The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by the awesome Stuart West (StuckInKansas), author of the YA novel Tex, The Witch Boy, available from MuseItUp Publishing in January. I’m tagging poet/novelist Sage Doyle, a great friend whose blog I read regularly, for next week (Nov. 11-17).

Head over to their blogs, and show them some love as well :)

And now to answer some questions. I’m choosing to shine this light on my novella, since it’s the closest to being finished:

What’s the title of your book?

The Last Three Words, however I’m not sure it makes sense after recent rewrites, and a publisher will likely change it anyway.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Well, it evolved from an idea about a girl who dies but doesn’t know or understand it, but as I wrote, it became more and more about those she left behind.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Contemporary

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have thought on this, but I’m just not in tune enough with young Hollywood nowadays to name the best choices. Maye is subtly pretty, and painfully shy. People who don’t know any better might call her a wallflower, or plain, but Christian knows much better. Christian was the weird kid in class as a young child, a loner. He’s since grown into a somewhat awkward, lanky guy, and has fallen in with the other “outcasts” from the mainstream cliques over the years. Thirteen-year-old Rowe is flashy, rebellious, and a bit of a tomboy. Though her black hair, clear green eyes, and sweet porcelain-skinned face should ensure her a spot in the popular crowd, her lack of tolerance for their crap casts her as a near delinquent constantly on the edge of trouble with authority.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Maye Miller dies in a tragic accident, leaving her broken family behind, her best friend Christian and younger sister Rowe are forced together to deal with their grief.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither? Agents don’t generally bother with novella length works, so I’ve queried several small e-book publishers directly.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Hard to say. I took a few months’ break in the middle, and it went through several major revisions. I’d say the process to this point has been roughly a year, but keep in mind that I didn’t plan or outline at all, so I had to go back many times to “fix” plot issues.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I haven’t read anything similar, but I’ve been told it has a similar feel to The Lovely Bones.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

To be brutally honest, reading the Twilight books. I am far from a “Twihard” and don’t want to get into a debate about the literary worth of the stories here, so I will just say the following: I read the entire series. I was intrigued by the premise (vampire falls for a mortal girl), but disappointed by much of the execution. I was not impressed with the quality of the writing, and decided to try my hand at it, if this was above the “worthy of publishing” bar.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The state it is in now is actually quite different from the original incarnation I queried. I tend to write dark, serious situations, and two interested publishers urged me to tone a few key scenes down, as they felt things were just too heavy for a young adult audience. I like to think the rewrites I’ve done leave these key scenes open to reader interpretation, leaving my characters to keep the original arcs and resolutions, at least in my own mind.

Excerpt:

“Yeah, 387 Greer Highway,” my voice was flat over the sound of sobbing, begging, in the background. “Overdose…barely…bourbon and something prescription, I’m not sure.”

The dispatcher pledged to stay on the line until the ambulance arrived, but I abandoned her first, setting the receiver on the kitchen counter and grabbing the car keys before walking out the front door, unnoticed. What was one more unforgivable act? Besides, I’d done my part. The rest would have to be on the two of them. I stood in the driveway looking back at for a few moments at this place that used to feel like home, and continued on my way to anywhere but here.

I don’t remember the three point turn, or creeping under the canopy of trees that shaded the long gravel drive from the house to the road. Time was lost and instinct took over steering, the gas pedal, and the brake, though I had no need for it. There was no traffic this time of night, when morning hung only a couple of hours over the horizon. I just drove, the lazy speed of the car moving through the dark echoing the numbness I’d succumbed to after struggling against it for so long. It felt almost nice.

I watched, lost in thought, as the darkened houses and pastures passed. I’d considered the existence of fate many times in my life, but only for the past few weeks with any real seriousness. The mistakes made tonight were no accident, no coincidence. Had any of it ever been?

Without realizing, I pulled the car off to the shoulder and into the grass, at that place on Greer Highway that had haunted me for what seemed like a lifetime. It felt like another life, when we’d been happy. I stared out the windshield, willing myself to see something real, something to anchor me in reality, but there was nothing.

I needed to feel it, this road I’d been avoiding in the weeks since. To touch it, know if there was anything left there. It felt like the natural place to make peace with all that had happened, apologize. There had been a purpose to all of it. Maybe she could forgive me. But would I ever forgive myself?

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2 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing

  1. Hi Ashley! Great post and having read the novella I can tell y’all Ashley’s novella is fantastic. It’s sensitively told and captures the voice perfectly of alienated youth. Haunting and unforgettable, it’s just a matter of time before a savvy publisher snatches Ashley’s book up. You heard it here first! Ashley IS the “next big thing.” Show her some support and lovin’ everyone!

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