Wonder Boi Writes

Women’s Week 2017

Hey Friends!

We’re one week from Women’s Week!  I can’t wait.  I love Ptown.  I love the readers who gather there.  I love my friends and colleagues who make the events so much fun, and I love that this year I get to launch a new book! Did I mention that the book doesn’t even come out at large for a few weeks and people at Women’s Week are actually getting pre-release copies? Pretty cool, right?


I know I’m a bit biased, but I think that Edge of Glory is a fun read, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you. The fact that I get to start that process in one of my favorite places is a major bonus.

So, for those of you who are lucky enough to join me on this part of the ride, here’s all the places you can find me from October 11-14th.

Wednesday October 11
11:30 -12:30 – Signing books at Womencrafts
1:00 – 2:30 – Reading from Edge of Glory during the Author’s Favorites reading Provincetown Library

Thursday October 12
9:30 – 11:00 – Reading with the breakfast bunch at Napi’s restaurant
11:30 – 12:30  – Signing books and chatting with readers at Womencrafts
1:00 – 2:30 – Moderating the Building Tensions panel at the Provincetown Library

Friday October 13
10:00 – 11:00 – signing at Womencrafts
11:45 – 12:45 – Reading a little something sweet at the Provincetown Library
1:00 – 2:00 – book launch at The Harbor Lounge
5:00 – 6:00 – Playing in the annual readers and writers Wiffleball Game (104 Bradford Street) – All are welcome to play or cheer us on.

Saturday October 14
11:45 – 12:45 – Reading from Edge of Glory as part of the What’s Next panel at the Provincetown Library
1:00 – 2:00 – Signing books at Womencrafts

And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, here’s the full Bywater schedule of events:



October 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m on the Edge

Whew! I’m finishing up a busy couple of weeks, but don’t let the title of this blog frighten you. I’m not on the edge of a breakdown or the edge of a bridge or anything. I’m on the early edge of the publicity cycle for my upcoming release, Edge of Glory!

My new romance follows a professional downhill skier and a professional Snowboard X racer as they race toward the Winter Olympics.  We just finished the page proofs of the typeset and sent it off to the printers so that even though the book won’t be widely released until mid-November, we can have some early-release copies available at Women’s Week!  That’s right, those of you who make it in to see us at one of the many Bywater Books events at Womencrafts in Provincetown will be able to get your hands on an early-release copy!  After that, we’ll start a more gradual roll out of ebooks on the Bywater website hopefully by the end of October, followed by print shipments to all the big retailers no later than November 14.

So over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing little insights about the story, snippets of the characters’ backstories, and excerpts from the book itself.  I’ll also be waxing poetic about my love of the Winter Olympics as we all join Corey and Elise’s countdown to the  XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea this coming February.

In the meantime, let’s get this party started by showing you the amazing cover from the endlessly talented Ann McMan.


And give you your first look at the bones of the story in the form of the official blurb for Edge of Glory:

Corey LaCroix only ever wanted to snowboard, but Olympic medals and world championships only carry you so far when your knees ache and you’re suddenly an underdog for the first time in your career. Elise Brandeis doesn’t need a training partner, especially an unorthodox has-been snowboarder with an attitude. But Elise has already lost a full season to injury, and she’s struggling to make the Olympic ski team. Can teaming up with Corey give her the edge she needs to go for gold, or will the snowboarder’s infuriatingly cocky smile and rock hard abs prove a distraction she simply can’t afford?

Both champions brace themselves for the run of a lifetime. Putting their broken bodies on the line, they fight the competition, the clock, and the frozen terrain for one more chance at glory. But this time, as they ride the razor’s edge between victory and defeat, the stakes are steeper than any mountain they will ever face when legacies and hearts collide.

So, what do you say? Want to join me on this race toward the release of a romance that will hopefully make your winter months a little hotter?

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Audio Book Winners

Wow, I had so many responses to my last blog that I decided to draw not one, but two names out of the hat.  And without further ado, the winners are:

Linda Scibilia, who won a copy of The Long Way Home.

