Many writers seem to have a rough time in high school – how else can you explain the frustrated teenager protagonists of novels like A Separate Peace or The Catcher in the Rye? The good news is, the most exhilarating – and embarrassing – moments of adolescence can be channeled into great fiction, and you can summon the memories just by opening your Senior Class yearbook.
Imagine what happened to “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Popular.” Write about the class clown who defied everyone’s expectations and became a celebrity. Tell us which of your former teachers initiated an affair with one of his or her students. Show us the secret life of the Cafeteria Lunch Lady. Relive the glacial passage of time in a high school detention session, or the petty jealousies involved I the planning of the school musical.
Use as many of your high school memories as you wish, but feel free to embellish or alter “the truth” as you go along. Personal revenge fantasies that involve “Most Popular” are permitted.
By Jason Rekulak
Can you recall a high school incident that you can twist into a storyline in your current WIP? Tell us about it – fully embellished – and please no real names of characters.
People have such preconceived ideas of who women’s fiction writers are and what exactly is women’s fiction. I am so pleased to have Travis Erwin with us today on Author Interview Friday. Tell us a little about yourself.
“I’m a native Texan and despite the ever-present gale force winds here in The Panhandle, I can’t imagine living anyplace else. Long before I figured out that I wanted to be writer, I was an avid reader. I write lots of different things but mostly humor and Women’s fiction. Yes, I know it’s a little weird for a six-foot-five, two-hundred, and too-many-pounds man to write “girly stuff” but what can I do? I have to write the stories that fill my head. I’m obligated to be the voice for the characters that speak to me, because they’re not going to shut up either way, and at least on paper I can act like they exist for a reason. Otherwise, I’m just a guy with multiple personalities.”
Joanne: What would the “logline” of your novel be?
Travis: A tarnished name and a bitter heart.
That’s all Angela Ross took when she fled Texas fifteen years ago as a teenager. Now, she’s back to take care of her grandmother’s estate. But in a town like Grand, where reputation means much more than the truth, some sins are never forgotten much less forgiven.
Joanne: Wow, that will leave me wanting more for sure. Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Travis: I took a writing class taught by RWA Hall of Famer Jodi Thomas, mostly because I thought it would be fun. She liked my voice and encouraged me to pursue publication. I learned a lot in the class but I think it was her enthusiasm for my work that really prompted me to chase the dream. Having someone who was so successful in the business endorse me validated a dream I wasn’t even ready to admit I had at the time.
Joanne: What was your first published book?
Travis: The Feedstore Chronicles was my first published book but it kind of came out by accident. It started as a series of blog posts about my teenage years. My eventual publisher read them and encouraged me to create a book. What I created is a comedic coming-of-age memoir vastly different from the Women’s Fiction I normally write.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Travis: My publisher is a small Indie Press, TAG Publishing LLC. I have known the ladies who founded it for years. Truth be told I was reluctant to sign that first contract since I’d always had the agent big NY house dream. I chased that for a long time and did eventually land an agent, but turns out the two of us had vastly different visions for both my career and the book I signed for so we parted ways and not five minutes later my friend from TAG called me and said, “When are we going to get that Feedstore book out?” I took it as a sign and it has worked out great.
Joanne: Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?
Travis: Right from the start people have talked about my voice being my strongest asset. For a while I thought they meant my actually speaking voice and thought, What the heck does that have to do with my writing? Eventually I understood it meant how I phrase things, how I structure my stories, how I tell a tale. I’ve always been the kind of guy to tell stories whether I was gathered around a campfire, sitting atop a bar stool, or standing around the BBQ grill. So I think my voice is impacted from all that oral storytelling. I am without a doubt a storyteller first and a writer second.
Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
Travis: I don’t outline. I start with a character and a, What if. The hardest part is marketing. The after. From querying to even after the book is published. The, Hey I wrote a book, look for it and buy it. I use social media to interact. You of course have to toss out links and plugs, but I try to disguise these pitches when I can by making the posts entertaining in their own right.
