YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR - ANNE ELIOT
I am a huge fan of Anne Eliot. Like, really HUGE. She is one of the sweetest & nicest persons I’ve ever met and her Young Adult novel, Almost, is one of my all-time favorite YA stories. Plus the Hero of Almost, Gray Porter, is my #1 Ultimate Book Boyfriend. Do you know how MASSIVE that declaration is? Out of the countless books I read, which have many swoon-worthy Heroes, Gray is #1. Number. One. Oh yea. He’s that awesome. Anne has mad skills when creating a swoon-worthy Hero. So it’s safe to say, I’m anxiously waiting to meet the next Hero her next novel, Unmaking Hunter Kennedy, which is set to release later this month.
Hi Anne!! I know you’re tirelessly working on trying to get your next novel out, so I’m out of this world happy that you’re taking the time to be with us today. Thank you, Anne! Let’s get this show on the road. Shall we?
Thessa – As you well know, I’m a HUGE fan of your book, Almost. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Anne - First, thanks for being so amazing, right back at your awesomeness.
Almost is a love story about a girl who thinks she’s permanently broken because she has PTSD, memory loss, and ongoing nightmares from an event where she was ALMOST raped at a party three years ago. She’s strong, but pushes people away because she’s altered her whole life to accommodate the PTSD she lives with.
She believes she will never be ‘better’ how everyone wants her to be, but she still wants to move out and go to college--have a life. So, to prove to her family she’s back to ‘normal’, she hires a boyfriend (Gray Porter) a guy, she thinks really needs the money. Only...Gray has signed on for reasons of his own. He knows everything about Jess Jordan and the night she was hurt. He also knows she used to be nice...
Thessa– Almost isn’t your typical YA, at least in my opinion. It’s not fluffy, and deals with the serious subject matter of rape. If it isn’t too personal to ask, how did you come up with the story?
Anne - First, the story is about falling in love. First love. It’s my favorite thing to write. Although the backstory is about PTSD and a girl who was almost raped, it is a love story where Jess has to learn how to trust again. I adore stories about personal redemption. About people who are broken, damaged and have been through extreme circumstances, yet find a way to carry on.
We are ALL the same with this idea. Everyone has something huge that has hurt them. All of us hide it, cover it up, deny it and sadly, face times where we think we are alone in our pain.
I always admire those who can move through it or who live, love and laugh even a better because of the things that tried to break them. Not to be all John Lennon here (or more recently The Avett Brothers, whose lyrics blow my mind on this topic) but nothing makes my heart beat faster than the idea that love can and does, cure all. It instantly erases hate, including self-hate, which is terribly destructive and very prevalent in a youth-wealth-beauty-driven culture like ours.
Sorry. I digress. Back to the question and the personal part: I wrote this story, because...when I was a high school senior my best friend was raped by the brother of a friend. A guy we knew well. She was five foot one and 96 pounds. He was six-two and didn’t listen to her saying, ‘no’.
She told me, only me. And then we cried and told no one else. I found out later this terrified silence is common. My friend and I also never talked about it again after that summer. For 20+ years I think I’ve thought about it every day—how we didn’t tell—how I didn’t at least try to scratch his eyes out, or anything that I wanted to do at that time. And it didn’t even happen to me. My friend was--and is--the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person in the whole world. She did not deserve what happened to her. She maybe deserved a braver friend. :(
I tried to write her story, the story of a complete rape, but I could not do it as it was too painful to go there. I settled on the idea of an ALMOST rape. Sadly, when I started my research, I found the numbers of ‘almost rapes’ to be as high, and even more unreported than rapes. The incidence of extreme, life changing, rape-related PTSD occurred in more than 40% of victims and it did not matter if the rape was completed or not. 96% of all women will have at least one unwanted sexual encounter (completed rape or not) that will change them forever, and most probably it will not be talked about. Ever. This blew me away. PTSD alone is such a sad condition. The masks people with PTSD wear are huge because the pain they hide is so great and unpredictable. I actually re-wrote the whole book out of third person into first because I could not make Jess likeable in third, and still, some readers can’t see past her mask and comment they can’t like her. Luckily, most understand and get why she is so guarded.
