A young adult novel? A contest? WooHoo!

With “Strength” coming out in a few days, I wanted to bring some interesting “behind the scenes” issues to light.

Each day I will posting a new bit of insight into each part of the series.

Although the story focuses at first on Julie, it is also full of so much more- Tommy and Brittany and Jack and Stephanie along with all of the kids and their ongoing drama.

This brings me to today’s post.

I have never really wanted to write a young adult novel. I don’t think it’s my forte and I struggle a lot with making the kids sound unique, and not simply smaller versions of their parents. I’m still working on that.

But the more I had the story move forward, the more the kids became their own individuals.

Surprisingly, maybe or maybe not, the hardest one for me to write is David.

I was going back over my past posts and I have written a couple with David as a focus- I even did an interview with him that was pretty accurate for where he was at the time.

But the past few books, he has dealt with such traumatic stuff, that I find myself questioning who I want him to be.

I spend a lot of time sitting in my classroom full of 15  to 17 year olds and listening. I try to see David and Desi and Bee and Natalie. I look for Josie and Tess and I wonder if how I write them is accurate enough.

I even let my AP writing class look at the dialogue from when Desi and David first met, and I asked them for their feedback.

(I told them after it was from my book).

I guess I worry about bringing the best version of each character to the forefront- flaws and all. I want the kids to resemble their parents, but be their own individuals.

That’s why it has been such a journey for me and for David.

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I thought for a long time about what I was about to have happen to Desi. I worried it was too much. I worried it was unnecessary. I worried I was introducing this brand new character to everyone and then throwing every horrific situation I could find at her.

But then I remembered my answer when people ask my why I gave my heroine HIV.

We can’t always wish away our issues. Sometimes, love isn’t a cure, but rather a sense of hope.

Maybe living through horrible moments helps us to grow as individuals.

Even if there was a cure for HIV, Brittany’s trauma wouldn’t disappear. It will always be a part of her past and it has shaped every part of her future.

So I went ahead with Desi’s attack.

I also knew, moving forward, that Derek, Drew and Jacob would be more trouble and that would have far reaching consequences for many of the characters, including Evan and Liz, and as we now know- Julie.

I also struggled with having David find Desi in the dirt.

At this point in their relationship, if you could even call it that, things were just beginning.

David was still hurting from Bee and Desi had just learned her cancer was back.

Neither one of them had begun to truly let their guards down and then something seemingly insurmountable happened.

It was also very calculated on my part to have Ian be a single father trying to go through this without his wife.

Add that to the cruelty list.

I always knew Tommy was Desi’s doctor, and I wanted that connection for Tommy to be there to help Ian, too. Not from a doctor’s perspective, but from someone who loves a survivor.

It also enabled my to bring up Chris’ involvement in Brittany’s attack and for Bill to finally let his children in on something he was petrified to tell them.

Back to David.

Having never covered a rape during the story, I wanted to be sure I was accurate and sensitive to what Desi was going through and I wanted to be equally accurate in the anger and fear the rest of the kids were feeling.

I also worried about having it happen at the school. As a teacher, we work tirelessly to make dances a safe and happy place.

But this was relevant for the story moving forward, so I went ahead with it.

I knew Desi would not ever return to school there.

But the rest of the kids would.

Bringing Cassie home was my next point and I wanted to how the torment In felt at what he perceived to be his failure. His wife left and things were great at home. She came back to a horror story and he was at a loss.

I also needed to introduce Cassie as someone to root for. I wanted everyone to love her and welcome her back and I needed to show her fear as a mother and her love for her family in the midst of her own injury and handling of being in battle for so long.

It’s a balance I’m still working on.

My biggest hurdle here was Desi.

I had just introduced her and then I piled on the trauma. I was fighting against the idea that the only girl for David was Sabrina and I needed people to root for Desi and David.

I wanted her to be strong and passionate and I needed her to bring out a side of David we hadn’t seen yet.

I also needed David to become his own man- apart from his dad and apart from Bee.

The love story blossoming between David and Desi is different for me. They are dealing with incredibly adult issues but they are also handling their first real feelings of love.

David is a protector. He learned that from his dad and being surrounded with so many girls his whole life has made it seem like his duty.

He is also struggling with the power he has as a man and the danger he has seen other’s around him do.

His turning point comes when Jacob goes after his mom.

None of them saw that coming, and the repercussions will be long lasting for all of them.

I can’t wait for you to read Strength!

Please click below to preorder your copy before Thursday.

Also, tomorrow I will be posting an interview with Desi. Do you have any specific questions you would like to me to ask her?

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One final word- please click below to join my newsletter.

Each entry will receive a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card.

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