And MeBuchanan, who won a copy of Heart of the Game.

If the two winners would email me at Rachel_Spangler@yahoo.com, I’ll happily pass along your claim codes.

And for those of you who didn’t win but would still like to listen to one of my books in audio form, you can get a copy of Timeless, The Long Way Home, or Heart of the Game on Amazon or Audible!

August 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Free Audiobooks

Hey Folks,

I am in the final push to get Edge of Glory out to you during Women’s Week in Ptown and then wide release the week after.  This is simultaneously a stressful and exciting time as we rush around checking things like acknowledgements, typesetting and page proofs  off the to-do list. Everyone behinds the scenes is working frantically for the next two weeks, but you don’t really get to see any of that.

So in the same way that I give Jackson little treats to distract him while Mommy is working, I thought you all deserve at least the same consideration, and your treat is free audiobooks!

I am super proud that I now have three audiobooks out: Timeless, The Long Way Home, and Heart of The Game. So if you comment on this blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter telling me a) which of them you would most like to win and why or b) which of my other books you would most like to see in audiobook form, you will automatically be entered to win a free copy!

I’ll do the drawing early next week, so get your answers in ASAP!

August 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

GCLS 2017 Recap

I know I haven’t blogged in ages, and I have lots of excuses for that, but they are mostly boring, so let’s skip that part and say I’m sorry as we move on to what I’ve been up to!

As usual, the Spangler family has been in full travel mode this summer with trips to Kansas city (Susie’s work), Chicago (my work), Lake Puslinch, Canada (family), and Central Illinois (family).

I won’t bore you with all the work and family details, but I’ll show you this picture of my adorable nephew because I love to show him off,


and this one of my nephew kissing Jackson because I love how much they love each other.


Now I will put on my author hat and update you on my trip to the Golden Crown Literary Society’s annual conference, because that was both work and play at the same time.

There are so many reasons why I love attending the GCLS con each year, and this year was no exception. Between readings and workshops and book talks, I went non-stop for days.  Some of the highlights of my official responsibilities in Chicago were two fantastic panels I got to be a part of.

The first was a panel in which authors of faith talked about our experiences being gay in our faith communities,  our experiences of being people of faith in the gay community, and how that lens affects who we are as artists. The panel consisted of Nell Stark, Georgia Beers, Alison Solomon, Rachel Gold, and myself. Aurora Rey moderated.  I know I’m probably biased, but I thought the conversation was open, frank, and affirming, both on behalf of my fellow panelists and the audience members. The feedback we got from other conference attendees suggested this topic is one we should be exploring a lot more in our communities.


The other panel I got to take part in was on the editorial relationship, alongside Melissa Brayden, Georgia Beers, Susan X Meager, and the woman brave enough to edit all four of us, Lynda Sandoval.  Nikki Smalls was the moderator crazy enough to moderate.  This panel was tons of fun as we focused less on the nuts and bolts of editing craft, and more on the types of relationships that lead to productive teamwork between authors and editors.  Also, we laughed a lot, which might, in fact, be one of those relationship keys!


Then in addition to my author work at the conference, I also got to wear my social media director hat as I interacted with my wonderful Bywater colleagues. We have occasionally joked that trying to wrangle everyone’s events and social media accounts while juggling my own author appearances on- and offline is like herding cats, but thankfully someone snapped this great picture to show what that job actually looks like in action.


Seriously, if anyone ever asks me to come in for career day, I’m just going to send them this picture.  So much love and joy and smile-for-the-camera and gentle redirections that could turn into chiropractic adjustments if need be.

The last of my must-do’s for the conference every year is the annual awards ceremony.  I have been honored to present awards to my fellow authors for several years in a row.  This year I got to be part of the crew that presented a Goldie to my awesome friend and role mode KG MacGregor for her book Trial By Fury.

