by Julie Dill
February 7th 2017
Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Knowles is surrounded by the privileged. Michael Kors gym bags and designer shoes are part of her daily scene, but the talented cheerleader has a secret: she and her dad can barely pay the bills. Broken by his wife walking out on their family, Chelsea’s father ignores his responsibilities. Between cheer costs, grocery bills, electricity, and other regular financial burdens, it’s no surprise when a cut-off notice arrives in the mail. Chelsea knows it’ll be up to her to keep the lights on.
With the deck stacked against her, Chelsea decides to bet their future on the dubious poker knowledge she learned from her father before he gave up on parenting. Nervous but determined, Chelsea heads to a casino with very little security and wins big. Thrilled by her win, she’s quickly drawn to the casino again and again. She risks it all, especially when the attractive, young pit boss takes an interest in her.
Chelsea’s life, no longer filled with cheerleading, school, and hanging out with her friends, is now consumed by smoky casino floors and the ups and downs of a gambler’s life. True gamblers know when to fold, but Chelsea keeps betting long after her needs are met. The complicated web of lies soon begins to spin out of control, threatening to expose everything. Will someone see through her bluff?
I'm more than excited to have this wonderful author, Chelsea Knowles, visiting us here today on Bookworm for Kids! As soon as I saw this book, it really caught my interest. So of course, I had a few questions that she was more than kind enough to answer.
Bluff is centered around Las Vegas and poker, a hobby you share with your main character, Chelsea. While she falls into hoping for money, what inspired your interest?
The setting is actually in Oklahoma, and Chelsea visits tribal casinos. For me, poker is something I play just a couple of times of year strictly for entertainment. When I turned 21, we didn't have casinos in Oklahoma, yet. My parents took me to Las Vegas, and I wasn't intimidated to enter the poker room at the Mirage and start playing. Back then, there were hardly any women players at all, and even today we're definitely outnumbered. I was so intrigued with the players. I think as a writer, you're constantly wondering about people's backgrounds and backstory.
I'd never thought about the difference of men and women in that area, but then, I'll admit, I'm not a poker player. Interesting! What is the most amusing or memorable experience you had during a poker game?
The scene in Bluff with the drunk guy playing poker comes from a true experience. I was playing in Tulsa one night and there was a loud and rowdy cowboy at the table. It was all in fun, and people like "Tricky Ricky" definitely keep it entertaining.
Taking these experiences and changing them into a capturing novel isn't easy. What tactics do you have when writing? For example: outline/winging it, music/silence, aromas, special places. . .
I used to think I needed a huge block of uninterrupted time to write. Now, I just squeeze in whatever, whenever. While I write in public, I usually have my ear buds in, and I listen to a thunderstorm or something without lyrics. I'm not much of an outliner, although it would save me a lot a time and grief.
Oh, I love the thunderstorm idea! I'd never heard that before, but it sounds like it would be helpful to drown out background noise.
This is your debut novel. Was there anything that came up during the process, which totally caught you off guard or something you didn't expect?
It's a weird feeling when your baby enters the world. I guess I was caught off guard when I realized that people from all over (that I didn't actually know) would be reading the book. My friends and family read it because they didn't have a choice (ha!), but how cool is it when people start reading it that don't actually have to?!
Well, I can only wish that even more people read it...and who knows, maybe there will be all sorts of translations involved.
What are your plans now? Any stories/books you're currently working on?
Yes, I am currently working on a historical picture book manuscript. A Bluff sequel is definitely stirring around in my head, too.
Oooo...the historical picture book one sounds great. I'm going to keep my eyes open for that one and the 2nd Bluff book too.
Here's to happy writing, and thanks for stopping by!
And here she is. . .
Julie Dill lives in Oklahoma City where the wind always comes sweeping down the plains—literally.
As a young girl she always wanted to be a teacher, so she went on to receive her Bachelor’s of Science in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and taught in elementary schools for ten years. Currently, she serves as an adjunct professor and loves helping students achieve success. One of her greatest professional accomplishments is earning her National Board Certification.
She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Oklahoma City University and continues to work on various writing projects. From hiking in Colorado, to playing poker in Vegas, she’s always up for a new challenge. Julie is a busy mom of two teenage daughters, and any extra time that she may carve out is spent reading, writing, and rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Her debut novel, Bluff, is scheduled to be released on February 7th, 2017.
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