Q&A with author Paula Chase for Keeping It Real



Keeping It Real by Paula Chase


Marigold Johnson is looking forward to a future full of family, friends, and fashion–but what will she do when it all explodes in her face? When she discovers that her entire life is a lie?

Paula Chase, the author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness–and what it means to be family–in this stand-alone novel perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Stead, and Ren�e Watson.

Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees–and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.

As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.

Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience.


Q&A with Paula Chase


What are three words that describe Keeping It Real?

Timely, Insightful, Aspirational

[Is it cheating to explain why? If so, ignore my explanations. If not, here’s why I chose those words.]


Timely because we don’t see wealthy Black families depicted in children’s literature enough. It’s overdue. Insightful, because it shows the dynamics that often come with being wealthy and Black and how differently you move around other Black people vs. how you may move around white people.


Aspirational because I think young people would love to see programs like the one we see in the book. I wish we’d offer more opportunities that allow young people to tap into their interests and talents earlier.



Your main character Mari is all about fashion. What is your fashion style?

 My fashion style in my head is so different from my actual style. I’m way more stylish in my mind. Sadly, the pandemic has truly wrecked any style I ever had. 


I’ve always loved the concept of being able to hook up an outfit because I’m a situational dresser. It’s all about being able to hook yourself up based on where you’re going/what you’re doing.  If I’m stepping out for an evening event, I love tiny heels, preferably with some type of ice on them, and a form fitting dress. But my regular style is usually about comfort. I love agood wrap, simple blouse so it doesn’t overshadow my wrap hooked up with a pair of fitted pants and booties. Ahhhh love a good black heel boot. 



Not only are you a writer, but also co-founder of the award-winning blog, The Brown Bookshelf. What has been the best part about watching it grow and evolve? What are you most excited about in its future?

The best part has been experiencing this with my Brown Bookshelf colleagues. The evolution has been loose group to organization with structure and it’s happened one group decision at a time. To have nine people be like-minded enough to rally around a cause is one thing. To do that as long as we have (14 years and counting) is a rare and special thing. I often wonder if people remember that every single one of us are active kidlit creatives doing so as our livelihood. The dedication it takes to do this can’t be put in words.


When we started, our primary goal was to get in front of those who play a part in exposing children to books – parents, librarians, and teachers. We’ve expanded to include more advocacy for not only how Black people are reflected in children’s literature but, also, for the artists creating those reflections. I’m excited about what that advocacy means when it comes to future partnerships with publishers.



What do you want future readers to know about Keeping It Real?

I want readers to feel what it’s like to walk with Mari, Kara and Justice. They’re ambitious, they’re intelligent, they’re driven. And even within those personality traits they’re vulnerable to what others think about them, have worries about where they’ve come from and where they’re trying to go. Keeping it Real is about having agency over your thoughts and movements and what happens when people take the chance to form your own choice and decisions out of your hands. 



What are you working on now?

Last year I tweeted that I really wanted to write a modern day Sweet Valley High with Black characters. SVH represented what soap opera’s would look like for young viewers. Fast forward to the new millennium and the closest thing we have to that is reality TV. I was lucky enough to get interest and Charm City Heights will come out in Fall 2022. It’s giving vibes of Growing Up Hip Hop and Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra’s Tiny, Pretty Things a definite homage to the Netflix generation.



author info





I’m a creature borne of pop culture. It’s created a volatile mix of hope and cynicism within me that I help myself understand by putting my young characters through the world’s paces.

I have a big heart for young readers. Young Adult and Middle Grade novels are my home.

And because no one lives in a vacuum, I co-founded The Brown Bookshelf to ensure that the spotlight on children’s lit created by persons of color never dims.









Author: confessionsofayareader

I'm Kristi. I'm a wife, mom, and grandma. I have been breeding leopard geckos for ten years. I love to read and have been trying to review more books (the reason for this blog besides wanting to talk about books with everyone). I also love music and going to concerts, mostly punk and pop punk.

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