Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 3, 2018

Book Giveaway: Pumpkin Spice Secrets: A Swirl Novel by Hillary Homzie

Hillary Homzie has a new middle grade book titled, PUMPKIN SPICE and she has agreed to participate in our book giveaway. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.


Sometimes secrets aren’t so sweet…

Just as Maddie picks up her pumpkin spice frappe from the coffee shop counter, she spills it all over the cute boy behind her. Talk about mortifying! Luckily, the boy — Jacob — is also friendly and easygoing, and soon Maddie is deeply in crush.

But before she can tell her best friend Jana about him at lunch the next day, Jana announces her huge new crush — on Jacob! Maddie doesn’t want to cause trouble, so she keeps her feelings hidden. Jana will get over him soon, right?

Add major school stress to Maddie’s secret, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Can she stay true to both her friend and her heart… without it all turning into a sticky mess?


My journey creating Maddie, a character who didn’t want to stand up for herself in Pumpkin Spice Secrets, my new middle grade. 

Like a lot of writers, growing up I was shy. However, I’ve long since learned how to be an extroverted introvert. I love and need people contact but I also require plenty of re-charging time. In general, I’m in my head. An observer. And I like to be agreeable. It pains me to have to fight with someone. Verbal sparing isn’t my thing. I prefer to think things over. I prefer to write things out. I really want to agree with you.

In other words, I wouldn’t make a very good protagonist.

When it comes to protagonists, we want doers, not thinkers. Fighters, not appeasers. The spunky one in the bunch, right?

Actually, while this often may be true, I think that characters who are listeners, observers, and loyal friends who shirk from fights also deserve a shot at becoming protagonists.

This year I made a radical decision. I decided to craft Maddie Campell, the 12-year-old main character in my middle grade novel, Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony, October 2017) in somewhat my own dorky image. That meant I gave her some of my own strengths (loyal, a good listener) as well as my weaknesses (afraid/hates and not good at confrontation, fearful). She’s not the alpha kid in the pack of friends. She’s the listener and she has no clue how to speak up.

Maddie is a bench warmer on her soccer team, the one who always plays second fiddle to her best friend, Jana Patel, as well as to her academically successful older sister. Maddie freaks when she discovers that she and her extroverted BFF both have a crush on the same boy, and decides to keep her crush a secret. Soon the problems begin and nothing goes as planned. But happily it’s Maddie’s participation in debate that spurs her growth and gives her a way in which to speak frankly with her best friend.

Judging by the reaction from tween readers, Maddie resonates. One reader wrote me and asked me if I had modeled Maddie on her because she played soccer but wasn’t a stand-out, was the quieter one in her friend group and had an older sibling who was an academic star. “She’s just like me!” she wrote and told me she was on her third read.

Actually, Maddie is me. Okay, me-ish. I never played soccer on a team in middle school, but if I did, I’m sure I’d sit on the bench. And I never had an older perfect sister (I wanted one), I was the older sister. But academically, like Maddie, I could be a bit of a slacker (although I was more of a secret slacker since I had mastered the art of last minute).

But I’m sure if I had tried to write Maddie when I first started out, it wouldn’t have worked. In fact, I know it didn’t.

That’s because, when I first starting writing novels, I kept on creating passive observers, albeit with funny interiority, who didn’t do anything, especially in the first third of the manuscript.

When I submitted my work to a few editors, I might get kudos for some funny lines, but no sales.

But all of that changed when I created dynamic active characters who made things happen. Once I started doing that, I began making sales. First my chapter book series, Alien Clones From Outer Space to Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin and then three middle grades—Things Are Gonna Get Ugly, The Hot List and Queen of Likes–all to Simon & Schuster’s MIX line.

When an editor from Simon & Schuster joined Sky Pony, my name came up at an editorial meeting when they were considering writers for Swirl, their new tween line for girls.  Sky Pony asked my agent, the smart and awesome author champion Victoria Wells Arms, if I might be interested in writing the inaugural book for the branded imprint. I jumped at the chance.