Then, shockingly enough, I ended up back on the stage after I won one of the contemporary romance awards for Perfect Pairing.  I would like to say that I made a dramatic and moving acceptance speech; however, as it had been so long since I’d won anything, I stopped writing acceptance speeches a couple of years ago.  And in my excitement, I think I managed to bumble through only a short bit of thanks that went something along the lines of Jesus, Bywater, Susie, Jackson and the GCLS readers. Not my finest moment, but I did get my picture taken with the famously awesome Susan X. Meager, who also won a Goldie in the Romance Category.


Side note: Susan and I are both from neighboring, tiny towns in Central Illinois, so two-thirds of the  romance winners that night were from the same 15-mile stretch of farmland where they grow corn, beans, and apparently, lesbian authors!

I also got to share my awards-night fun with my friend and Bywater colleague Ann McMan, who won the prestigious Director’s Award for all the amazing graphic design work she does in service of the organization.  Here we are with our Bywater management team, Marianne K. Martin, Salem West, and Kelly Smith.


From there on out it was fun and friends as we danced the night away! What follows is a few of my favorite photos from the rest of the conference.

Here’s a shot of me with my Bywater buddies. Isn’t that an awesome group of kick-ass women?


And of course there’s my besties, Melissa Brayden and Georgia Beers, because it wouldn’t be a party without them.


This one is with my friend Jane. She won the first dance with me via the author auction, though by next year I suspect I’ll have to pay to dance with her, because I hear she’s got a book of her own in the works.


And here’s me having selfie time with the epic Nikki Smalls, who is not just a fun friend to dance with, she’s also a member of the all-volunteer board of directors who helps make GCLS the smashing success that we know and love.


And while we’re on selfies, here another, this time with one of my all time favorite funny women, Fay Jacobs, who writes not only hilarious memoirs, but also a fantastic one-woman show called Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay.


One more selfie with the Dirt Road Books crew.  If you don’t know them, you need to be sure to check them out at https://www.dirtroadbooks.com.


Finally, one of my favorite photographs ever (thanks Brenda Barton!) is of me, Nikki, Georgia Beers, and Jackson all saying goodbye.


Someone also took a picture of Georgia and I crying while Jackson hugged us both, but this one has smiles, so let’s leave it here until we’re all together again for GCLS 2018…in Vegas, baby!



August 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Da Capo al Fine – Guest blog by Ann McMan

Hey Friends,

Today my good friend Ann McMan has done me the honor of writing a guest blog about her new release, Goldenrod and her journey back to Jericho! What follows are her unedited words, so read on, but when you’re done, be sure to click one of the many links to take you to your own copy of Goldenrod.

Da Capo al Fine – Guest blog by Ann McMan

Many years ago, the great Joni Mitchell commented on one of the frustrations that dogged her throughout her career as a songwriter. She talked about how fans would clamor for her to keep telling the same stories or writing the same kinds of songs—and she marveled at how this repetitive feedback was absent from her work as an artist. “A painter does a painting and he does a painting,” she said. “Somebody buys it and hangs it on some wall someplace. Or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft until he dies . . . but nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man.’ He painted it. That was it.”

Six years ago, under cover of darkness, I stuck my toe into the world of writing and hammered out an ambitious and meandering work of fiction called Jericho. Never in my wildest dreams—and believe me, some of them were genuinely wild—could I have imagined the success of that first foray into lesbian literature. Jericho took flight and found a home in the hearts of many devoted readers. I was and am happy about this, of course—but that quirky success arrived all wrapped-up with a shiny new set of hopes and expectations—often expressed energetically—that the story of Maddie and Syd would go on. And on. Forever and ever. Amen.

It reminded me of that iconic Xerox copier commercial where a solitary monk painstakingly illuminates a manuscript. When it’s finished, he bundles it up and scurries along the cloister to deliver the prized original to the Abbot—who examines the beautifully crafted text before handing it back to the monk, saying, “I’d like 10,000 copies, please.”

Cue pique, umbrage and ennui—what Ursula Le Guin called the “French diseases of the soul.”

Did readers really want me to write another Jericho?

