Q&A with Tiffany Schmidt: ‘Break Me Like a Promise’

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Welcome to the Boldly Bookish blog tour! Today we have a Q&A with the lovely Tiffany Schmidt, author of the Once Upon a Crime series: Hold Me Like a Breath and Break Me Like a Promise. Keep reading to learn more about the second book in the series, why Tiffany may be on government watch lists, and her favorite song from Hamilton:

What inspired the ONCE UPON A CRIME series?

I’ve always adored fairy tales. From the days when I was still wearing one-piece pjs and my parents were reading my bedtime stories till now—when, let’s be honest, I still have one piece pajamas and can’t go to sleep without reading. One of the things I love best about fairy tales is the pieces they’re missing. The stories are sparse and there’s room to fill those gaps with imaginings and wonderings and daydreams.

One of the stories I obsessed over as a child was The Princess and the Pea. I wanted to know why the princess was alone in the middle of the night? Where was her family? Why was she out in a storm? And why did the fact that she bruised prove that she was a real princess? This last question fascinated me. I was a tumble-and-fall accident prone child, known by name in the ER—bruises were never fun and no one had offered me a tiara when I was covered in them.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m still accident prone, and I still love layering narratives over the framework of my favorite stories. When I decided to re-imagine The Princess and the Pea in Hold Me Like a Breath (the first book of the Once Upon a Crime Family series) I knew I wanted to modernize the setting and deal with some morally ambiguous families. It was a hop skip from there to swapping royal families for crime families.

As for why I added in organ trafficking… What can I say? My mind’s a scary place :)

I love how the characters and story from Hold me Like A Breath are worked into Break Me Like a Promise. How much planning did you do ahead of writing these books? And in general, are you a pantser or a plotter? 

When I was drafting Hold Me Like a Breath I didn’t know right away that it would be a series. This changed as soon as Magnolia Grace appeared on the page and owned my heart. I knew right away that she had a story—that I really, really wanted to tell her story. And the more I drafted, the more it was clear that there was more to this world and this story arc than fit into one book.

In the plotter vs. pantser debate… I call myself a pantser, but I’m not quite sure that’s true. I don’t create outlines. I find the very idea of them paralyzing. I also don’t write in order, but jump all over the place. I tend to write dialogue and kissing scenes first. BUT, before I begin a book, I have the whole arc in my head. I’ve bounced ideas and fleshed it out with my critique partners. I’ve talked it through with my saintly husband. I’ve brainstormed aloud to our puggles. I think this might make me a plotter-in-denial.

I would imagine that writing about families who are involved in organ trafficking could lead to some … interesting … research. What kind of research did you have to do for Break Me Like a Promise?

I’m probably on every government agency’s watch list for the things I had to google while writing these books. Among the topics I researched for Break Me were:


How bills become laws (yes, I did listen to the Schoolhouse Rock song, I also re-watched ALL of West Wing and called that research).

Organ trafficking

Transplant practices in other countries

End Stage Renal Failure / dialysis / dialysis diet

Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD)

Crime family dynamics (which included reading a lot of biographies and also a brief obsession with the reality show Mob Wives)

Computer hacking

What is the strangest thing you’ve searched on Google during the research/writing process?

How to buy a kidney in X country.

How much does a black market kidney cost?

(you see why I might be on government watch lists?)

If you could have lunch with a character from Break Me Like a Promise, who would it be and why? 

James Byrd. With every novel I write there’s always a character that unexpectedly sneaks into my heart and steals it. As I mentioned above, Maggie was that character in Hold Me Like a Breath. In Maggie’s story, that character was James. He’s another member of the Vickers’ crime family—one who’s grown up as Maggie’s closest friend and fiercest competition. In the Good Ole Boys club of the Vickers Family, James was often handed rights and responsibilities that Maggie had to fight for—privileges and respect that Maggie desperately wanted… and James did not. Their relationship is riddled with obstacles and betrayals, but James is genuinely loyal and so courageous. I’m definitely lucky to have some friends like James IRL, but given the magical opportunity to pull a character off the page, I’d add him to their number.

