1. The thing that immediately struck me about the book is the writing. In particular, your use of pacing takes the reader on a whirlwind adventure. In the beginning, as we experience their summer fling, the pages just fly by, but in moments where Devon feels stuck, we really sit into things and fully experience it like she does. Is this something that you’re aware of? Do you see pacing as a tool? What is your advice for writers who struggle with pacing?
So funny you should ask this question. I’ve gotten it a few times. What’s interesting is that I struggled a LOT with pacing for this story! So many of my earliest comments had to do with the pacing, and as I revised, I kept breaking it and fixing it and breaking it again. It was honestly one of the more challenging parts about writing and editing this book! And pacing means different things to different people. You can’t ever know exactly what makes it right, but you always know when it feels off. So to hear your comments on the pacing here… it makes all the hard work and tears to get it right worth it! As far as advice…one thing that helped was increasing tension, which doesn’t necessarily have to be high stakes. The thing that keeps me reading to long for what the character wants along with the character. I tried to do that with this book, but I had a lot of help. Amazing critique partners, my editor, and my agent; they all really helped me not only increase tension, but also at the sentence level and word level. (In case you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of long winded.) That, along with patience, SO MUCH PATIENCE, helped me shape this book up!
2. In the author’s note you talk about having depression yourself. Was it intimidating to write a character that also struggled with depression or did it feel like a relief to get to spread awareness through your book? It was super intimidating! Initially, I wanted to show what my depression looks like, which is typically hiding away. Needless to say, a character that hides won’t work for a lot of readers, so I had to really dig deep to bring those emotions to the surface without being exploitive. I also have a therapist who made sure I stayed safe when writing the hard parts.
3. How did you decide to tell the book from Devon’s point of view instead of Ashton’s? Did you ever consider flipping the perspective? I read a lot of mental health centered books, and most of them are told from the perspective of the person dealing with the illness. It’s quite interesting to see it from the point of view of a loved one trying to understand what he’s going through. It’s powerful and unique.
Thank you for saying that! I always wanted this book to be from Devon’s point of view. I wanted a biracial/black girl to be front and center in a story that was about growing up in the suburbs and figuring out school and family and friends and college. With that said, I feel like cis-females are conditioned to always care for their loved ones at any cost. Devon, being a person who loves deeply, wants to care for Ashton any and every way she can, and I wanted to explore that expectation through her. As far as writing from Ashton’s point of view, I actually did write chapters from his perspective but they were for my own use to get to know him better and round him out more. I really wanted this to be Devon’s story, because we are only now starting to see more stories like this about black girls.
4. As a debut author, what is something that’s happened on the journey to releasing your first book that you didn’t anticipate when you imagined being a published author?
How expensive it is, money wise and time wise. I’ve shelled out for a lot of things, but I also spend a lot of time working on things. My newsletter takes hours to get right, for example. I create most of my own graphics and brand elements, but I have paid artists in the past. Travel, networking, swag… it all adds up. Thankfully, I love it all so much so it doesn’t really feel like work. It feels like home.
5. I know your book isn’t even on shelves yet, but I think we’re all excited to hear what we’re going to do next. Are there any projects you can tell us anything about?
I don’t have anything I can share right now! I hope to be able to talk more soon!