Yeppers. There might have been energetic disagreement about climate change—but the answer to this question was a big ole 10-4.

So, I wrote a sequel. Aftermath. And I attempted due diligence by crafting a story that took the characters deeper and wider (I paid attention during Sunday school) than the original narrative. I pushed them for greater depth—and I pushed myself to be a better steward of their stories. I paid attention to things like structure and pacing, and I routinely snapped my fingers or clapped my hands to keep us all focused on the roadmap of our journey together. At the end, we all arrived at our destination mostly unscathed. Or so I thought.

Enter the voices. Again.

“What happens to Henry?”

I got this question a lot.

It even cropped-up one night as I was en route to the restroom at one of our favorite restaurants in town, Sweet Potatoes (which provided the inspiration for Nadine Odell and the Midway Café). Imagine my surprise. I lead a pretty incognito existence here in The Tar Heel State.

If you’ve ever gone camping you know the hazards that exist if you start mucking around in the embers of a dying fire. Will it refuse to cooperate unless you douse it with a quart of Gulf-Lite? Or will it flare up and singe your eyebrows? Will it flash and take off, leaving broad swaths of scorched earth in its wake? Or, as my dour mother always warned, will messing with it just make you wet the bed?

These things matter.

Dire warnings aside, I took a deep breath and decided to take the plunge. I found a big stick and started mucking around in the embers of a place called Jericho. Enter Goldenrod, book three in the Jericho series. Was it terrifying? You bet it was. Would the characters be willing to sit up and start talking? Who knew? And if they did, would what they had to say be worth hearing?

You’ll have to be the judge of that.

Suffice it to say that after a bit of prodding, talk they did. And oh boy, did that little pastiche of pastoral protagonists have some grand stories to tell. It quickly became apparent that Maddie and Syd had been hoarding ideas. And we got to hear from some new voices, too—notably, Buddy and Dorothy—who, along with little Henry, now occupy the narrative epicenter of this writer’s heart. Is it wrong or arrogant for me to say I love them—and that I’m grateful they trusted me with their stories?

I hope not.

If you do me the honor of reading Goldenrod, I hope you’ll let me know . . .

Oh. And in case my mother asks—I haven’t wet the bed yet.


June 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Podcast Fun

Hey Folks,

I’m just here to spread a little bit of Friday fun for you.  Last week I got to chat with Tara Scott about one of my favorite things…books! Les Do Books gives authors a chance to just be readers for a little bit and I had a blast with.  The podcast is pretty safe for work and it’s even short enough to fit most lunch breaks, so go ahead and give it a listen to hear about three books I love!



May 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Big news!

Hey Folks,

I’m super excited about this announcement, so I’m not even going to make you wait for it.

My first audiobook just came out!  *Squee*

You can now get The Long Way Home in audio form from Amazon/Audible or iTunes.

The Long Way Home

You can even hear an audio excerpt of it right here.

This is a big deal for me for a couple reasons.

1) I just really like audio books. My family and I travel a lot, and one of the ways we like to stay awake/engaged with each other on the long car trips is by listening to audio books. We’ve heard some gripping tales as of late, and I love the thought of someone getting to meet Beth and Rory while on a journey of their own.

2) My son is super impressed about this. He’s told all his friends, and he even told my doctor yesterday. As I mentioned, our family listens to a lot of audio books, and he loves them. I think he’s excited to think I’m on par with some of his favorite authors (shhh don’t tell him Rick Riordan sells a lot more audiobooks than I do), and I’m excited to think something I do still excites him. He’s quickly reaching the stage where his friends are way cooler than his moms, so I’m going to take all the wins I can get right now.

3) And this is by far the biggest one for me, at GCLS last year I challenged our community to do more for underserved populations, and one of the groups I highlighted was readers with impaired vision. Women who were born blind or are dealing with failing vision due to heath or age have too often been denied easy access to our work. Thankfully we have moved into an era when audio technology is more readily available than ever before. Our community needs to make it a priority to use it. Lesbian books have always been a lifeline for me, and I want to share that with as many people as possible. I’m grateful to Bold Strokes Books for giving me the opportunity to reach those women who haven’t previously been welcomed fully into our lesfic community.

