Can you please not drink out of the milk carton? I know it’s your house but seriously, it’s so gross. Also, you have really nice abs. What kind of core conditioning are you doing?
Your bathroommate, Karen
Letters To Nowhere Series Julie Cross
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest Series…
Set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics…
I’ve gotten used to the dead parents face. I’ve gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I’ve even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that’s made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan—being around him, talking to him, thinking about him—makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That’s something I haven’t been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it’s like to wonder—what now? I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you’re struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be…maybe…probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can’t happen, can it? But kissing him…well, let’s just say it’s not an easy activity to forget.
Synopsis book 2:
If only summer could last forever…
Karen and Jordan might be out in the open with their relationship, but that doesn’t make it any easier for them to face events looming in the future. Like Jordan leaving for college halfway across the country. Or Karen’s win at a big international gymnastics competition setting the bar high for her future and adding pressure like she’s never experienced before.
But when Nina Jones (aka-US Gymnastics Dictator), makes plans for Karen and teammate Stevie to train at a gymnastics camp for a month—the same camp where Jordan coaches—romantic summer interludes replace their fears of being apart. Both Jordan and Karen know that when fall comes, some very tough decisions will have to be made, but for now, it’s stolen kisses, racing hearts, and whispered words.
Synopsis book 3
Releasing December 15th 2013
How many dreams can you chase at once?
Even with bad boy, TJ, disrupting their morning workouts, Karen and Stevie’s daily battles with each other are sure to bring both of them closer to a national title at next month’s championships. It’s the kind of feud that creates winning results.
Until a fall from the uneven bars shakes Karen’s rock-solid confidence. Not only does she balk every time she so much as attempts a routine, she’s also facing all this without much support from Jordan. After receiving some bad news, Jordan’s reluctance to listen to reason causes Karen so much frustration she begins to avoid him, needing space to deal with her own issues. He needs someone to force him to make the right choice, he needs his dad to intervene and Karen knows this, but is torn between her loyalty to Jordan and her concern for her coach’s son. Even though both paths lead to the same person—Jordan—it feels like she’s choosing between two different people.
And then there’s the growing tension between TJ and Stevie. They’re obviously on the verge of either ripping each other’s heads off or ripping each other’s clothes off. It’s hard for either Jordan or Karen to tell where those two are headed. Tension is building from every possible outlet and there’s bound to be an explosion of some kind in the very near future.
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5 Facts About Letters to Nowhere
1) Since I started writing the book, I’ve envisioned my main character, Karen, as a red-headed McKayla Maroney even though I tried my best not to picture her as anyone specific.
2) I’ve been around the world of competitive gymnastics for at least 15 years and therefore have depicted elite level gymnastics as true-to-life as possible in this book.
3) The romance in LtN is not your typical “insta-love” or “fall in love then break up” format. This will please some and disappoint others.
4) My main character, Karen, has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident prior to the book’s opening however, I don’t consider this a typical book about death either because there are so many other elements intertwined and Karen is a fighter, she’s constantly driven by one goal or another. It’s about rising up after a fall.
5) LtN is truly the book of my heart because I wanted, for so long, to find a way to combine by two greatest passions - YA Literature and Gymnastics.
INTERVIEW WITH LETTERS TO NOWHERE AUTHOR
Do you have a favorite character from Letters to Nowhere? Why is he (or she) your favorite?
Karen, my main character, is my favorite to write mostly because I’ve wanted to write a book narrated from the point of view of an elite gymnast since my author journey first began. I absolutely love capturing that socially sheltered mindset and pairing it up with a level of maturity and discipline that most adults don’t have. That’s the essence of women’s elite gymnastics. Young girls carrying big loads of responsibility and self-awareness. They have it completely together, there’s always a plan for what’s next. With Karen, I gave her all of those qualities and then I pulled the rug out from under her by taking away her parents in a car accident before the book opens. Then: *Enter cute boy* whom she is forced to share a bathroom with. Who has a tragic past of his own. Who may be the only one that can help her heal.
Were you nervous when you decided to venture outside of your Sci-Fi series and write a contemporary novel? Did you have any reservations at first?
I wasn’t nervous to write the book, but I was super super nervous to tell people about it. Especially online to Tempest series fans. I honestly figured I’d finish the book so the characters would stop tormenting me inside my head, which I know it sounds a little schizophrenic, but it’s the truth and probably never publish it. And just hearing you say that it paid off means that it totally has. I’ve pleased at least one reader. Mission accomplished. Thanks so much for that
Gymnastics is a huge part of this novel and your website says that you were a former gymnastics coach. How excited were you to combine your passions for writing and gymnastics into one project?
It was like Disney World, Universal Studios and a house right on the beach all packaged into one trip that didn’t even require packing or travel time. I enjoyed every phase of creating this story so much, I felt guilty calling it my job.
There are some pretty heartbreaking scenes in the book. Do you get extremely attached to your characters? If so, how do you feel when you have to write a scene that is going to be particularly hard on them?
