Sunday, March 9, 2014

What's Your Story About?

This might be the most painful question ever asked an author. At least it was for me. When well-meaning friends or acquaintances approached me at parties and gatherings with this question, I almost always stumbled to answer. What was my book about? I’m the author—if anyone should know, you’d think it would be me, right?

Saving Toby is my debut novel, and when I set out to write it, I wanted to produce a piece of writing I was proud of, to plow my path and firmly set my place in the literary world. So why did my ears burn and words fail me whenever this question arose?

It’s because, early in the process, I honestly didn’t know what the book was about. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Starting with a small idea, I wrote Saving Toby from my heart. I never once considered what genre it would be, or how I would market it.

The story is contemporary because one of the plot issues is, unfortunately, a current event—a hate crime and the lack of acceptance of diversity. But it’s not only about the crime.

It’s a love story, the building of an intense relationship between young adults. I read “Fifty Shades of Grey” while writing. Big mistake. It was difficult to not have my characters ripping each other’s clothes off every chapter! Saving Toby has a few steamy scenes in it, but I don’t recommend reading it for that reason. Frankly, there aren’t enough sex scenes to quench an erotic appetite.

It is literary fiction, in that the story is multilayered and wrestles with universal dilemmas. Literary fiction boasts stories made for everyone. Situations of alcohol and physical abuse, family drama, and the search for meaning in life are real, and most understand them, but if you’re squeamish about f-bombs, sex and fistfights, this is not a story you’re going to want to read. This is a gritty and truthful read. Not for the faint of heart.

Lack of options forced me to package it as a Contemporary Romance. I fought long and hard over this because, to me, romance books are the Harlequin paperbacks that my mother used to devour, one after the other. I confess, I did read my share of them, too. The recipe was always the same—headstrong Sunny Ray meets Brock Steele III, drop-dead, handsome billionaire. They almost always loathed each other despite how they lusted for each other. In the end, love always won. Don’t get me wrong; these books have their place. They are simple, easy escapes, but none of those characters, stories or writers has stayed with me. And I’d hazard to guess my mother would say the same. I couldn’t bear to have my characters and their story be that easily forgettable.

So what is my story about? Saving Toby is about forgiveness, hope, and second chances, but at its core, it's a love story — it's a truthful, emotional read about the kind of love that gives one courage to not only face their fears, but to triumph. I wrote three-dimensional characters who are unique and flawed, ones that are so lifelike you might come away feeling like you personally know them.

Maybe my story won’t live forever in your memory, but I wrote this book with a great deal of passion — searching for truths and honesty in that my readers would be affected by the words and sentences I carefully constructed.

I’ve barely lowered the tines into the soil to plow my path in the literary world, but as a new author, all I ask is, when you read my novel, please go into it as I did, without trying to label it. If you do that, Saving Toby will touch your heart, for at least a little while. I promise.


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