And the best news is, The Long Way Home is just the beginning!  I recently signed a contract with BSB to have EVERY one of my releases with them made into audiobooks.  Next up is Timeless, so stay tuned to this blog for more information on the next audio installment of the Darlington romances!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll support this project by going and getting your own audio copy of The Long Way Home today.


April 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Love Is Growing Up – Paula Martinac Guest Blog

Hi friends,

I have a treat for you today. As most of you who follow this blog know, I write romance.  I am fascinated by the transformative power love has to shape our lives and how we view the world around us. I also happen to be in love. I was blessed to meet the love of my life at a young age and we’ve been a couple for 15 years. So it follows naturally that I field a lot of requests to write a long-term couple in my books. Now I’m not opposed to the idea in theory, but it’s yet to happen for me, but you know who has managed to write a beautiful book featuring a long term couple?  My friend and Bywater Books colleague, Paula Martinac!  Her new release, The Ada Decades, is an fantastic look at the type of couple our community has been aching for. I’m so impressed with Paula’s ability to weave such a powerful and timely love story I asked her to stop by the blog today and tell you a little bit about it.

So without further ado, here’s Paula.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Rachel Spangler for welcoming me here to Wonder Boi Writes! I’m a fan of her Lammy-nominated romance, Perfect Pairing. (In fact, I get hungry just thinking about it…) Rachel invited me to introduce you to my new novel, The Ada Decades, which follows a lesbian couple over the course of almost 50 years.

I’m a history nerd, and LGBT history is my particular passion. Call me weird (or maybe voyeuristic), but I like to imagine how women in the past found each other and created lives together. I met my wife at the L.U.S.T. Conference (as in, Lesbians Undoing Sexual Taboos), so there was no ambiguity for us! But how did lesbians of the past meet and indicate their interest in each other, without the benefit of a lesbian community?

That was one of the jumping-off points for my first novel, Out of Time, and it played a big role again in The Ada Decades, which I describe as a love story. At the start, there’s the romantic meeting of Ada and Cam, two women in their early 20s who work as a librarian and teacher in a North Carolina public school in 1957. They click, even though Ada – who has never been sexually involved with anyone, man or woman – doesn’t know what to make of their connection. They begin “dating” without being able to call it that, then cautiously express their love and eventually decide to embark on a life together.

And then comes the “long-term” part. As an epigraph for the novel, I chose a James Baldwin quote: “Love is a growing up.” Along with all the good times, Ada and Cam hit rocky patches that test their relationship, obstacles that many long-term couples, both gay and straight, encounter: problems with parents, trouble at work, jealousy over old loves, differences of belief, money matters, and the reality of “in sickness and in health.”

The writing of this novel was very immediate to me, even though Ada and Cam belong to the pre-Stonewall generation. I’m in a 25-year relationship, so my wife and I have encountered our own share of struggles over time. Writing about growing up and into a relationship came naturally.

Still, there was the difficulty of trying to understand challenges I haven’t personally faced, like working in the same place as your partner but having to hide your relationship because if people knew, you’d be fired. I thought a lot about how being in the closet didn’t have to define a relationship – how lesbians who couldn’t live openly could still create their own “families” and cultures of choice.

When Ada reaches eighty, she finds it perplexing that a younger generation of lesbians considers her a role model and hero. I write in the novel, “She had never thought about her life, or Cam’s, in that way…. They had just gotten by as best they could and been thankful for the years they had together.” For me, their love story is that they stick it out and make it work – and all before our community obtained the legal right to marry.


March 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Story Behind The Story: Kelly

First of all, let’s kick things off with a book giveaway. Last week, in honor of my father-in-law, I asked you all to leave a comment mentioning a person who left a legacy of love and joy in your own life, and I got some great responses.  So I randomized them and picked a winner.  Melinda won a free, signed copy of Close To Home or an ebook of any of my other novels.  Melinda, please shoot me a quick email (Rachel_Spangler@yahoo.com) with your details.

