- I have a not so secret love of gingers, hence Ian’s hair and freckles. I imagine him to be just adorable!
- The story originally started in a different spot. During a writing workshop, author Toni De Palma convinced me to change the starting point and I believe that has a lot to do with why the book got picked up by my publisher.
- Going into it, I knew next to nothing about wrestling. I did a lot of research (unusual for me) and spoke to a lot of guys who were involved in high school wrestling.
- Julian and Mei-Li come from a long time of twins, in the sense that I always seem to have a pair in my stories. They are almost always boy/girl twins. I’m not sure why. I just like the dynamic I suppose.
- Ian is not the first male character I’ve written, but he’s the first done in first person. It was hard for me to get into character but I think he came out as authentic and believable.
- In the original draft, Ian was going to be trying to get into Penn State. While it’s certainly a good educational institution, I decided to change it up to a different Pennsylvania school after the scandal that went down at Penn.
- My mom was my original editor. While there was still plenty for the Harmony Ink editors to call into question, it was never about typos and missing words. Mom is good like that!
- Heavyweight‘s cover is almost exactly how I imagined when I first started writing the story. I’m so glad my cover artist was able to incorporate so much of what I wanted.
- Maggie was originally a cheerleader, but I realized, for no fair reason, I had evil cheerleaders in a couple of my other books. I switched her up to a colorguard member instead.
- Although it seems surprising to some, Heavyweight is the first male/male romance I’ve ever written.
While perusing Facebook, I recently saw a young writer I know asking folks which tense and POV they preferred in the stories they read. I responded by asking her if she was just taking a poll out of curiosity or if she was planning on trying to write in the style that people seemed to prefer. She said it was just curiosity, but something nagged at me and I felt I had to have a little talk with her.
I wanted to be sure she understood that it was fine to write something in the style readers seem to be enjoying at the moment, but not to force it. That if it seemed like she was pushing and pulling the plot and it still wasn’t flowing the way she wanted or she was lacking that connection with her characters, it was okay to change it up.
It’s been discussed here before, but to reiterate, Heavyweight started out being written in third person past tense. I had this idea I loved, characters I fleshed out and the plot roughly outline, yet it was like pulling teeth to get the words out on paper. I was a good 10k words in when I decided to rewrite it all. I changed the style to first person present tense and I couldn’t believe how natural it seemed, how easily the words flowed and the story unfolded. I knew first person wasn’t a favorite of many readers, but that didn’t matter. It was how the story needed to be written and that was obvious when I made the change.
Just because you start out with one intention that doesn’t mean you have to force it if it doesn’t feel right. Be open to change and willing to try different POVs, tense or where you start the beginning of the story. You are the creator and your readers are going to be able to tell if you forced it and your heart wasn’t in it.
Have you ever made a major change to your writing style? How did it work for you?
In If We Shadows, Jordan is a transgender boy who wants to get through his senior year safely. However, he also wants to try out for the fall musical with his brother, and he wants the role of Puck in the musical mashup of two classic plays by Shakespeare. At this point in the story, he’s just found out that he will not be Puck. Instead, he will play Viola, a boy cast into a girl’s role, a possibility that he has been dreading since auditions.
My throat tightens; the light in the room seems to fade as things start to swirl around me. I grip the edge of the stage with my fingers, trying to force myself to stay upright. I could swear I hear James’s voice calling my name, and I push away, shoving at whoever is near me as I race for the door.
It closes with a thunk behind me, leaving me in a hallway that seems too dark, almost like a horror movie. I pause, struggling to breathe, then move with echoing quick steps down the hall to the bathroom. I go into the farthest stall and lock the door behind me. I climb up and perch on the toilet, toes on the edge, head bowed down by my knees as I crouch there, fighting for consciousness.
Because how fucking embarrassing would it be to pass out locked in a toilet stall, right?
Hours pass in a haze of warm breath and chills. I hear the door open and the water run, and I wait to hear the door again, for whoever it is to leave.
A girl’s voice. Am I in the wrong bathroom?
