Lesson learned, as they say in the military? You can (and should!) come back every day, especially since each time you comment, you're automatically entered into the humongo-jackpot-sweetness grand prize: a copy of every single YA book being given away this month. So come on back, now, y'hear?
Today's Blogtoberguest is Jennifer Echols, whose July 2009 release, Going Too Far, I just finished reading. It was phenomenal, one of the most emotionally honest books I've read in a long time. It made me think a lot about my own teenage years and why I did the things I did. (I don't have as good an excuse for my misbehavior as Jenn's protagonist, because real life just isn't as well justified as fiction. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. *whistles innocently*).
And I just read today that MTV Books and our brilliant mutual editor Jennifer Heddle has bought two more Echols romantic dramas, including July 2010's Forget You. Congrats, Jenn! (Both Jen(n)s, actually.)
Today Jennifer (Echols) is giving away a signed copy of her latest romantic comedy from Simon Pulse, The Ex-Games. But first, she wants to tell you about her not-so-little nekkid friend.
In 2000 I stopped writing. The rejections for manuscript #7 felt particularly harsh because I was pregnant and hormonal, and I just couldn’t do it for a while.
In 2001 my husband and I bought an older house in Birmingham, put our sweat and love into restoring every inch of it, and had the baby. We loved our neighborhood and our city, and we were thrilled to start our little family here. And then my husband got laid off.
In 2002 we moved to Atlanta, where he found another job. I was born in Atlanta and I’d spent some time there since. Certain parts of the city are great. Unfortunately, we were not living in the cool part. We were living in the burgeoning suburban hell part, where the houses are made of plastic and your neighbors move out every six months. My husband managed the night shift at a factory and slept during the day. So it was mostly me and the toddler and his temper tantrums, trying to be quiet so as not to wake the husband, alone, with no family or friends for support, in vinyl siding wasteland.
In 2003 I began writing again. The hormones had subsided and the self-doubt along with them. I wrote manuscript #8 and sent that out.
In 2004, I started manuscript #9. The Dixie Chicks’ CDs were being burned because they’d expressed a dissenting opinion against President Bush, and Tim McGraw had just gotten arrested for stealing a horse. Those events inspired Your Cheatin’ Heart, an adult romantic comedy about a wildly popular country band, The Cheatin’ Hearts, and the record company marketing expert sent down from New York to tame their public relations disaster of a lead singer--who turns out to be a lot smarter and savvier than he lets on. Briefly I thought about setting this book in a place I love, Key West. But I knew I’d hit on the right idea when I set it back in Birmingham.
At the climax of the book, the Cheatin’ Hearts play a Nationally Televised Holiday Concert Event on the Fourth of July at the base of the statue of Vulcan, an enormous iron statue that presides over downtown. Birmingham originated as a steel town, and Vulcan is the Roman god of the forge. That’s all fitting and proper...except that this version of Vulcan is wearing a smithy apron that does not wrap all the way around him. From downtown you see him in his smithy apron. From the back you see his naked booty mooning one of the most conservative states in the nation. Is it just me or is this hilarious? Somebody should write a romantic comedy about that! So I did. The whole book is a love letter to the quirky town I was homesick for.
In 2005, we moved back to Birmingham--thank goodness! Your Cheatin’ Heart never sold, but it did get me an agent, and that agent sold my first published novel, Major Crush, later that year. My road to publication was long and hard, and I never, ever take my success for granted. But it’s hard to let go of what might have been, and of all my unsold manuscripts, Your Cheatin’ Heart is the one I lament. I still think it’s my best work.
It’s on my mind today because I just took my son (now 8 years old and lovely with no temper tantrums in sight) to a concert at the base of the statue of Vulcan. I’m a huge Nickel Creek fan, and the chick from that band, Sara Watkins, has a new solo album out. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and the beautiful fall afternoon, but it did begin to feel bittersweet when the band members exchanged comments all but ripped from my poor dead novel:
Bass player: You probably get asked this a lot by people who aren’t from Birmingham, but is that god wearing pants?
Sara Watkins: If you were a god, would you wear pants?
To enter to win a signed copy of The Ex-Games, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!
For complete rules, read the introductory post.
Deadline for entry: Wednesday, November 4, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is van_pham!
Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma
Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River
Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry
Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad
Stephanie Kuehnert and Ballads of Suburbia
Carrie Jones and an ARC of Captivate
Thanks again to Jenn for sharing her personal story of coming home. I hope one day we all get to read Your Cheatin' Heart!