Now, on with the show. When I did my survey a few weeks ago, 80% of you said the types of blogs you most want to read here are ones that feature “the stories behind the stories,” so that’s what I plan to do here, and I want to start with Kelly.

Kelly has probably had the biggest evolution of any character I’ve ever written (though Nic from Does She Love You? would win a lot of votes in that category, too).  Kelly has quite an arc from the first time I ever met her in the opening chapters of The Long Way Home.  This is hard to do without spoilers, but as I started writing her, I couldn’t stand her.  I’m not sure why I didn’t like her. Maybe I felt like I needed a villain in this story.  Or maybe I was mad at people like her, people who conformed and hid and fed into the small-town status quo when people like me (Or should it be “people like Raine”?) were out there fighting an uphill battle everyday.  Then in one of those chicken-or-egg type of artist tussles, I made her look like, and to a certain extent sound like, someone I hadn’t gotten along with in high school.  I’m still not sure if I wrote a villain and made her similar to  my high school foe, or if I wrote someone like my high school foe and turned her into a villian.

The Long Way HomeThrough much of the first draft of The Long Way HomeKelly was irredeemable. I poured on her all of my residual frustration at everyone who ever followed the rules at the expense of another human being.  I made her sharp and unreasonable, and most of all, one dimensional.  Then came a scene in which she’s lost.  She sees something she always knew would happen come to fruition, and she’s hurt and angry, but she still does what’s right, at least in her own mind.  I never intended it, but she, in her own way, became the one person who could hold up the mirror to our protagonist.  It was just one scene, one little shift, and honestly she didn’t change much in that moment so much as the moment revealed part of her I hadn’t understood before.  She was no longer the person who just said mean things. She was a person who asked hard questions.

Then the unthinkable happened. My beta readers felt sorry for her, because my beta readers are good people who saw a humanity in her I wasn’t willing to admit to yet. Then my editor cut two scenes Kelly had been a big part of and asked me to incorporate the aspects of her that had been cut into other scenes.  I had to go back and take a look at Kelly as I’d initially written her, but with new understanding of her as important, as sympathetic, as human.  I realized that in a story where Raine/Rory has to overcome her childish understanding of her hometown and the people in it, I as a writer had failed to do the same. Kelly’s actions remained the same. Outwardly she was the same person I’d butted heads with in high school, but inwardly, and occasionally when she was alone with Beth, a tenderness had been revealed just enough to leave me wondering about who she really was, and many of my readers felt the same way.  Even my boss at the time, Radclyffe, wrote and said something along the lines that she liked that I’d been fair and sympathetic in my portrayals of life in the closet.  I wasn’t at all sure that’s what I’d wanted to do, but it was done, and I was left feeling a little unsettled.

Then, a few months after The Long Way Home came out, I met and became friends with 532890_10150893626976024_1644140352_n-2
Kelly Smith of Bywater Books.  Kelly Smith, or “Real Life Kelly,” as my wife started calling her, had recently published a book by my good friend Georgia Beers (Oy, this blog is getting very name-dropperish), and so we found ourselves in the same circles at literary events and we got along really well.  Well enough, in fact, for Real Life Kelly to give me some honest feedback on The Long Way Home. As we walked through Provincetown one fall afternoon, she told me she’d liked the book overall, but she hated that I’d named the bitchy character “Kelly.”  I laughed and said that was before I’d known her. She said she hoped that now that we were friends I would remedy the situation.

I laughed again, but Real Life Kelly turned serious and said, “I mean it. That character has the potential to have a great redemption story. She could be a complex character to unravel. There are real people out there just like her. They are human. They became how they are for a reason.” I said I’d thought a little bit about that but doubted anyone would really be able to root for someone like Fictional Kelly, especially after the things she’d said and done to Beth (who seemed to be universally loved by my readers). Real Life Kelly got a giddy glint in her eye and said, “Oh yeah, you’re going to have make her pay for that, really put her through the wringer, break her down in a big way, but it’ll be fun, and it’ll be interesting.”I admitted that putting a character that reminded me of people who had been tools in high school through the emotional wringer did sound enjoyable, but I had other books to write first. And I did.