I open my eyes, blinking into the light which seems so much brighter than it was before, and look to my left and right for a telltale wastebasket on the wall of the stall. No, not the girls’ room. Thank God.
There’s a soft knock on the door to the stall. “Are you okay, Jordan? You didn’t look very well when you ran out. People are worried.”
I slowly unfold my body and stand. My hand shakes when I twist the lock and let the door swing open to find Pepper there, her brow furrowed and hand still raised to knock again.
She’s several inches shorter than me, built as tiny as her brother. The spray of freckles across her nose is scrunched together, slowly spreading out as her expression eases when she sees me. Her red hair is in her face, and I have an absurd idea to nudge it back. My hand half raises, then I remember: she cast me as a girl. She has somehow seen through the mask. “I can’t do this,” I say quietly, my voice hoarse and rough.
Disappointment shows in her jade eyes, but also resignation. “I was afraid you were going to say that,” she admits. She backs up, giving me room to come out, then hands me a paper towel soaked with cold water.
I press it to my eyes, feeling the cool on my forehead. The panic is fading, leaving me cold and empty. “I’m sorry.” I hate disappointing her. What a great second impression, huh? At least her first impression was of me helping save her brother. Maybe I earned enough points with that to counteract this mess.
She turns away from me, ratcheting out another long string of paper towels, and soaking those as well. She offers it to me silently. I give her the towel that was warmed by my skin, and put the new, fresh one over my closed eyes, not wanting to look at her right now.
“Your brother’s really worried about you.” Her voice is slow and cautious. “I told him I’d check up on you, because I wanted to talk to you. Maybe tell you why I cast you.”
Why she cast me. Not Dower. Did he tell her the truth about me? He wouldn’t do that. Would he? I shiver, and breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, struggling against the darkness again. This is ridiculous. I can’t let it take me over. “Go on,” I say.
“It’s your voice,” she says. “You have this amazing, rough, smoky voice that’s so perfect and haunting. You’ve got the low notes perfectly, and you nail the higher ones when you sing, but it’s not like you go into falsetto. I can believe you’re both female and male, and you don’t seem like you’re trying to be fake as Viola. And that’s hard for a guy, really hard. Your brother’s a good actor, but what he did—it’s what most guys do. They turn it into a farce, but you didn’t. You were uncomfortable, yeah, but you treated her like she was just anyone else.”
I drop my hands away from my face, blinking in the light. “She is just anyone else.”
Pepper smiles then. “Exactly. We’re not aliens, but most guys seem to think we are. Or like the only way to be a girl is to put on tight clothes and prance around in high heels. Viola’s just another human being, and she needs to be played straight like that. And I knew you could do it. And you and James are so perfect standing next to each other. Dower really wanted to give him Oberon, but I wanted him for Sebastian because of you.”
My laugh sounds a little strangled. “Don’t tell James that; he’ll be blaming me forever for his losing Oberon.”
Pepper touches my shoulder, squeezing lightly. “Come back in and do the read-through, please? And think about it over the weekend. You can tell me Monday if you really can’t do it. But I promise you, no one’s going to be laughing when they see you on stage. They’re just going to be thinking about how awesome an actor you are to pull it off.”
I swear, my brain short-circuits as soon as she touches me, and I’m nodding before I really think about what I’m saying yes to.
Her smile is worth it.
I can’t resist this time and reach out, one finger hooking in a dark red curl, nudging it back behind her ear. She flushes, warm rose under the freckles, but she doesn’t pull away. I’m playing with fire even thinking anything about her, and my heart’s rushing so hard I’m starting to shake again. It’s the good kind of nervous, anxious and waiting for something to happen, like that moment before going downstairs on Christmas morning to see the packages under the tree.
The moment breaks as she lets go of my shoulder and takes a step back. “C’mon. Let’s go get that read-through done. There’s a script in there with your name on it.”
I stand there, looking at her. “Is there going to be a roster handed out? Your brother suggested that a bunch of us could get together and run lines. I know we all gave you our info when we signed up.” It seems like one way of subtly getting her number and e-mail.