What was your favorite book when you were a young adult? Did that influence your own writing at all?

Growing up I loved the classics. Depending on my age, I was a Matilda, a Ramona, a Sara Crewe, an Anne Shirley, a Lizzy Bennett, a Meg Murry, a Hermione (we can now consider Harry Potter a classic, right?) These heroines have collectively influenced me as a person and a writer so much –because the characteristic they all share is the belief that they can and should shape and control their environment with their imagination, creativity, and intelligence.

Can you tell us what is next for you?

This is still up in the air! Hopefully it’s book three in the Once Upon a Crime Family series, because I’d love to tell Garrett and Caleigh’s story. If not that, I’ve got a couple other things in play :)

And just for fun, I know from Twitter that you’re a fan of Hamilton. What is your favorite song?

Oh, geez! You expect me to pick just one? This varies so much by my mood—but since we have a brand new baby (a #Hamiltot?) in our house, I’m going to go with “Dear Theodosia,” which is Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton’s song to their babies. It now makes me cry every time. It has the opposite effect on the baby—from day 1, he’s quieted as soon as he hears the first notes of the soundtrack. My husband likes to tease me that he probably had the whole thing memorized in utero from the obscene number of times he listened to it before being born.

No one is unbreakable.

All Magnolia Vickers has ever wanted was to follow father’s path as head of the Family Business. But new legislation is poised to destroy the Family’s operations in the black-market organ trade and Maggie’s recent behavior has wrecked the business-savvy reputation she’s worked her whole life to build.

She’s given an ultimatum: shape up or step aside.

Then Maggie messes up: she downloads a virus onto her father’s computer, and must sneak it off-estate for repair. When Alex, a tech whiz, uncovers the type of information on the machine, he offers Maggie a choice: her Family can give him a kidney, or he’ll irreparably scramble the data. Maggie agrees, but has no intention of keeping her promise or every seeing him again. That night Alex shows up at her Family estate with copies of confidential Family files and a shocking revelation—the kidney is for him.

The Vickers aren’t willing to let Alex out of their sight, so he moves onto their estate and Maggie is assigned to be his keeper. A task she resents and he enjoys making as challenging as possible. But procuring black market organs is becoming increasingly difficult, and as Alex’s health declines, she’s surprised to find herself falling for him.

Like it or not, Maggie must accept that if she wants to save Alex’s life and carve out a place in the new legalized organ business, she’s going to have to fight for both.

Break Me Like A Promise is on sale today! You can find the book here: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

Tiffany Schmidt is the author of Send Me a Sign, Bright Before Sunrise, and Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family book 1).

She’s found her happily ever after in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles.

You can find out more about her and her books at: TiffanySchmidt.com, TiffanySchmidtWrites.Tumblr.com or by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram

Want a chance to win Break Me Like a Promise? Bloomsbury is giving away 1 set of the BOLDLY BOOKISH 2 Tour books (US Only)
Books include: Hold Me Like a Breath & Break Me Like A Promise by Tiffany Schmidt, The Fixer & The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes & The Leaving by Tara Altebrando.
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Lauren is a 20-year-old student living in Northern Virginia. She loves to read YA books and watch movies. Lauren is passionate about many things, but reading has always been a huge part of her life. Ever since she first learned to read, her parents have always had to pry books out of her hands when it’s time for other commitments. Lauren loves everything from The Hunger Games and Divergent, to Percy Jackson, mysteries like State of the Onion, and other YA books, like The Fault in Our Stars, and is always eager to try a new book, author, or series. She also loves music, public health, Harry Potter, and the Washington Capitals. Follow her on Twitter: @LWengrovitz.
  • Kaitlyn

    I can’t wait to read this book! I was such a fan of Hold Me Like A Breath!