Normally, I struggle with getting all the tension I need in a first draft because it becomes so difficult to put characters I love through all this emotional trauma. Often I have to step away from the story for a while and then I raise the stakes in the next draft. But with Letters to Nowhere, I had no problem shoving the characters into flaming fire after fire because I knew that in order for Karen (and also Jordan and Coach Bentley) to properly grieve and begin to heal, there was only one way to get past the fire—run straight through it. And the whole time I was writing this book, I knew Karen was a bomb waiting to go off. I knew she’d need to have that moment of realization about her future and what losing her parents really meant. And I wanted to get her there so I could see that she was okay.
What was the hardest part of writing Letters to Nowhere?
Nothing was really hard to write, but I worked the hardest at making the gymnastics element “user friendly” in the sense that I wanted this to be a book for the widest audience possible while still showing a true portrayal of the sport.
What was your favorite part?
The evolution of “Jaren” hands down. The relationship between Karen and Jordan is built in a way that I hadn’t done before in novel. Not exactly. I rarely do the insta-love thing but what they have is so much deeper than romantic love. Not to spoil anything in the book or future books in this world, but I truly believe that Jordan and Karen will always have a tie that can’t be severed no matter where their paths lead them. They could never hate each other. Many people look back on their first love and the relationship and drama often seem silly. It won’t be like that for these two. Their relationship will always represent a hugely important part of their lives.
SUPER SHORT TEASER
Jordan stepped closer, resting a hand on the red brick beside my head. “I’m gonna kiss you.”
My stomach jumped up towards my heart. “What?”
“I’m going to kiss you.” He had this serious, determined look on his face. “I mean, I won’t if you don’t want me to …”
I could feel my eyes widen as he leaned closer, my heart hammering faster, every other muscle in my body completely frozen. No words of protest were able to fall from my tongue before his mouth was on mine. My eyes drifted shut, my stomach doing a dozen floor routines beneath my rib cage.
PAGE 1 EXCERPT
Mom and Dad,
We’re meeting with a lawyer today. Grandma’s not telling me what this means, but I’m not stupid. I’m seventeen. Still a minor. My house is in St. Louis with no adults to live in it. Grandma’s house is in New York and something big is going to have to change in my life. I like logic. I like lists of pros and cons, but I can’t decide if it’s right for me to shift into that mode or if I’m too distracted missing you to think clearly. The house already feels cold and dusty. I don’t want to stay here, but I don’t want to move to New York either. Grandma doesn’t even know me. We have no idea what to say to each other. Our conversations over the past week have all revolved around funeral arrangements, schedules and meetings, and gymnastics practice. She hasn’t asked me if I’m okay. I lost my parents and she hasn’t asked me a damn thing. But she lost her son and I haven’t asked her a damn thing either.
I think I’m stuck. I think we’re all stuck. How do I get over being grateful that I wasn’t in the car with you that night?
I don’t think Jordan even noticed me or Coach Bentley sitting at the table. He went right for the fridge, chugging milk straight from the carton. I eyed my nearly empty glass. Gross.
Coach Bentley looked over the morning paper at his son. “Damn it, Jordan! Put on a shirt.”
Jordan glared at his dad but snatched a black hoodie from a hook by the back door and threw it on. Coach Bentley glared right back and turned to me. “Be ready in ten minutes?”
I nodded, indicating I was ready to leave anytime, then I returned to watching YouTube videos on my phone. There was a release move on the uneven bars that I wanted to learn, even though Coach Bentley probably wouldn’t let me try it. He was too obsessed with perfection to let me take a big risk. And honestly, I’d never been a risk-taker until recently. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch.
Jordan nudged the gooey eggs around in the skillet, made a face, and reached in a high-up cabinet, removing a box of sugar-filled cereal. He plunged his hand right into the box and stuffed his mouth full of fruity pebbles.
What would I have to do to disinfect this food? Spray it all with Lysol? At least I wouldn’t be eating that cereal, but who knew what he’d get his hands in (literally) when I wasn’t around to watch?
I distracted myself from pointless germ thoughts and went back watching videos again.
“No way,” Jordan said with his mouth full.
I jumped and glanced over my shoulder at him, now standing right behind me. “What?”
“You can’t do that.” He pointed to the video on my phone.
“I know that.” I stuffed the phone in my gym bag and got up from the chair. “I like to watch videos of crazy moves when I’m bored.”
Jordan plopped right into my abandoned spot, his disheveled hair looking slightly more attractive than you’d think it would. He had dimples that popped up when his mouth wasn’t too full, too. “A crazy move that my dad used to do.”
Now it was my turn to lift an eyebrow. “Yeah, I heard that, too, but I couldn’t find a video of him performing it.”
Jordan tossed his feet up on the empty chair. “Because he tore his bicep doing that release right before the World Championships and never competed it.”
“That explains a lot.” Maybe this wasn’t the worst place to be living while training. It was kind of like a home court advantage.
“Ready, Karen?” Coach Bentley called from the foyer.
“I’ll be in the shower in a few minutes,” Jordan whispered loudly. “Just in case you need to know. Don’t want you to accidently walk in on me. We should probably post a schedule or put an alarm on the bathroom door.”
I closed my eyes and turned around, feeling completely mortified.
“Uh-huh,” I said, not looking back at him.
“Thanks for not saying anything. About yesterday…”
Which part? Forgetting to give me a ride or the girl you were feeling up on the couch last night? I let out a breath. “No problem.”
GYMNASTICS THEMED EXCERPT
“So…you were a gymnast?”
He was silent for several seconds and then shook with laughter. “Yeah, I was. Nice transition, by the way.”
“I can only take so much at once, you know?”
“Believe me, I know.” He jumped to his feet, grinning down at me before sticking out a hand to help me up. “Bet you can’t throw a triple back off the end of the tumble track?”
“And you can?” The tumble track was a long trampoline—eighty feet to be exact—that landed into the foam pit. It helped with training tumbling runs for floor routines.
Jordan kicked off his shoes and socks, emptied his pockets onto the mats beside the tumble track, and then took off his long-sleeved white uniform shirt. He stood at the end of the trampoline wearing only his khaki pants and a leather belt. “Let me warm up with a double first, okay?”
“You’re not going to kill yourself, are you?” I asked wearily. “At least stretch out a little.”
“Stretching is for wimps, Karen.” With that he took off at a run, then jumped into his round-off, which was a little slow and sloppy, plus he didn’t even do a back handspring first. Coach Bentley would never let me train a triple back from just a round-off. If I did that, I’d never be able to actually perform it on the floor. Not that I planned on adding triple backs to my floor choreography anytime soon.
Despite the rusty lead-up skills, Jordan managed to fling himself pretty high in the air, and with stuntman-like air sense, he found his way around the double flip. I clapped loudly, then attempted to whistle with my fingers in my mouth, but quickly decided that wasn’t a good idea, considering the fact that he was topless. At least he wore pants today instead of just boxers.
He walked over to me after climbing out of the pit and fake-fell onto the carpet. “I’m so out of shape. No triples today.”
I jumped to my feet, the rush of adrenaline I had earlier returning. “I’ll give it a shot for both of us.”
“Wait…have you done these before?” he asked.
“Um, technically no.”
He grabbed my ankle, causing me to fall over. “Don’t do it. You’ll get hurt before the first meet and it’ll be my fault.”
My skin warmed in the places he touched, causing goose bumps to spread everywhere. I got up again and laughed at him. “I’m not going to get hurt. I’m safe and boring, remember? You said so yourself the other day.”
“Well, you were safe and boring. Maybe you aren’t anymore,” he conceded. “I take it back. Karen Campbell is a wild-ass risk taker. She should be riding a Harley through downtown St. Louis.”
I hopped onto the end of the tumble track, grinning down at him. “Jordan Bentley is a great big ass-kisser with the cardiovascular endurance of a ninety-year-old man.”
He glared at me. “I had no idea you were such a vindictive person. Go ahead and hurt yourself then. Fine with me.”
My head was already wrapping itself around the idea of yet another new skill. This one was more fun and less practical, but why the hell not? Seriously. In a last attempt at safe training, I called over my shoulder to Jordan, “Yank me out if I end up doing the ostrich in the sand move.”
“I’ll think about it.”
I took off and lunged into my round-off back handspring, before setting myself up high enough for the triple back. Halfway through the second flip, I got a little lost and was totally shocked to end up feet first in the foam pit. Jordan had jumped up, cheering loudly. “That was awesome! So awesome!”
“Karen!” a loud voice boomed from across the gym. “What the hell are you doing?”
I crawled out of the pit, landing on the mat beside Jordan. Coach Bentley and several of his staff were heading our way.
“What’s going on?” he snapped at Jordan, who had already reached for his shirt and was buttoning it up. “I asked you to take Karen home.”
Jordan scowled at him. “Try checking your cell phone once in a while, Dad. Glad I wasn’t choking or in great need of a guardian to sign off on medical procedures.”
“His car broke down,” I said.
Coach Bentley turned to me, eyes narrowing. “You know the rules, Karen. Nobody trains skills without a coach in the gym. What were you thinking? And triple backs?”
I shrunk back, not sure how to react. Bentley had never yelled at me before. Stacey was right behind him, arms crossed, glaring at me. “This is something I expect from the little girls.”
“This is something I expect from my irresponsible son,” Bentley said, “but not from you.”
The six or eight other coaches stayed back, watching this exchange from a distance. Coach Bentley strode over to the pit bar and yanked down my chart, which had already been marked up quite a bit in the last two days. My heart pounded, not knowing what was coming.
“We’re taking layout Jaegers off the bar training program for now. I thought you were mature enough to understand how to weigh the risk versus reward, but I guess I was wrong.”
“Come on, Dad,” Jordan argued. “She was just playing around.”
I shook my head at him, not wanting any help with this. It was already bad enough. “I’m sorry,” I said with a sigh, then left them to go and grab my stuff from the locker room.
Julie Cross is the International Bestselling author of the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and the final installment, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere (8/13), a mature young adult romance set in the world of elite gymnastics, as well as several forthcoming young adult and new adult novels with publishers like Entangled, Sourcebooks, HarperCollins, and St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books.
Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed—but not talented—long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict. You can find her online via twitter, her personal website, email, facebook, Goodreads, or co-moderating the YAwriters section of reddit.