This story made it to many agents and editors desks as a ‘full’ manuscript but was rejected because of the volatile times in publishing. Two editors told me they liked it but they did not want to take a risk on a story with this underlying topic even though this is NOT a rape story, it is a love story.
Here’s the ‘creepy woo-woo part’. If you’ve made it this far hang on to your goose-bumps and tissues.
I’d given up. After pitching it and countless rejections, I put the story away and started another. Exactly that same month, my cousin (in her 20’s) came to visit. When we’d mentioned going up to the top of Pikes Peak, her father told me she had all of her ribs broken, and so, we could not walk very far as it was difficult for her to breathe.
When she and I were alone, I asked her what had happened. She told me she’d been travelling with her brother and she’d been jumped by two guys who kicked in her ribs to keep her down while they tried to rape her. She got away.
And I said, “Everyone tells you’re lucky because nothing happened, but you don’t feel lucky?”
She asked me how I knew that. I told her about Almost and my research. She told me I was the first person she felt like she could talk to about her PTSD. She couldn’t stop looking over her shoulder, though the attack happened far over the ocean, and countries away. She shared that she was mad at herself because she couldn’t seem to ‘get over’ what had happened. She also begged me to go ahead and try to publish my book in case it might help someone else.
So...I wrote Almost for my friend and our sad hearts, but I published it for my cousin and her broken heart that will now take so long to fix. It is also for all who love a good romance and the girls/women I’d read about in my research on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. So many have emailed me their personal stories of how they, too, were hurt. This has been so humbling. I published Almost via Kindle and Kindle Direct Publishing, then later at CreateSpace for the print version at the request of some school counselors who wanted it for their offices and school libraries. This also has made me so happy.
Amazon.com, Kindle and the KDP Select program has changed my life. Because of Amazon.com’s dedication to writers being able to write, and readers finding the books they NEED, Almost being on Kindle, has helped so many readers to easily find this book. One teen boy emailed me and said the book had helped him finally understand why his sister couldn’t seem to be ‘better’ after being attacked. This and the other stories like it move me to tears. I’m so grateful for the instant world-reach Amazon.com and Kindle has allowed my story to find. I’ll shout it from the rooftops (and I do, often) how much I love Amazon.com for allowing me to have my dreams come out from under my bed where I’d hidden my manuscript and to be a real book. That first week, when I had few sales, but my book was live with a product page all it’s own, was the happiest week of my life because Amazon.com allowed me to finally be what I always wanted to be: a storyteller.
Thessa- You referenced a lot of my favorite pop culture, like Jane Austen, Twilight & Hunger Games, to name a few. (This by the way is another reason why I loved this story.) So can you tell us, who and what are your biggest influences when writing, personal and professional?
Anne - Music, pop culture and what the world population is doing, loving, living always inspires me.
But above all, I follow my bliss: Romance writers. Romance novels. Books. Books. Books. Jane Austen of course is in there! Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Beatrice Small, Joanna Lindsey—SO MANY MORE! I read 10 books a week back then when my parents paid for the food and rent. When I was younger, there was not a big ‘YA’ category beyond Judy Blume. New Adult did not exist until 2010, and so what was an older teen to read? Historical romances of course! I stumbled across a box of these romance novels in my grandmother’s basement and that was it for me. I was in love forever with love.
That summer, I gained 10 pounds (oops) while I discovered medieval romances, regency romances, love down in the Bayou, Western Romances, Ireland, The Celts, Vikings, Welsh, Scots, Saxons...and in each and every book, a first love. The heroes matched with the heroes of my dreams. I’m not going to lie, I probably should not have been reading some of these books at my age. But I fell hard for the wounded warriors, gentlemen rogues, sexy, angry cowboys, harsh but loving Vikings, the wicked frequenters of the country house parties and the brothels of Victorian London, and of course my favorite, men in kilts, warring clans, and those guys wearing the chainmail. SIGH.
The writers I read wrote characters who were involved in consensual, loving relationships. The heroes were all alpha to be sure, but inside, gentlemen with ethics and standards of what makes a good man to the core. They treated their heroines with respect and cherished them for who they were--without trying to change them. The heroines were always strong, sassy, independent and did not need a man to survive. Most didn’t want one at the outset of the stories either--that was of course, until they fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Mr. Sexy Wowguy (insert country, sword-type, king and warhorse here).
