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Acquisitions Announcement: Justine Manzano

Sword & Silk Books is excited to welcome Justine Manzano.

Her novel, Never Say Never, is a YA Contemporary with Fantasy Elements comparable to Foolish Hearts, Emerge, and Things Jolie Needs To Do Before She Bites It.

When 17-year-old Brynn Stark swears she’ll NEVER fall in love, Aphrodite--yes, THAT Aphrodite--sees the vow as a challenge.


After she walks in on her mom doing the horizontal mambo with a man that’s decidedly not her dad, Brynn Stark swears off love. One of her friends--Val--is determined to change her mind, no matter the consequences. Prickly and cynical, Brynn tries to avoid Val’s attempts at setting her up, until Val reveals her true identity--Aphrodite, goddess of love, who promises to show Brynn why she shouldn’t lose faith. Brynn’s job, school, and the various love connections Val tries to make keep her busy enough, but in her spare time, she struggles to navigate her own role in her parents’ divorce. With her other best friend recovering from a breakup of her own, and Val dead set on playing matchmaker, Brynn’s forced to rely on the fourth member of their friend group, Adam, for moral support. Adam, Val's boyfriend.Realizing she’s beginning to fall for Adam, Brynn throws herself full-force into dating Val’s picks, hoping one can lure her away from the bad situation she’s hurtling towards, but even when she finds one with a spark, she can’t stop thinking about Adam. Brynn’s forced to decide if she’ll choose her goddess-given fate, or risk it all for the wrong-but-right guy. One thing’s for sure. Love sucks. And it's all about to blow up in their faces.


Justine Manzano is a YA author who prides herself on her ability to juggle motherhood, writing, editing, and the very serious businesses of fangirling and multiple forms of geekery. Her preferred genre is what she calls “Weird Stuff.”A proud Bronxite, born and raised, Justine lives there with her husband, son, and a cacophony of cats. She and her husband often spend nights sharing the couch as they watch television, laptop to laptop, communicating in that nearly telepathic fashion that comes with years of marriage. Together, they work to raise their own little padawan in the way of the geek. This project is developing quite well so far.

Primarily a lover of stories, she enjoys helping writers craft their tale and find their story’s home. Justine has worked in acquisitions and as both a content and line editor at small publishing companies, as a reader at YA lit mags, and in the corporate sector, helping people grammar it up in their legal briefs. In 2017, she co-founded The Inkwell Council, an editing trio that ran a monthly lottery and provided the winner of said lottery with a free edit of their first three chapters. In 2018, she joined the Craft Quest team as an editor and as one of the panelists for their live-streamed writing advice videos. She is currently the Editor-in-Residence in the online writing group, Write Hive.

Her debut novel The Order of the Key, will be released by Black Rose Writing in July 2020.

An Introductory Interview with Justine

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hi! My name is Justine. I’m a geek and a nerd. I write YA novels, I love the online writing community, and I’m also a freelance editor. I’m from Bronx, NY, and I’ve got all of that Bronx toughness and attitude. I have an amazing husband, and a beautiful son, and they are my world. I have a tremendous circle of friends, and a wonderful chosen family. I’m a mental health advocate, and also an advocate for indie and beginner writers, as they face the most scams and hardship in this industry.

Where did the inspiration for your book come from? 

Okay, there are two answers to this question. The first part of this story came from a writing prompt on Pinterest about Aphrodite in the modern day. The second part of the story was the divorce of Brynn’s parents, and that came largely from real life experiences. My mother and father are nothing like Brynn’s parents, but the idea behind Brynn growing up waiting on her parents getting divorced was 100% my life. My parents argued a lot. They stayed together much longer than they should have, and I wanted to talk about that feeling more, because I’m sure I’m not the only child who has felt that way, and I know how that can affect future relationships. And I wanted to capture the difficulty of coping with that in a story. 

What is your writing process? Plotter or Panster? Are you a morning or evening writer? What is your tried and true method for getting words on the page?

I’m such a weird writer. It takes me months to outline. Sometimes a year. I write whatever comes into my head. Bits of dialogue. Descriptions of setting. Character traits. Literally anything I think of. I ruminate on it while I work on other stories. I set a date for finalizing the outline, and once I have, I grab any and all time available to pull words free and get them on a page. There is no tried and true method. My life is too insane. I pick times to sit every day, and it’s butt-in-chair, and write for whatever amount of time I can. If I don’t write then, it will never get done. 

Authors often impart pieces of themselves into their stories. Which character best reflects you? Do you share any personality traits with your protagonist?

Brynn is almost entirely me, but she’s actually really my sister-in-law. She is so based on my sister-in-law, that when she did one of my editing passes, she actually said Brynn should do something that happened two pages later in the script. We are very alike, so there’s that. But there’s parts of me in all the characters, as I believe is true for most writers. 

What drew you to the YA genre, as an author?

As a teenager, I buried myself in books to see myself through the hard times in my life. I suffered through my first major bout of depression at fourteen years old, and if it hadn’t been for books and music, I wouldn’t have survived my teenage years. I wanted to write things that would distract teens from their problems for a few hours a day, maybe more. I also wanted to give teenagers hope for change in their worlds, hope for some power over what happens in their lives. 

If you could give your teenage self one piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t doubt yourself so much. You’re stronger than you realize and you shine brighter than you think. One day, you’re going to find your way and you’ll finally feel like you belong.

Where to Find Justine

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