YA Feature: Introducing YA author Lisa Nowak

I would like you all to welcome author Lisa Nowak to Reading Away The Days. Lisa is the author of coming-of-age story Running Wide Open. Please welcome Lisa by checking out her book, Running Wide Open and by leaving a nice comment below!

A little about Lisa and her writing career so far:

Lisa is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. Lisa's books are coming-of-age stories about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are.

Lisa started out pursuing the traditional publishing route about six years ago. After lots of "you're a strong writer, but this book isn't right for our list" responses, she finally found an agent. Lisa was with her for a year, and she got the same sort of replies from editors. At that point Lisa realised her series wasn't considered marketable by the Big Six, but she wasn't ready to give up on her series yet. Lisa had just decided to go indie, and was heavily into research, when a small press said they wanted her book. Lisa says, "It was very flattering to sit down with a team of people who loved her characters and story." But ultimately Lisa decided she wanted to publish it herself. Lisa has been self-employed most of her life, and loves running a business, so it was a natural fit.

Lisa says, "The beauty of the indie route is that it gives you complete control." For example one of Lisa's marketing tactics was to sponser a 12-year old race car driver. That's not something a traditional publisher would be likely to allow, considering the risk of liability. Lisa says: It is empowering to be able to make all her own decisions on the spur of the moment without having to ask permission or go though a committee.

Can you tell us a little about your book, Running Wide Open?

Running Wide Open is a coming-of-age story about 15 year old Cody Everett. After a lifetime of abuse from his manipulative mother, he gets busted for vandalism and shipped off to live with a laid-back uncle who calls himself Race, eats Twinkies for breakfast, and drives a stock car at the local track. Cody's sure Race will hate him like ever other adult has in his life, and he's not to crazy about watching a bunch of rednecks drive around in circles every Saturday night, but he finds himself drawn into the racing community. More importantly, Race becomes the friend and mentor he has always wanted. People who enjoy emotionally-charged contemporary realistic books by authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, Joyce Sweeney, Chris Crutcher, and John Green should enjoy my writing. Reviewers always seem a bit surprised that the book really isn't about racing.

Where did you get the idea for, Running Wide Open?

I've always enjoyed reading books about kids in troubling situations who find the community they need or discover strengths they didn't know they had. None of the stories I wrote really went anywhere, though, until I started racing and found something I felt passionate about. The stock car racing community totally impressed me. They're so loyal and family-oriented, and they don't hesitate to take you in and treat you as one of their own. I knew that would be a prefect backdrop for the story of a troubled boy who needed to learn how to trust others and love himself. I also wanted to give the rest of the world a peek inside this microcosm of American culture.

What genre would you class your book as and who is the target audience for, Running Wide Open?

Running Wide Open is listed YA, however it's really one of those cross-over novels that adults enjoy as well. In fact I've had serveral people tell me, "this isn't just a kids book." I see teens who like stories of kids in difficult situations as one audience, and NASCAR fans as another. Though, really, anyone who's a sucker of coming of age stories would probably enjoy my books.

Running Wide Open is the first book in the Full Throttle Series. How many books will be in the series?
Five total, but the set-up of the series is kind of unique. The first two are told from Cody's perspective, the next two are told from the POV of Jess,  girl who wants to be a mechanic and becomes Cody's girlfriend, and the last book is a spilt narrative between the two characters.

Are you currently working on any new projects at the moment?

I'm in the final edits and formatting of Getting Sideways, the second book in the series. I plan to release it on December 11th. I also have a stand alone novel that's in first draft stage. It's a lot darker and has a paranormal aspect. That one was written in a response to an agent who said he couldn't sell my books because they weren't edgy enough.

Lisa's Book History

Favourite book as a child and why?

Questions about favourites are always tough for me to answer. Besides, childhood is a long time. Just ask a kid :) One book I remember reading many times, however, is Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones. It's got a sci-fi/paranormal backdrop, but it's also a great dog story and an absolutely beautiful story of love and loyalty.

Favourite book as a teenager and why?

Another toughie, but I'm going to go with The Changeling by Zilpha Keatly Snyder. It was such a beautiful, haunting story of friendship and the magic of imagnation.

Favourite book you have read this year and why?

I haven't had a lot of time for reading lately, but a book that stands out in my mind for a few years ago is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It's told from a dog's POV, explaining his master's story, and it's pulled of perfectly. I'm not a dog person and I loved it. Okay, I'm sensing a pattern here. What I love about each of these books is the devotion the characters have to one another. That's what I like to read about and that is what I like to write.

An author/book you would reccommend to my readers?

Any of the ones I mentioned above. If they're not your thing, try Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher. That's a historical YA with an amazing voice.

Thanks to Lisa for the awesome inteview! Check out her book Running Wide Open!

Buy Running Wide Open:


Check out Lisa:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lisa_Nowak
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LisaNowakAuthor
Google+: http://bit.ly/LisaNowakGooglePlus
Blog: http://lisanowak.wordpress.com/
Subscribe to Lisa's newsletter for updates about coming attractions:


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Megan!

  2. Devotion that characters have to one another. Now that's a great theme to focus on. (And love those retro book covers!)

  3. Sounds like an author who isn't afraid to get dirty, in racing or publishing. I find that very inspiring.

  4. Nice review, Megan. It was an interesting twist to ask author, Lisa Nowak, about her childhood and other reading favorites throughout her life. And bingo, all of them are favorites of mine as well. Character loyalty is important, especially in YA lit. Teens put loyalty and devotion of peers very high on their lists of priorities. Lisa's book, Running Wide Open, underlines that.

  5. I enjoyed this interview and can highly recommend Lisa's book. I have read it and totally am in love with the characters.

  6. Great interview. I was intrigued by Lisa's choice of favorite books and reminded yet again that I want to read "The Art of Racing in the Rain." Our local library doesn't have a copy. :-( BTW, have totally enjoyed reading Running Wide Open as well as Getting Sideways in its beta version. Alice Lynn

  7. LOVED The Art of Racing in the Rain! Enzo the dog was so cool, and the story really touched me.