I hold those romance novels and those writers responsible for showing me what I wanted in a man. And for instilling in me a craving for that man to the point that I would not ‘settle’ for anything less than a real, honorable man. Although I knew what to expect in a sexual relationship (as most teens do know the mechanics these days) romance novels helped me find what I wanted, what I liked and did not like—showed me what real respect and love felt like--all through reading. And so my goals were set while falling in love between the pages. My heart was never once broken by a player or a smooth-talking bastard either, because I could spot them a mile away—again, thanks to romance writers.
It’s because of these love stories that I waited. And I mean, I waited to the point of possibly waiting too long. But it was worth it, and my husband is as hot, and as heroic (and sexy enough to wear a kilt if needed). He is the romance dream. I have those romance writers to thank for helping me find him too.
Thessa – You have a fantastic cast of characters in this story: Jess, Michelle, Corey & Gray. Are any of them based on anyone you know? Is there a real life Gray?
Anne - I do use the names of people I know and slap them onto characters, but only the names. The descriptions and stories of course are fictional.
The character Gray is based on two, very awesome, very ‘boy-scout’, nice guys who I know from watching them grow up in my neighborhood. One plays hockey, the other recently rescued a guy he didn’t know from drowning. Both weighed about 110 pounds and had not hit their growth spurt when they entered high school as freshmen. Both are also raised by incredible parents, and would try to stop a rape, just as Gray did in the book. Both would also have been terrified to face down a huge senior, but they would have taken a stand and done what is right. So...if any teen girls are out there, I know for a fact that real, good boys do exist in the world. Wait for them. They will find you.
Thessa- Okay, it’s no secret that I’m in love with Gray Porter. I’m his biggest fan. Can you tell me…err…I mean us, something about Gray that no one else knows? For example, what is his favorite movie? Favorite book? What’s his idea of a perfect date?
Anne - This is such a cute question....hmm...Gray. He’s of course a fan of The Hobbit...he’s on Ski Patrol in winter so not much time for movies because he’s saving people from dying on the ski hill. He’s kind of a classic Colorado guy. Perfect winter date around here is sledding. Snow fights, tearing around until your cheeks ache from cold. Then there’s the slow warm-up by the fire with hot chocolate...blankets...all that...Yeah...I can imagine Gray on that date.
Thessa – Your new book, Unmaking Hunter Kennedy, is almost ready for release. I’m so excited! Tell us a little about the story.
Anne - Unmaking Hunter Kennedy is another love story, of course. It’s about a jaded teen pop star recovering from depression and a suicide attempt he’s not ready to admit to at first. He’s forced to rest by his Mom, and finds himself hiding out in disguise in small-town Colorado, but ends up falling in love with the girl next door. A girl who’s never been kissed, who thinks Hunter is simply a ‘best friend’ and who has a huge crush on someone else... There’s a better blurb on Goodreads.com. I hope you add this book to your list. It will out on amazon.com before the end of October, if not by the time you read this blog. (I hope).
Thessa – Are there any similarities between Gray and Hunter?
Anne - Yes and no. They are both honorable, and how they fall in love is similar, meaning they fall hard. They are protective of the girls they love too, but Hunter Kennedy is a bit of a bad-boy compared to Gray. Gray had to be extra sweet to balance Jess’s extreme darkness.
These two characters are more balanced. Vere, the girl in Unmaking Hunter Kennedy has her own problems, and Hunter is the character suffering from personal, past demons he has to overcome. Depression is a tough topic to admit to, and a state that is difficult from which to emerge. Vere helps Hunter do this by simply being herself.
Hunter Kennedy has lived a pretty odd, isolated life. He’s quite jaded and reads ‘older’ compared to the more innocent, good-guy, Gray Porter. All of the pre-readers swear the kiss...the first kiss in Hunter Kennedy is way more ‘knock your socks off’ than the first kiss in Almost. This makes me happy to hear...because I too, think it’s quite an amazing kiss. Because my books don’t have sex in them, all I have is that kiss to work with and so...I work really hard on those pages. I do hope you like the book, or at the very least that part. :)
Thessa- After Unmaking Hunter Kennedy is released, do you have any other stories you’re working on?
