In case you’re wondering, that guy was not a bad guy, and I did understand his reasons for bailing, once I extracted them by force ;-) One thing I really wanted to do with The Art of Lainey, was to portray the complex reasoning that often exists for people’s seemingly impulsive decisions. Maybe it’s na├»ve, but I believe that most people don’t want to hurt other people, and that when they do so it’s because they feel like no matter what they do it’s going to hurt someone (or themselves) so they take what appears to be the least painful path. Jason’s reasons for bailing on Lainey are completely different than the real-world reasons, but no less complex.

Thank you, Paula, for sharing that! It sounds like Lainey was really helpful in your process of working through that. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but at least you have a story to tell when people do ask you where the idea came from! I'm just so glad you've turned it into what sounds like it's going to be a wonderful book.

Does The Art of Lainey not sound fabulous? I know I'm just about bursting at the seams waiting to read it!

About the author:
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other genres.

When she's not writing (rare), she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She's petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant's trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Her future goals include diving with great white sharks, learning Krav Maga, and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

Find Paula:
Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Blog / PinterestYAValentines

Amazon / B&NThe Book Depository

Also, just a note, if you're a Canadian blogger and you want to help promote The Art of Lainey, Kathy from A Glass of Wine and I have teamed up with Harper Collins Canada to run a Canadian blog tour! You can sign up here and you may get an early review copy!


  1. I'm so excited to read this book! Using "The Art of War" to navigate teen relationships is such a fabulous idea--I'm eager to see how it plays out. :)

    1. Isn't that such a fun concept? I absolutely love that! Paula sure has an interesting mind and I'm excited to see her story play out here too! :)

  2. Thanks for featuring me on your blog, Jess! It's always a pleasure to hang out here :D

    1. Thank you, Paula! I love having you, you know that :)


I'd love to hear what you think!