Sometimes your refuge can be worse than what you’re running from.
Writers are often advised to write about what they know. I would add my own advice—you know more than you think, and you are always learning. One day while going through my old stories, I came across one I’d written as a teenager. It had a timeless premise (what happens when your boyfriend/girlfriend is your whole world and the world collapses?) but not enough story to make a reader drop everything and sit down with the book.
I asked myself, “What do I know now, and care about now, that would make this a real story and these characters real people?”
It was 2012, and I was working for an agency that supports children and adults with special needs. I realized, after reading widely in YA, that Autism Spectrum Disorder—diagnosed then in approximately 1 in 80 children in the U.S.—was not adequately represented in young people’s literature (fortunately, this is changing). What would a teen do if her parents expected her to be compassionate and understanding with a sibling with special needs, but refused to help her or to acknowledge her feelings as well? If she met a boy who encouraged her and loved her unconditionally, he would naturally become her safe haven.
But what if he wasn’t so safe?
The result was my debut novel, Sweeter Than Life. It was accepted for publication in June 2013 and released in July 2015. The publisher was unable to meet several terms of the contract, however, and the book was removed from circulation and the rights returned to me in September 2015.
I re-released Sweeter Than Life on November 17, 2021. You can find it on Amazon.com.
And at Spine Bookstore and Café in St. Louis