Monday, November 26, 2012

Guestopia: Rebecca Phillips

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How the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest Changed My Life

by Rebecca Phillips

My favorite YA author of all time is Sarah Dessen. She’s been a huge inspiration to me since I discovered her almost ten years ago, and I read everything she writes. So naturally, I've always read her blog. One day, about three years ago, she mentioned in a blog post that she was a guest reviewer for a writing contest I’d never heard of before—the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She provided a link, which I immediately clicked because hey, I had a finished novel that I could enter.

ABNA is kind of like American Idol. Contestants get eliminated in each round based on originality, talent, looks (okay, maybe not looks), etc. Instead of a celebrity judging panel, they have editors, Amazon Vine reviewers, Publishers Weekly, Penguin representatives, expert reviewers, and finally, the voting public. The grand prize was certainly tempting: a publishing contract with Penguin and a $15,000 advance. Sign me up!

Two years ago I was doing what most writers do: writing, querying, cursing, and then querying some more. Back then, I was trying (and failing) to land an agent with my first book, Just You, a contemporary YA.  I was pretty much resigned to the fact that Just You wasn't going to happen. This contest would be a last ditch effort. What did I have to lose? Just You got cut after the second round, but by then I was hooked. In 2011, I entered the same book again. This time it got cut in the first round, but that didn't deter me. I started outlining ideas for my third book, tentatively titled Out of Nowhere, a story about an uptight hypochondriac and the sexy daredevil who rocks her world. I finished it just in time for the 2012 contest. Third time’s the charm, right?

This time, much to my shock, I kept advancing. Still, I never once thought I would get that coveted phone call in May, telling me I was one of the three finalists in the YA category. I never once thought I would get to travel to Seattle for the awards ceremony and rub elbows with other writers and people from Amazon, Createspace, Publishers Weekly, and Penguin. But it happened. To me! A thirty-five-year-old mom from the suburbs! Being an ABNA finalist made me feel confident and validated, like all the time and effort I’d put into my writing for the past five years had finally paid off.

Out of Nowhere didn't win the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, but being a top three finalist was the key to opening so many doors for me. In June, I finally gathered the confidence to publish my first two books, Just You and Someone Else. Then, less than two months after the contest ended, I signed with my amazing agent, Carly Watters. I realize now that ABNA was just the beginning for me.

Even Sarah Dessen had to start somewhere.

Rebecca Phillips has been a fan of contemporary young adult fiction ever since she first discovered Judy Blume at the age of twelve. After a brief stint of writing bad poetry as a teenager, she finally found her niche with realistic, coming-of-age YA. She didn't start getting serious about being a real author, however, until she was in her early thirties.

After several years of writing, rewriting, revision, submission, rejection, and banging her head off the keyboard, she entered her third novel, OUT OF NOWHERE, in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She made it all the way to the Top 3 in the Young Adult category. She’s also the author of a two-book contemporary young adult series, JUST YOU and SOMEONE ELSE.

Rebecca lives just outside the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia with her husband, two children, and one crazy kitty. She absolutely loves living so close to the ocean. When she’s not tapping away on her trusty Toshiba laptop, she can be found vacuuming up cat hair, spending time with her family, watching reality TV, reading all different genres of books, or strolling around the bookstore with a vanilla latte in her hand.

Rebecca is always writing something, even if it’s just a grocery list. These days, she is hard at work on her next novel. You can find out more and connect with Rebecca on her website:

Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter * ABNA

Just You

Through witnessing her parents' bitter divorce, fifteen-year-old Taylor Brogan has learned what she believes to be a certainty: men lie, men betray, men can't be trusted. When her first boyfriend cheats on her, Taylor can't even pretend to act surprised. After all, her own father left her mother for another woman after fourteen years of marriage, so it was only a matter of time before it happened to her too.

Betrayed one time too many, Taylor vows to give up boys for good. But when she meets sweet, gorgeous Michael Hurst at a party, her resolve to stay single begins to crack. Maybe, just maybe, she can trust him not to break her heart. Taylor and Michael begin an exciting-but-cautious romance, hitting several challenges along the way--parental disapproval, family secrets, and the most daunting obstacle of all, Elena Brewster, a calculating beauty who is determined to make Michael hers.

Not just another teen romance, JUST YOU is about forgiveness, facing your fears, and learning to embrace the risks involved in trusting someone with your heart.

Amazon * Kobo * Barnes and Noble

Rebecca is giving an ebook copy of Just You! Comment down below with your email address before 11:59 Eastern on December 2nd to enter!


  1. Good for you! I always love the "I didn't give up" stories, especially since I'm still somewhere in the middle of mine. JUST YOU sounds very interesting. I can't wait to read it. :)

  2. What a lovely, amazing story. I want to read your books! (And, I'm a Sarah Dessen fan from way back, too).