Her smile sparks impish, and my heart trips over itself in a syncopated beat. She steps forward and picks my phone from where it peeks out of my pocket. She carefully taps for several moments, then holds it out at arm’s length to take a picture of herself. She hands it back to me, showing her name, phone and e-mail woven in with her smiling image. She curls my hands around it. “There.” She blinks innocently, adding, “You can use the home number to reach Paul, too, of course. You should text me soon, so I’ve got your number, too.”
She steps to the door, and looks back at me as she opens it. I can see James standing down the hall. He walks toward us, and that jars me into motion. I shove the phone back in my pocket and walk through the door that Pepper’s opened for me.
You can buy If We Shadows as an ebook or a trade paperback directly from Harmony Ink Press. It is also available on Amazon and B&N.
When D.E. Atwood was in second grade, she finally grew tall enough to see the shelf above the mysteries in the bookmobile. She discovered a rich landscape of alternate worlds, magic, and space and has never looked back from the genres of fantasy and science fiction.
When she was twelve, she declared that she was going to be a writer and share the stories that she saw happening all around her. She wanted to create characters that others would care about and that would touch their lives, like the books that she read had touched her own life.
Today she has combined her interests, creating genre stories about the people who live next door, bringing magic into the world around us.
When not writing, D.E. Atwood is a mother (to two children, a cat, and a dog), a wife, a reader, a knitter, a systems administrator, almost a black belt in tae kwon do, and a music aficionado. Sleep, she claims, is optional.
You’ve toiled for years, writing story after story. You’ve sent them out to agents or publishers, you’ve self published or you’ve hid them on a shelf in the back of your closet where no one will ever read them.
Each book is a journey, and more than the journey your characters take. It’s the trek you, as the author, takes while honing your craft. It’s the trip to tell the story itself. It’s the return expedition to polish the tracks you’ve put down. It’s the vacation while someone else reads it and the outing to the padded room while you worry about what they are thinking. It’s navigating social media to promote yourself and your work and it’s the higher ground you stand on when people try to bring you down because of what you write or how you’ve decided to get your work out there.
As we grow, so do both our writing and our life in general. You may come to find you no longer like what you’ve written in the past. You may think your style amateurish or even be embarrassed by the genre you’ve written (Monster erotica, anyone?) . While it’s okay to feel that way and you don’t need to necessarily promote them like you used to, it would be a disservice to you, and any reader who enjoyed those books, to hide those books away and pretend like they never existed.
Those stories show how far you’ve come. They are the proof that you’ve grown and how your hard work has paid off. Use them as examples of what worked and what didn’t. Share those findings with others without shame. Everyone has to start somewhere and very few start at the top. They have to work to get there, just as you have. Take pride in that.
What have you learned from your earlier work?
Genre: New Adult (?)
Source: Net Galley
Goodreads Rating: 4.34
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Summary (from Goodreads):
An emotional love story that follows the touch-and-go relationship of Hayden and Tenley; two young people who desperately want to love and be loved but are afraid to completely let go of their pasts.
As Hayden and Tenley navigate their newfound but slightly unstable relationship, they want to trust each other, but Hayden is hiding a dark and shameful past that he doesn’t ever want Tenley to find out about. And Tenley has secrets of her own that could make Hayden run away forever. When Tenley asks Hayden to put a beautifully elaborate tattoo across her back, the two form what they thought was an unshakeable bond. But when Tenley’s past shows up on her doorstep, will Hayden stand by her side…or run?
This story had a lot more going for it than I expected. The two main characters are broken and wracked with guilt, yet undeniably attracted to each other. There are several nice and steamy bits but I was glad to find there was more to the story than just the hooking up portions. I found the character reactions to their difficult situations realistic, although I felt Tenley’s character was a bit over the top at times, making her life more difficult than it needed to be…but I suppose there are people out there in the real world that are drama-llamas who make things worse for themselves than it needs to be. All in all, it was an enjoyable, emotion-driven story that I think a lot of people will get into. The only thing I really disliked? Cliffhanger ending! Nothing is wrapped up. You’re left hanging and quite honestly, it was super annoying. I don’t mind questions left to have a sequel, but not resolving anything? Nope. I’m not a fan.