Cover Story: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Defending TaylorMiranda Kenneally doesn’t really require an introduction; if you’re a contemporary YA romance fan, and especially if you’re a sports romance fan, there’s no doubt you know her Hundred Oaks series, beginning with Catching Jordan. Ambitious heroines, heart-melting love stories, and the small-town south are all Kenneally trademarks, and she’s back to deliver yet again with her newest, Defending Taylor, this summer—and this one’s got a political bent, too. Here to tell you more about it and show you its beautiful cover is author Miranda Kenneally.

When I was a teenager in Tennessee, I couldn’t wait to escape my small hometown to do “bigger and better” things. I had no idea what those “bigger and better” things might be or where I would do them—I just knew I had to work my butt off to get there. Which meant going to a top-notch college. And to get into a top-notch college, I needed to make my résumé as impressive as possible.

I sang in show choir, performed in the school musical, and played for the soccer team. I volunteered with my church youth group. I took mostly advanced courses (except for math, because I stink at it). To make extra cash for college, I worked at the Cracker Barrel on weekends. I served as a teacher’s aide, and managed the boys’ soccer team (okay, that was not a hardship. *wink*). My list of extracurriculars went on and on. I am lucky I had any time to spend with friends!

Relaxation and fun always came second to hard work. Work, work, work! At 20 years old, I got my first, real, full-time job at the U.S. Department of State while simultaneously taking a full load of college courses. After I graduated, I continued at the State Department and began working overtime. I thought that in order to get ahead—to achieve “bigger and better”—I needed to “pay my dues.” For me that meant working 12-hour days. I did that for years. During some projects those 12-hour days became 15-hour days and long months spent living in hotels away from home. It was not a fun life. But I felt I had to push myself to the limit in order to get ahead professionally, to achieve undefined goals. Which, at age 33, are still mostly undefined. Though, I know I love writing, so I always make time to work on my novels.

In my new book, Defending Taylor, Taylor is much the same way. As the likely valedictorian, she feels a lot of pressure to be the best. She spends all her time on activities so she’ll have the perfect résumé. She barely has time to sleep, let alone study, so Taylor takes Adderall pills. But when she’s caught with her boyfriend’s backpack, which is full of pills he’s selling to other students, Taylor takes the fall for him. Her father is a senator and Taylor figures her private school will give her community service or make her wash dishes in the dining hall. But she is wrong. She gets kicked out, forcing her to begin her senior year at a new school. At Hundred Oaks High, Taylor begins to question what she’s working so hard for. By doing so many activities, activities she doesn’t truly love, is she really living her life?

I love this beautiful, bright cover featuring Taylor and the love interest, her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. To me, it represents Taylor beginning to balance her love of soccer and need for friendship with her academic life.

A couple of years ago, I realized I didn’t have much of a life because I was working so hard to achieve an undefined goal. Now I make a point to schedule time to go to the gym. I make plans with friends and neighbors. I accept invitations, when in the past I would’ve declined in favor of working. And most important, I make time to read the books I want to read, i.e. romance novels.

I still don’t know what all of my goals are. I’m still trying to figure myself out, but I’m purposeful in what I do. I want my teen readers, and my adult readers for that matter, to create their own definition of success. Working hard is important—I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t tried hard at everything I do—but living life is important too. I hope you live, live, live!

Defending Taylor releases on July 1, 2016, and is available for preorder.

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