Kathie: Hi Anita! Welcome to MG Book Village, and thank you for giving up the opportunity to be part of your cover reveal. Double Axel or Nothing is your debut middle-grade novel and will be released by Outside Edge Books on March 1st. Can you please tell us a bit about your book?
Anita: Thank you for having me! So excited to be hanging out at MG Book Village. I’ve been a competitive figure skater for 31 years and a figure skating instructor for over two decades. Over the years I’ve watched many skaters struggle with certain jumps. They get so caught up in their inability to land that jump that they lose sight of the fact that they are amazing and beautiful figure skaters. Watching that happen over and over again inspired me to write Double Axel or Nothing.
The main character, Ruby Rani, longs to be the next U.S. Figure Skating National Champion like her idols Michelle Kwan and Alyssa Liu. Most ladies that reach this elite level of skating can do triple jumps by the time they turn thirteen. Ruby Rani’s thirteenth birthday is just weeks away, but she can’t even land a double axel—a jump she’s been failing at for the past seventeen months. If she can’t do a double axel by the end of the summer, her coach won’t allow her to compete at the regional championships. Without regionals, there’s no hope of making it to nationals. It doesn’t help that a voice in her head keeps telling her she can’t do it. To make matters worse, her parents seem indifferent about her ambitions. They only care about her brother making a perfect score on the ACT and their busy dental practice. Ruby Rani has to figure out if it’s possible to achieve a dream when it feels like no one believes in you, especially when the biggest doubter is herself.
Kathie: I recently finished an eARC of the book, and I really enjoyed seeing inside the mind of a young teen with ambitions to be a competitive figure skater. How much of this story is based on your own experience, and what’s one thing you learned about yourself through the writing process?
Anita: It was easy to pull from my experiences as an athlete. I’ve had to fight through ups and downs just like Ruby Rani has. There were points in my skating career where I felt like people in my life didn’t understand or support my goals. Some of the emotions that Ruby Rani goes through are a reflection of how I felt during those times.
When I was younger I certainly experienced the emotional highs and lows that came with one day being able to land a jump and the next day repeatedly falling on my butt. As I wrote Ruby Rani’s story, I remembered going through many of the mental and emotional hurdles that she goes through.
Kathie: This is a character-driven novel where Ruby Rani tries to overcome the obstacles she’s created with the enormous pressure she places on herself to meet a perceived ideal. I loved how honest and raw her emotions were. What’s one piece of advice would you offer to young readers passionate about excelling in a sport?
Anita: Remember: positive self talk. Shut down that negative voice inside you that tells you that you can’t do something. If your thoughts are so mean you wouldn’t say them to a friend, why would you say them to yourself?
Own your identity as an athlete. Say out loud, “I am a figure skater (insert your sport).” There are no accolades or skills required to say that. If you love being on the ice or on the basketball court or on the field—then you are that athlete. Train hard. Rest & recover. Be kind to yourself. Stay realistic with the expectations and goals that you set. And most importantly, have fun!
Kathie: I loved Emma as a supporting character and how she offers encouragement as well as some balance for Ruby Rani. Which relationship did you most enjoy writing?
Anita: That’s a tough question. Each of Ruby Rani’s relationships are special to me. But I think I enjoyed writing about Ruby Rani’s relationship with her Dad the most. Her dad is tough on her just like my dad was tough on me growing up. I can definitely say I wouldn’t be who I am without his encouragement and expectations.
Kathie: Can you please tell us about the cover’s illustrator and what your reaction was when you first saw the art?
Anita: Credit goes to Jessica R. Ament and Haroula Kontorousi for the amazing cover. I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw it!
Kathie: OK, let’s show everyone the cover!
Kathie: I love how so many elements from the story are incorporated into it! Is there anything you’d like to point out that a reader might miss?
Anita: There are definitely many elements from the story included on the cover. I laugh every time someone comments about the teeth (but then tell them that Ruby Rani’s dad is a dentist, also my husband is a dentist). What I love about the figure skater on the cover is that the position of her arms, torso, legs, and skates are optimal for landing a double axel. We worked really hard to be as accurate with this as possible. Could the cover be foreshadowing for a happy ending? You’ll have to read to find out.
Kathie: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Anita: Please come visit me! My website is: www.anitasaxena.com. I’m also pretty busy on Instagram: @AnitaSk8.
In honor of the Olympics, the publisher Outside Edge Books is selling signed copies from February 9 – 20, 2022. Click here to pre-order a signed copy. Quantity is limited. The paperback and e-book will be available wherever you like to purchase books on March 1st. Don’t forget that you can also request it from your library.
Kathie: Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Anita, and I wish you all the best with your book’s release.
Anita: Thank you for letting me hang out at MG Book Village and celebrate the cover and release of Double Axel or Nothing with everyone!
Anita Saxena has been a competitive figure skater for most of her life and coaching for more than two decades. She enjoys ice dance, theatre on ice, showcase, and moves in the field.
Anita lives in Alabama with her husband and three cats. When she’s not on the ice, she writes and is an optometrist. Anita also enjoys playing and teaching piano. She loves hiking when the weather is mild and going to the beach for undisturbed reading time. Anita also happens to be a connoisseur of hot tea and popsicles. After graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with University Honors in Philosophy and a minor in Chemistry, she then went on to receive her Doctorate of Optometry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry.