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    Long Beach author Elise Bryant goes from YA to the PTA with ‘It’s Elementary’
    • July 10, 2024

    Elise Bryant is the NAACP Image Award-nominated author of the YA novels “Happily Ever Afters,” “One True Loves,” “Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling,” and she’s now publishing her first novel for adults, “It’s Elementary.” Bryant, who spent years as a special education teacher, lives with her husband and two daughters in Long Beach.

    Bel Canto Books in Long Beach will be hosting Bryant’s book launch at KUBO LB in Long Beach at 4 p.m. on July 7, and the author will also appear with Tembi Locke at 7 p.m. on July 9 at Reparations Club in Los Angeles.

    Q: Please tell readers about your new book.

    “It’s Elementary” is my first novel for adults after publishing three YA rom-coms (“Happily Ever Afters,” “One True Loves,” and “Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling”). It’s a cozy mystery that follows Mavis Miller, an overworked and overwhelmed single mom who gets voluntold to join the PTA by the very intense and slightly terrifying PTA president, Trisha. When the school principal goes missing, and Mavis sees Trisha dragging giant black trash bags and cleaning supplies out to her minivan in the middle of the night, Mavis jumps to the worst conclusions. Determined to get to the bottom of things, she launches a (very amateurish) investigation, with the (very cute) school psychologist as the Watson to her Sherlock.

    Q: What are you reading now?

    I’m currently reading (and loving!) “What You Leave Behind” by Wanda M. Morris. It’s a thriller about a lawyer who returns to her hometown and uncovers a conspiracy to steal and redevelop land. It’s ominous and propulsive and I haven’t been able to put it down.

    Q: How do you decide what to read next?

    I’m definitely a mood reader, so it all depends on how I’m feeling! Sometimes I want to fly through a mystery, and sometimes I want the sweet, swoony pick-me-up that only a good romance novel can provide. And it also depends which of my library holds have come in – I’m constantly racing against that 21-day clock.

    Q: Do you remember the first book that made an impact on you?

    “The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot was life-changing for me! I was in sixth grade when I read this book for the first time, and I remember thinking, You’re allowed to write like this? And it’ll be published? It was so voice-y and snarky and fun and completely unlike all the books people were always telling me were important – but it became the most important book to me. I found my own writing voice through reading Mia Thermopolis. It’s like Meg Cabot gave me permission to write however I wanted.

    Q: Can you recall a book that felt like it was written with you in mind (or conversely, one that most definitely wasn’t)?

    “Who Put This Song On?” by Morgan Parker was a revelation for me. It’s a YA novel about a Black girl growing up in suburbia, who is trying to figure out her identity when everyone else keeps telling her what it means to be Black. I wish I had it as a kid, so I would have felt less alone.

     Q: Is there a genre or type of book you read the most – and what would you like to read more of?

    I’ll read almost anything – lit fic, mystery, romance, memoir, graphic novels, children’s literature…and so on! It’s all interesting to me. And I’ve always been this way. As a kid, I used to sneak my mom’s Sue Grafton and Faye Kellerman novels at the same time I was reading Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling books and “Lord of the Rings.” I just need to be reading something at all times, so I bring my Kindle or a paperback everywhere.

    Books by Elise Bryant. (Courtesy of Berkley Books)

    Q: Is there a person who made an impact on your reading life – a teacher, a parent, a librarian or someone else?

    Mrs. Tennison, my third-grade teacher at Cerritos Elementary, made me fall in love with reading, constantly supplying me with stacks of books that met my every curiosity. I remember she used to decorate her classroom based on the book we were reading – a barn for “Charlotte’s Web” – and it made it such a magical, immersive experience. She’s also the first person who made me feel like a writer. She would “publish” my work, binding all my stories and poems into books and sharing them with the class. It’s where my dream of becoming an author began.

    Q: What’s a memorable book experience – good or bad – you’re willing to share? 

    I’ve been reading the Percy Jackson series to my eight-year-old before bed for the past few months, and it’s been such a gift to watch my kid who used to proudly declare, “I hate books!” (her form of rebellion in our book-loving family) fall in love with reading. Seeing her eyes light up with each plot twist, the negotiations for just one more page, discussing all of her theories over breakfast the next day – it’s just the greatest joy!

    Q: What’s something about your book that no one knows?

    Well, I am a very nosy person, so I spend a lot of time observing and eavesdropping and spinning stories from the tiniest details in my most inconsequential interactions. My friends keep asking me if “It’s Elementary” is about our kids’ school, where I’ve volunteered with the PTA for many years. But my characters and plots are much more likely to bloom from a conversation I overhear in line to get coffee or a person I pass in the aisles of Trader Joe’s.

    Q: If you could ask your readers something, what would it be?

    How far would you go to give your kids the very best? That’s the question Mavis asks of her suspects – and herself – in “It’s Elementary.” I’m so curious to hear what readers think of these PTA moms behaving badly. Are they going to be horrified or will they relate? I think it’ll be a little of both!

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    ​ Orange County Register 

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