Book Title: Kind Of Sort Of Fine
Author: Spencer Hall
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 22, 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Senior year changes everything for two teens in this poignant, funny coming-of-age story that looks at what happens when the image everyone has of us no longer matches who we really are.
Senior year of high school is full of changes.
For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.
For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.
When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?
Spencer Hall graduated from the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky in with a BS in English. He moved to Chicago to study improv, but soon realized when it came to being funny, he was better at writing things down than making them up on the spot. When he’s not writing, he can be found running by the lake, occasionally performing stand-up comedy at poorly attended open mic nights, and researching how to become a professional mini-golf player. Kind of Sort of Fine is his first novel.
I am so excited to host Spencer Hall on A Court of Coffee and Books today! Thank you so much, Spencer, for stopping by and don’t forget to order a copy of Kind Of Sort Of Fine!
Congratulations on your debut! What was your inspiration for Kind Of Sort Of Fine?
Thank you so much! For Kind of Sort of Fine I really wanted to write a story that feels like the ensemble comedies from TV that I gravitate toward, like The Office, Parks & Rec, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I find myself retreating to shows like that when life feels heavy and oppressive, because those shows feel safe and warm. They’re light-hearted and full of characters who genuinely care about and support each other. I wanted Kind of Sort of Fine to feel the same way, a safe place to escape the stress of the real world.
What has been your favorite part of being a debut author so far?
I think one of the things that has been the most remarkable for me is getting to experience the gift of other people championing my work. I spent so many hours typing away on this story at coffee shops, never knowing if it would see a life beyond my own computer, and I think that’s a fairly common experience. Writers spend all this time writing and hoping what we’re creating gets to become a real book, but we’re not super confident about it. That’s why it’s been amazing to have my incredible agent being a constant cheerleader and my crazy talented editor fighting for this book. Then there’s all the folks behind the scenes working to make the book amazing – cover artists and interior designers and marketing folks. It’s incredibly humbling.
What are you hoping readers take away from your story?
Ultimately, I think Kind of Sort of Fine is about realizing you have the power to determine your own future and decide who you want to be. For a lot of us, I think it sometimes feels like we have multiple personalities. There’s the version of ourselves we project online, there’s the version we present at work or school, there’s what our family sees, and on and on. So people think they know us, but the truth is very few people probably have the whole picture and know us completely. Sadly, it can become very easy for us to start seeing ourselves through the lens of others. You start thinking, OK, maybe I’m just the one that’s good at sports or I’m the artist or I’m the smart one. We have to fight that and say “No, I’m more than one thing. I’m more than the sum of my accomplishments (or lack thereof). I’m complex.” When you do that, you realize you can always do something new. You can move forward and be whoever you want to be.
What was your favorite part of writing Kind Of Sort Of Fine?
I think my favorite part was coming up with all of the hobbies for Lewis’s and Hayley’s classmates. In the book, Lewis and Hayley spend a lot of time filming their classmates as they engage in their favorite hobbies, so I wanted to come up with some interesting hobbies that would be fun to read about (and fun to write). For example, one of my favorite hobbies is obviously writing, but I’m not sure anyone wants to read a whole chapter about me typing on my computer at Starbucks. Oh wow, he’s eating a cake pop and listening to his Counting Crows playlist. Fascinating! It’s fun for me but not exactly riveting to read about. So for the book I came up with more thrilling hobbies, like laser tag champion and amateur ghost hunter.
If you could spend one day with Hayley and Lewis, what would you all do? Are there any places you would visit?
I would love to spend a day with Lewis and Hayley, though I’m not sure they’d be eager to spend a whole day with a guy in his mid-thirties. I think I’d mainly just want to visit all the meaningful settings from the book. For example, Hayley works at a tiny shaved ice hut, so obviously we’d have to go there for a snack. Since Lewis and Hayley are partners in TV Production class, they spend a lot of time in their school’s TV studio, so it would be great to check that out. Technology has advanced so much since my own high school TV Production days, I’m sure they could offer me some video editing tips. I can hear Lewis now calling me a grandpa as he explains to me how to use Instagram Reels.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I guess I would say “Keep your eyes on your own paper and write the thing that excites you.” When everyone’s posting their wins online, it’s really easy to get distracted by how everyone else is doing and then you get stuck in a rut of comparison, which is never good. Or maybe you read about publishing industry trends and start trying to write what you think will be popular or what you think will sell, instead of writing what you’re actually passionate about. That’s no good either because no one can predict what the next great thing will be. But your book has a better chance of being well-received and finding its audience if you write what you actually care about rather than just trying to manufacture what you think people might like.
Check out the amazing bloggers on this book tour!
Thank you, Terminal Tours, for having us on this wonderful blog tour!