Joanne: What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Travis: Write it. Don’t worry about all the business side. The improbabilities, the idea of marketing, building a fan base or any of that crap. Write the book. You are going to have time for all that other stuff, but so many new writers never seem to finish anything. They start this book then decide it’s not right for the market or is too much like some other book, or that they can do better on the next one. So they start a new book and then the same thing happens. You have to finish a book before you can publish a book.
Joanne: What inspires you to keep writing when you’re feeling down or less confident than usual?
Travis: Writing is tough. One of my colleagues once said. If you can just quit you probably should. I have given thought to quitting but if I go more than a few days without writing I feel this undeniable urge to spill forth on the page. When I’m not feeling confidant I just keep writing. Not all writing session are good ones but I think the only way to get back on track is to keep moving forward.
Joanne: What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Travis: Twisted Roads is set in the small town of Grand, Texas. At its heart it is the story of two women. One who has always gotten everything she wanted, or at least thought she wanted. And one who has lost everything she ever wanted. It is a book about how we can become a slave to our own image if that is all we care about. It is a story about redemption, about starting over.
If you can, please share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite
Dusk bathed the living room in pools of violet shadows. Angela sat up and rubbed her swollen, red-rimmed eyes. Physically spent from the long drive, and emotionally drained from her homecoming, she’d collapsed onto the couch and cried herself to sleep the moment she entered the old home. Now the sun dipped below the horizon and the resulting dimness matched her mood.
Rising to her feet, she moved around the room. The scent of mothballs and mentholatum permeated the house. The floor creaked underneath as she struggled against the urge to weep again. Everywhere she turned, sights and smells kindled recollections of the past. The place seemed untouched since her departure. White lace curtains still dangled in the windows. The collection of commemorative plates hung on the walls. The same floral print furniture filled the sitting room, as if she’d been gone only a day or two, instead of sixteen years.
Part of her was glad nothing had changed. She would have felt like an intruder had the house undergone a major metamorphosis. Nevertheless, the realization her grandmother’s life had remained stagnant pained Angela.
She paused at the foot of the stairs. Pictures lined the paneling all the way up to the bedrooms. A gold frame holding a black and white of her grandparents on their wedding day, followed by images of Angela’s father as a toddler. Then her own parents’ wedding. The wall served as both a visual timeline and withering family tree.
Halfway up, Angela stopped to stare at the proof of her entry into the world. Her dad grinned down at her tiny pink face. Her mother’s face awash with maternal pride. Angela bit her lip. She, and possibly her mother, were the only people still alive.
Angela reached out and grabbed a loose photo tucked into the corner of a frame. It was a small picture taken on her first day of school. Angela stared at the image. She sat atop her father’s shoulders, a pair of pigtails the color of a newborn chick hung on both sides of her face.
That day was one of her earliest and fondest memories. Perched high in the air, she felt like a princess as her family marched the three blocks to the school house. At that time, she’d still had a mommy and a daddy who loved her. Riding on his shoulders was like riding on a carriage of love, stability, and dreams. Back then it seemed as if nothing could ever go wrong.
Even as she stood outside Stephen F. Austin elementary school, afraid to go in, things had worked out. She first met Misty on that sidewalk. They walked in together, beginning a decade long friendship which remained the truest and best of Angela’s life. Until she screwed it up.
The old adage “You can never go home again” finally made sense to Angela.
Even if she wanted to stay, the townspeople would never allow it. Shelly and Charlene’s words at the funeral proved as much. They’d barely tolerated her when she dwelled here as one of them, and she’d transformed into an outsider the instant she hiked over to the highway and stuck her thumb in the air.
Angela took the photo with her and moved upstairs to her old room.
She was ill-prepared for what she found. Her old clothes still hung in the closet. Her posters still lined the wall. The crumpled sheets on the bed appeared to be in the exact position she left them. Her heart thumped at the sight of the slip of paper on the dresser. She did not need to pick up the hastily scribbled words to recall the message.
I’m leaving and I won’t be back.
Buy Travis’ book today by clicking on the link below. Thank you Travis for putting a smile on my face today. I love this story already.