Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Paper Bag Mask by Brock Heasley

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the YA contemporary fiction novel Paper Bag Mask by Brock Heasley. This tour was organized by Unbound Book Tours. On my stop, I have an author interview for you. There's also a tour wide giveaway at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!
Title: Paper Bag Mask
Author: Brock Heasley
Published: October 23, 2018
Pages: 252
At the same moment he catches his teacher giving illegal drugs to a student, Redmond Fairweather loses his friggin’ mind and steals Mr. Street’s prized possession—a stupid wooden sword with round edges that will never, ever cut through anything—“The Whomper.”

Redmond has no idea why he stole the Whomper. He guesses his extreme dislike (okay, hate… so much hate) of the school’s most popular teacher probably has something to do with it. To his surprise and delight, the hottest girl in school, Elodia Cruz, hates him too.

Soon, Redmond’s small band of misfit friends joins up with Elodia and the most popular kids on campus to hold the Whomper for ransom, pull off an elaborate, broad daylight heist to steal something even bigger from Mr. Street, and expose their teacher for the scumbag he really is.

Brock Heasley is a writer and artist who, to the shock of absolutely no one visiting this site, was a member of such prestigious high school organizations as “The Nerd Herd,” “Last Picked for Teams,” and “They Who Eat Alone.” He is a graduate of California State University Fresno, the creator of the online comic The SuperFogeys, and the award-winning filmmaker behind The Shift.

Brock lives with his wife and three daughters in California where they enjoy Pixar movies, dancing in the living room, and eating breakfast for dinner.

Tell me about yourself:
I’m an author (obviously, right?), an artist, and a filmmaker with a couple of short films under my belt, a graphic novel coming out early next year, and a YA novel, Paper Bag Mask, that was just released out into the world this past October. I live in California with my wife and three daughters, two annoying dogs, and one cat. (To be honest, I’m not much of a dog person. I’ve lost half your readers already, haven’t I?)

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
The storytelling. It all comes back to how well the author can tell a story. The most impressive, descriptive, and flowery prose in the world doesn’t mean a thing to me if your structure is poor and you’re not taking me along for some sort of surprising-but-in-retrospect-inevitable ride. Give me great characters on a journey I can sink into over ten pages on the rough peel of the moss-covered tree bark any day.

If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?
Paper Bag Mask is my debut novel and The SuperFogeys Vol. 1: Inaction Heroes is my debut graphic novel, so I’m still pretty new at this! I’m sure I’ll want to rewrite both years down the road, but for now I’m pretty pleased with how they both turned out.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?
I don’t know if there’s anything I stress over more. Maybe the first sentence and page ranks above them. It’s a toss-up. People say “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but who are these people and why are they so stupid? It’s asinine to not judge a book by the cover in this day and age. Books covers are designed specifically so you can judge them and determine whether or not they are worth the purchase. Book covers tell you genre, tone, target demographic, etc. As a graphic designer in another life, I know there’s so much that’s unconscious that goes on in the potential reader’s mind that they don’t even understand that a designer has to specifically account for when crafting a cover. A good design will tell you everything you need to know. Is it a light romance that looks fun with lots of bright colors? Is it a horror novel with dark and moody colors and a font with sharp corners? Same goes for titles. A title--it’s style, length, tone, etc.--says a lot about what a book is trying to be in much the same way.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
I think it’s the first impression a reader gets. For my cover (which I designed), I wanted to say to the reader that Paper Bag Mask is a fun book with some surprises inside that is suitable for YA readers of all ages and genders. And, I wanted it to stand out from every other YA book out there. To that end, I went with a non-Photoshop cover, composing the elements of the ransom note letters in real life on a real paper bag, and writing my name underneath with a marker. There’s lots of negative space on the cover, making it completely unlike other YA books (which are usually filled out to the edges with imagery and information). There’s no real imagery besides the letters, giving it an ageless and gender-less appeal even while communicating the idea of a “fun crime” very clearly. Hopefully, it makes for an intriguing package. It certainly looks great--especially the physical copy which tricks you into thinking there are real folds and creases on the cover!

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
Once I’ve got a structure for my story down, it’s all about rhythm and flow. I’m not a poetry fan by any means, but I like my writing to have a certain cadence to it, and an energy and propulsion that takes you from one sentence to the next. Whether it’s in dialogue or the bits of description in between, I want the reader to feel like I’m carrying them through the story, and that I’m going to take care of them and respect them and their time. I’ve been told my dialogue is particularly strong, and I like to think it’s for that reason--because the flow is there. Good dialogue isn’t about how people really talk--people are actually pretty boring when they talk, for the most part--it’s about how characters talk in the created world of the author and making their words feel real while making them as interesting and compelling as possible. Whether that’s with clever repartee or a character beat or a plot point the reader is dying to know, I strive to avoid cliches and lean into whatever gives a conversation that flow. I’m extremely conscious of what reason the reader might have to keep going and how I can stop them from putting down the book.

Do your novels carry a message?
The late, great Stan Lee said “A story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul.” I think that’s true. All stories should say something. All stories say something even if they don’t intend it. There’s always a message there. But what I prefer is when a message is subtle and intended. I think there are many messages in Paper Bag Mask, some subtle and some not. But there is a takeaway, and I’m very conscious of that because if there’s going to be a message--and I think there always, always is--then I should be responsible and exert a little control.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?
As much as will fit. I try to write from a real place and the only way I know to do that is to take from my own life and experiences. Paper Bag Mask is actually based on a true story, and all of the characters have a piece of me one way or another. For instance, there’s a sleazy character in the book. I don’t think anyone would describe me as sleazy, but he tends to smooth his rougher edges with politeness and feigned congeniality. That’s my tactic for ingratiating myself to others--just being incredibly polite. (Not that I’m fake about it!)

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Oh, constantly. The true story behind Paper Bag Mask is a three week long prank I pulled with some friends in high school when we stole our teacher’s prized possession--a wooden sword he called “The Whomper”--and held it for ransom. It’s a great story to tell at parties because it involves a heist, ransom videos, the campus police, and an increasingly frustrated and worried teacher. For the novel, I had to make it more than a party story and turned it into more of a coming-of-age tale. To do that, I drew from other parts of my life and lessons I learned much later. I have a hard time imagining writing anything that doesn’t come from some deep, emotional place within me.

Are villains/antagonists important to a story? Tell me why or why not?
I think antagonism is important to a story--there always has be a tension, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be personified in a character. I think of the movie All the President’s Men in which, ostensibly, President Nixon is the villain, but he never appears on screen. Instead, Woodward and Bernstein fight against the corrupt system that’s been created by the President and his people. That said, I love a good villain and I tend to write more than a few of them into my stories.

Have any new writers grasped your interest recently?
Can’t say that they have. Terrible answer to this question, I’m sorry!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
12/17 YA/NA Book Divas Excerpt #1
12/17 Just Books Guest Post #1
12/18 The Page Unbound Review
12/19 All the Ups and Downs Interview #1
12/19 Blunt Book Blog Review/Excerpt #2
12/20 Unbound Book Tours Interview #2
12/20 Rebecca R. Cahill Guest Post #2
12/21 Oh Hey! Books. Guest Post #3
Blog tour organized by:


  1. I love the premise of this novel and I cannot wait to read it! Good luck with this book.

  2. Intriguing cover.The book sounds good.

    1. Thanks! I knew that Graphic Design degree would come in handy someday...

  3. Can't wait to read this! Thanks for the chance!