Timeless 300 DPII wrote several more books before even considering a return to Darlington.  And even when I did, Fictional Kelly didn’t factor in prominently. She does make an appearance in Timeless, though it’s a blink-and-you’d-miss-it kind of moment.  However, due to the fluid timeline of the book, I actually got to picture her at the age of 20 for just a hot second.  I got to imagine a flash of the beginning of something I’d gleefully ended in The Long Way Home. To see her then, little more than a girl, and still so dedicated to doing things the right way. The moment itself might have been fleeting, but it was enough to open up another little piece of my heart and mind to this woman I didn’t want to like.

And yet I moved on to other books, but between each of them as I’d consider possibilities for my next project, my wife would say, “How about Kelly’s book?”  The term “Kelly’s book” became common in our house for its double meaning, the book Real Life Kelly suggested, the book that lets the world finally see the whole picture of Fictional Kelly.  But each time I had the chance to write it, something stopped me.  Looking back now, I suspect I wasn’t ready to let go of my anger at her and what she represented for me. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right place as a writer to tackle a project as complex as Fictional Kelly would be.

It wasn’t until I had been working for Bywater for a while that Real Life Kelly asked again about Fictional Kelly.  I’m not sure what it was about the timing or the setting, or maybe I’d just grown weary of fighting the urge, but I agreed to at least sit down with her (Fictional Kelly, that is) and really listen.  I’d like to say she just poured out her soul to me.  She didn’t. She wrestled me, and she wrestled Elliot for months just like she always had.  Tiny flashes of something human only occasionally peeked out from under piles and piles of frustrating anger, professional excuses, and emotional brick walls. I’m not sure Fictional Kelly had changed a whole lot, but maybe I had. As a writer, as a person, I was more willing to ask the harder questions and more willing to listen to the answers.

close-to-home_2-600x913That isn’t to say the process of writing Close To Home was a pretty one. I almost abandoned the story halfway through because I was still wrestling with Fictional Kelly, and despite putting her in a heart-wrenching situation, I still hadn’t fallen in love with her the way I’d fallen in love with Elliot. I told my new Bywater colleague Marianne K. Martin over lunch, once again in Provincetown (Important things happen in Ptown.), and MKM shared some of her wisdom about writing complex characters by suggesting I find one good thing in Fictional Kelly, one positive that rings true for her in all situations, even when she is behaving badly by all outward standards.  As much as I hated to admit it, I knew right away what the things was.

Kelly does the right thing, always.  Not always the nice thing, or the thoughtful thing, or the reasonable thing, but the thing she believes is right in the long run, or the big picture. She might have bad reasons or faulty logic, but she always does what she thinks is expected of her, what she would expect out of others, according to her high and often skewed personal standards.

I went home and reread what I’d written, and Marianne was right. When I focused on that driving thread, I didn’t always love Kelly, but I understood her.  From there I learned to recognize the strength and conviction it had taken to make the decision she’d made, even at the same time I disagreed with them. And once I could do that, it was much easier to respect her motives while still hating the outcomes. It also made it easier to throw her in to Elliot’s path because much like I’d learned to recognize something fundamentally good in her, I also understood that someone who is focused on doing what’s right would have no choice but to see the same fundamental goodness in Elliot.

From there on out, much of my wrestling with Kelly mirrored Kelly’s own wrestling with Elliot, so much so that by the time I finished, I actually ended up liking her quite a bit, both as a character and as a metaphor for my own journey as a person and as a writer.

She’s still complex, she still grates on my nerves, she still challenges me, but somewhere over the last three books, she stopped being a product of my high school angst and became a real person, at least in the fictional sense.

At some point over the last eight years, she grew up.

Or maybe I did.

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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