Why write about it? Why put characters through such horrific situations? Why choose to focus on such heavy and heartbreaking material in a series considered a romance?
These are all questions I have asked myself a lot over the last few months.
I’d like to explain myself a little and maybe give my readers (you) a little glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of Shattered.
I have always tried to write this series with an element of realism along with fiction. I know my characters are a little too perfect at times and a little too beautiful. I know they have overcome issues that in real life would never be medically possible. I know I write marriages that seem too good to be true and for that, I won’t apologize.
I write to escape real life. I write to escape the reality that life isn’t so pretty all the time. I write to be able to see the world in a way that gives me hope. Much of that comes from real life and real stories.
So did Shattered.
Now before I decided to take the characters down this road, I had a lot of hesitations. I teach high school. What would happen if a student read my book and had questions? I teach 16 year old girls and boys and I am writing about a 16 year old who is raped, at a high school dance.
Was this something I should even attempt? Why write something so heartbreaking. Why bring this arc into the series? It’s not like the characters have been void of drama.
So I sat down and wrote out the pro’s and con’s. I looked at each character and mapped out the immediate consequences for them.
That’s something I never do. I write without an outline. I’m what they call a ‘pantser’. I write by the seat of my pants.
But this was different. If I was going to do this, I needed to be sure there was a reason. There needed to be movement in the story and growth for the characters.
So I went through each adult and each child and I thought about how this would affect them. I thought about the characters could be brought together and how they may be torn apart. I thought about the questions this would bring up and who would be best to answer them.
Then I sat down with Desi and explained it to her.
I hear how that sounds. I’m not crazy, but these characters are very real to me and I needed to hear more of who she was. I needed to know that she could handle the burden of carrying this story. I needed her to be my voice.
I had been watching the news a lot when I first fleshed out this story and I was particularly moved by a woman who was raped by a college student while she was unconscious. The woman made such a powerful victim statement that I was thrust back into a sense of anger and despair that this kind of injustice will keep happening until we all stand up and protest. Protest for longer and harsher sentences. Stand up to eliminate the ‘victim is wrong’ mentality.
So I made a decision. I decided to go there.
And I was terrified. I still am, because only a select few have read the chapters.
Not all responses have been positive. This is not easy material and for some people, it’s not what they choose to read.
But I hope, in reading this story, I might begin to make my message clearer. I have always felt that publishing something, putting my words out there in the universe, had to serve a purpose.
Sometimes it’s just to entertain.
Sometimes it’s to see the world through different eyes.
In this case it’s to make a statement.
You are not alone.
In your worst moments, the best of humankind can be uncovered.
Shattered begins with a horrible moment in time for Desi.
It continues with the discovery and the resulting domino effect for every member of the family by choice.
It also gives me a chance to really show the growth of the characters and the development of the children.
Desi is an amazing young woman. She is dealing with more than anyone should have to handle. She has cancer. Her mother is serving overseas. She lost her best friend when Katie’s parents took her away.
Ian is numb. He is her father. He is supposed to protect his little girl. He can’t wrap his mind around what has happened. He is truly destroyed and his need for his wife is compounded by the fear of what she will be coming home to. He is at a crossroads and there is a surprising person who finally gets him to see things from another perspective.
Jack and Stephanie will have their hands full with Sabrina and the idea that this could have easily been her. She will deal with the realization that her relationship with David has been forever altered.
David is one of the most seriously effected. He has fallen hard for Desi and his sense of guilt for what happened will be paralyzing.
Bill and Brittany need to come clean with all of the children about what happened in the past. There will undoubtedly be a trial and David will be questioned about his involvement with the boys. Bill and Julie are aware that Chris will most likely be brought up.
They need to tell the kids before a reporter does.
Bill can’t bring himself to explain to his children just who his father was.
Brittany is the one to care for Desi, but it hits very close to home. Ian reminds her a lot of her own father and she wonders if Nate’s reactions would have mirrored Ian’s. She tried her best to keep the past in the past, but sometimes you simply don’t have control over your demons.
From Mike and Jade to Evan and Liz to each and every member of the family by choice, their lives will forever change because of this moment.
When Cassie comes home, an entirely new dynamic opens and we learn of her story and how she came to be a soldier.
I am proud of Shattered. I am proud I challenged myself to do something I wasn’t comfortable with. I am hoping you will go along on this journey with me and appreciate the message.
There is still humor and romance and passion. As with every single book in this series, there is a balance. There is hope, and there is love.
Here is a part of the first chapter of Shattered.
“I don’t understand where she was,” David said to his dad as they drove to the school. Nobody was home at Desi’s house when they got there and she wasn’t answering her phone.
“I called your mom and she said she hadn’t seen her, but she would look.”
“We weren’t that late. What if she thinks I punked her? She was really worried about going with me. She has a really low opinion of herself and I don’t want her to think I would do something like that,” David rambled and Bill smiled at his son.
