Debut Review Challenge with J. Kasper Kramer

I am so pleased to welcome J. Kasper Kramer to the blog this week! Her middle grade novel is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is full of suspense, hope, and the power of stories, all set against the backdrop of communist Romania in the 1980s. Thanks for joining me, Jessica!

New this month: a chance to win during every author interview. Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!


Number of years writing: 

6 months writing / 2 years research 

Number of years from contract to published book: 


Date your book was released: 

October 8, 2019

Number of pages: 


Number of launch events: 


Number of days per week that writing takes a backseat to marketing & publicity:

Varies by time of year. Now? 0-1. Around launch? 2-3.

Number of critique partners: 


Number of books you hope to publish over the next ten years: 


Number of times you’ve pinched yourself that you really have a book out: 


Current number of reviews:

Amazon: 20, Good Reads: 79

A Few Questions

  • Without giving anything away, tell us about your work-in-progress. What do you love about it so far? Where are you stuck? 

My next book was just announced! It’s called THE LIST OF UNSPEAKABLE FEARS and comes out Fall 2021 with S&S/Atheneum. Like STORY, it’s MG historical fiction, but this time I’m writing about 1910 NYC and the dark past of North Brother Island. I’m in love with this book because, in part, it’s a ghost story, and I’m a huge horror fan. I wouldn’t say I’m stuck anywhere, but a big struggle with book two is getting over constantly comparing things to book one. It’s something I’ve heard a lot of debut friends talk about, and I definitely find it a challenge to quiet that inner self-doubt.

  • What does your work space look like? Tell us about a typical work session. 

My husband and I share an office in our house, and that’s where I usually work. My half of the room is really, really tidy because, if it’s not, I’ll wind up stressing about needing to clean instead of focusing on writing. I write on my computer while listening to instrumental music—I have tediously curated playlists—and I always keep a stack of research books and notes nearby. I like to burn incense and candles. I drink black coffee or sparkling water. My dog Indiana, a Husky-Golden mix, can usually be found snoozing at my feet. (I have three cats, but unfortunately none of them are lap cats, despite my many attempts to make it happen.)

I teach college English, but only part time—and these days usually just one or two classes, often online—so I’m usually at home. I try my hardest to start working as soon as I get up in the morning, but it’s really difficult for me to be creative during the day, and I wind up drafting (or revising) incredibly slowly. My best hours are in the evening. Maybe 6pm – 1 am? I also much prefer long writing sessions—at least a few hours in a row, sometimes up to 15—because I take a lot of time to get going and produce anything new. This is because I’m a recursive writer, meaning I go backward much more often than forward when drafting, revising constantly. It results in pretty tight first drafts, but they take a long time to write (and I’m not sure it’s totally accurate to call them “first” drafts at all).

  • When you need to take a creative break, do you have another activity or hobby that recharges you?

I like to cross stitch and garden, and I foster neonatal kittens for the animal shelter, but if I’m not writing or reading, most often you can find me playing video games. One of the main reasons I love games is that players frequently get to be active participants in stories. For me, this combines the way I feel when I read and write. Depending on the game, I might be able to develop a character, choose my setting, or even make plot choices—just like when I’m writing.  But since I’m not responsible for creating the whole story, I get to relax a bit and enjoy not knowing what will happen next—just like when I’m reading.

The Mass Effect series is a great example of this style of gameplay, but most RPGs have similar elements. I play games across almost every genre, though—from Indie to Triple A, retro to just-released. In fact, I kind of hope that one day I’ll get to dip my toes into game writing!

Okay, Challenge Participants! It’s Time to Write Some Reviews!

Leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online site. Every time you write five reviews for debut Kidlit creators between March 1-April 30, 2020, you can fill out this ENTRY FORM for a chance to win prizes. Jessica has generously donated a signed book and SWAG. Thank you, Jessica!


  • Support debut authors by suggesting their book titles to your local library.
  • Purchase them as gifts for the children in your life, a teacher, or a local school, especially from independent bookstores.
  • Share book titles or reviews on social media and tag the author/illustrator.

New this month: a chance to win during every author interview. Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!

About Jessica and her Book

Bio: J. Kasper Kramer is the author of The Story That Cannot Be Told and a part-time English professor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has a master’s degree in creative writing and once upon a time lived in Japan, where she taught at an international school. When she’s not curled up with a book, Kramer loves researching lost fairy tales, playing video games, and fostering kittens. Visit her at 

Book Title: The Story That Cannot Be Told

Author/Illustrator: J. Kasper Kramer

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Atheneum 

Year: 2019


A powerful middle grade debut with three starred reviews that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

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