When I turned in my first few chapters, my insightful editor, Becky Herrick, asked me to think about where Maddie fit into the social structure of middle school. How would she describe herself? How would she view her friends and what was her place? Her role? Suddenly, I knew that I wanted to write about a main character who didn’t speak up. Who wasn’t the alpha in the group. Who listened to everyone drama but didn’t speak about her own. Who let her best friend drive the bus in the friendship.

But the questions became–how could I create Maddie in such a way that lent her some agency?

The trick was to create an internal conflict. Maddie wants to befriend Jacob, but can’t because she wants to honor the BFF code and not flirt with someone her best friend is crushing on. Then to make things more difficult, Maddie has to be Jacob’s debate partner. And to complicate things further, Maddie hates public speaking. The debate part is the B story. I chose debate because it’s all about presenting oral arguments with confidence. Learning this would give Maddie the tools to face her best friend and her moral dilemma.

I’m now really proud of the fact that I’ve created a character who is closer to the real me. While writing the book, I was able access some authentic emotions and open myself up to vulnerability. When it comes to writing, I’ve come to believe that your weaknesses are actually your assets. Revealing your vulnerability can be scary but it allows for you to dig deeply and trust yourself that you can handle exposing your own frailties.

So if you meet me, and you see that I’m not standing up for myself–or I have a far-off glazed look, you will know why. That’s part of who I am. Sometimes. But I’m working on speaking up. I’m working on learning how to be more honest and real every day. Not to protect myself so much behind a curtain of quiet. I still don’t like verbal sparring. But that’s okay. Like Maddie, I’m learning not be so afraid.


Hillary is the author of the tween novels, PUMPKIN SPICE SECRETS (Sky Pony/Swirl) QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/M!X), THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X), THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was optioned by Priority Pictures, as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), which was developed to become an animated television series and was sold to ABC Australia. Her new chapter book series about the antics of second grader ELLIE MAY will be out in December of 2018 from Charlesbridge.

Hillary holds a master’s degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children’s literature and writing, where she currently teaches. In addition, she teaches Middle Grade Mastery and the Chapter Book Alchemist, interactive e-courses, for the Children’s Book Academy. The First Live Training Starts January 15th and runs through February 12th

Visit her at and connect with her at @hillaryhomzie and

Thank you Hillary for sharing your book and its’ journey with us. Can’t wait to read it. Look like 2018 wis another good year for you.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I can really relate to Maddie’s character and can’t wait to read this book. Congrats, Hillary, and thanks for sharing!


    • Thanks so much, Claire. I really enjoyed writing this book.


  2. We have this book at the bookstore where I work. I am so glad to have heard the story behind the story. Makes a big difference on handselling! thank you. And I can relate to that main character (sounds a little like me when I was younger), plus she reminds me of some of the kids that come to the store. Well done!


    • Oh, this makes so happy to hear that you have PSP at your bookstore, Susan. I’m much more comfortable writing about made-up characters than talking about myself, but I’m getting there!


  3. What an appetizing cover 😀 Yum!


  4. I saw this online a couple months ago and thought it sounded like a fun read!


  5. I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes! And I love that Maddie is a quiet soul with integrity. Look forward to reading this. -Vicki


    • Thanks so much, Vicki! I’m definitely learned over the years so be less quiet, but I still always like my quiet time 🙂


  6. As a writer and an introvert, I find much of this relatable. In my middle grade book (currently out of print,) I based my main character on myself and sometimes wondered if she was a little too boring, but she got pushed into adventures and faced her fears.


    • Susan, while I also love plucky protagonists who immediately exert their wills, as a reader I know that I also would like to read about characters who are bit more subdued and who, like your MC, get pulled into adventure. Sounds like I’d love your MG!


  7. This book sounds like the story contained in it – sweet with a bit of spiciness! Thanks for the giveaway !


  8. Could you write another book of this with a movie for each ( if you need a actress for Maddie I’m free lol )


  9. Could you write another book of this with a film for each ( if you need a actress for Maddie I’m free lol )


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