“Don’t make a whole story up in your head. It’s entirely possible her dad dropped her off and the lines got crossed. Let’s just go to the dance and see if she’s there.”
David looked out the window and couldn’t get Bee’s words out of his head.
“He went after me to hurt you and he might do something else.”
Nobody knew he was seeing Desi, so she should be safe.
That’s what he kept telling himself.
They pulled into the parking lot and made their way inside.
Julie looked everywhere and asked around, but nobody had seen Desi.
It’s possible she just wasn’t there.
Julie smiled as a bunch of girls came out of the bathroom and she walked in to make sure there weren’t any problems. She was assigned to stay by the bathrooms for now.
She was dying to know what Bee and David talked about, but judging from Bee’s demeanor on the car ride here, she didn’t think it went well for her.
She knew her son was smitten with Desi.
Julie really liked Desi. She was spunky and sweet and funny and she carried a lot of heavy burdens.
Julie recognized herself in Desi and she hoped that a friendship with David might help her to smile a little more.
“I asked around, but nobody has seen her,” Sabrina came up and sighed. “I am going to look a little more and see if I can find any of her friends.”
“Okay, thanks. I know it’s weird, but David is worried.”
Bee smiled. “It’s what I should be doing. He deserves to be happy and I owe him more than simply looking for his date.”
Julie squeezed Bee’s arm.
“You don’t owe him anything other than being his friend.”
Bee sniffed and nodded before she walked through the mess of teens.
Julie smiled at the appreciative stares Bee garnered. She was like her father, commanding attention wherever she went. Sabrina was also kind and compassionate, like Jack and Stephanie.
Bill walked up to her and she smiled at him while she filled him in.
“David is looking for her, too. I wish I had her dad’s number. It’s possible he took her out for dinner to soothe what she thinks is a broken heart.”
“You’re right, I didn’t think of that.”
They stood at their post by the bathroom and looked around.
“I’ll be back before you know it,” Desi’s mom told her the night before she left.
“I don’t want you to go. I know I should be strong and brave but I need you, mom. I don’t want anything to happen to you,” she said and wiped her eyes.
Cassie held her daughter’s face in her hands and nodded.
“I know, baby, but I will do everything in my power to come home to you and daddy. You are my best blessing and I adore you. We will be able to talk and skype and I will be home before you know it.”
“I love you,” Cassie said.
“I love you, too, mom,” Desi said and hugged her tightly.
Why was she remembering that right now? Why was her mom running through her mind?
Desi wondered where her mother was at this moment. Was she safe? Was she hurt? Would she be home soon? Would she know what happened?
She lay there in the dirt and looked up at the sky.
Maybe she was looking at the same stars tonight?
Maybe she would know that it was time to come home.
She really needed her mom.
She needed help.
The dance was ending and most of the kids were leaving when David sat with Sabrina and ran his hand through his hair.
“I’m sorry I messed things up. You were late because of me and I promise I’ll tell Desi that when I see her.”
David smiled at her.
“It’s not your fault. I appreciate you telling me everything. I’m just worried about her.”
Bee nodded, the pang in her heart growing.
David was really into Desi.
They both heard a loud commotion and saw Derek and Drew and Jacob coming in from the back of the gym. David stood up and Bill and Julie walked over with some other chaperones.
The smell of alcohol was overpowering.
“What were you doing out there? Those doors should have been locked,” Principal Lock said. “Are you all drunk?”
The boys seemed to sober up quickly when they were in the presence of the adults and none of them said anything.
“Sit down while I call your parents,” he said and David and Sabrina looked at Bill and Julie.
“Have any of you boys seen Desi?” Julie asked them.
Drew stood up and proceeded to vomit on the floor.
“Dude, that’s nasty,” Derek said as he stood up, his clothes disheveled and his fly down.
“Why are your pants undone?” Bill asked him.
Derek zipped his fly and said nothing. T
hey looked up when Ian walked into the room.
“Julie? Hi, I was waiting outside for Desi, but she never came to the car. Is everything okay?”
“Ian? Did you drop Desi off earlier?” she asked.
He looked at her and then at David.
“Yeah. She got a text from David to meet her here instead of him picking her up. I dropped her off at 7 and then went to check on some patients. She never texted me to come get her earlier, so I figured she was having fun. Is everything okay?”
“I never sent her a text,” David muttered to himself.
“Sure you did,” Derek snickered and then cleared his throat.
David looked at him and ran out back, through the doors the boys had come in from.
“David, wait,” Bill called after him and followed.
“What’s going on? Where is my daughter?” Ian yelled as he followed after Bill and David.
Sabrina was frozen in her seat, a million terrible thoughts running through her mind.
Julie went to her and they waited while the other chaperones dealt with the three boys.
Shattered will be released on September 23. I will be posted more previews in the next few weeks, as well as more of my thoughts on this story line. I would love some feedback and if you have questions on what will happen or about anything I wrote above, please let me know. Click the image below to preorder.
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