Anne - Yes. More love stories of course! First, I need to catch up on reading. I’ve got so many new and old idols that have books out, and the yet undiscovered new authors still to come...can’t wait to crack on my Kindle Fire and lose myself.
Q – Gale or Peeta? Anne - GALE. GALE. Even though the entire third book ruins him and the possibilities he had to transform into love. I still love him and the idea that destiny and The Capitol stole away the girl that was supposed to be his. :( So, though I like Peeta, I can’t get over the robbed-destiny thing...oh, poor Gale...
Q - Edward or Jacob?Anne - EDWARD. I love Twilight, and I love Edward and Bella together. I love the Midnight Sun pages where you get to know and see Edward falling for Bella from his point of view. EDWARD’s LOVE FOR BELLA KNOCKS ME FLAT. I’m not even a vampire fan really but the love story, the way their destiny to be together was written so strongly, the character of Edward needing to learn how to trust was built so perfectly. As was Edward Cullen built so beautiful (inside and out). I will be in love with the way he loved Bella forever. The books and the movies took so much flack, but for me, I will have to also love Robert Pattinson and the movies forever too. Don’t get me wrong, Jacob is also hot, I felt his pain, but the girl and the love story was never his, it was always Edward and Bella. Always. #sparkleON #respect
Q – Favorite book, series & stand alone.
Anne - Impossible question. But the first stand alone books that jumped in to my head—and for years now--I’ve been in love with ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith (If you know Austen, you must know this one) and Kristin Cashore’s ‘Graceling’ book. Hats off. I bow to the beauty and the first loves and the voices, and world building that these two authors created. Graceling’s villain also slays me. Leck. He’s perfect.
Best Series is going to have to hold at Twilight simply because what Twilight did for all YA writers, how it made teen romance a real, talked-about genre and changed publishing forever. Twilight also wins for the romance that captured the secret hearts of girls around the globe and for how the last book saved me from a deep depression and from quitting writing all together. (Another way too, long story.) :) I’ll say it agian. I love Stephenie Meyer’s work and Twilight so much.
Q – Did the letter Captain Wentworth wrote Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion have any influence on that letter Gray wrote Jess? (I had to ask simply because both letters made me swoon =)Anne - No, actually it did not, but I love that you are an Austen lover. I wish I could say I were smart enough and well read enough to have done that on purpose. I’ve never read Persuasion all the way through and have only seen the BBC version (I think it was BBC) of Persuasion once. But Pride and Prejudice...Mr. Darcy, any and all movies about him, books, re-makes, mini-series, print versions I do own, and know by heart. I’m addicted to those characters. I’m amazed the whole movie and story has only one kiss but the tension never dies between the characters for all those pages! (Side note:) Did anyone but me notice the end of the Kiera Knightly version of the Pride and Prejudice movie looks (setting, color, pallet, reflections while they do that last kiss) is almost exactly like the last kiss scene in 16 Candles? Swear. Check it OUT. #JakeRyanISMrDarcy?)
Q – What are you reading right now?
Anne - Nothing. Not allowed because of editing, but FINE, I’m stealing minutes on my iPhone, Kindle Reader App when I pick the kids up at the bus with, On Dublin Street by Samantha Young (note: adult contemporary, not YA). It’s amazing good romance. I’m not even finished, and I can’t wait for Adam (hero’s best friend) to get his own story next. Samantha young rocks the romance.
Q – Favorite movie & TV show
Anne - Movies: You mean after I watch Pride and Prejudice again? Bend it Like Beckham. Best, one kiss, teen romance movie EVER made. It also has Jonathan Rhys Myers and Keira Knightly before they became all famous and stylized.
TV. I’m into New Girl. She’s adorkable and I love that she gets to be a human disaster on that show and she never truly gets busted for it, where in real life, it’s just embarrassing to be like that. (Speaking from a personal stand point as I, am one of those public-disaster-types.) I also watch Teen Wolf for excellent casting-beauty-boys and twisty-plot. But I love all of MTV’s programming. I’m rarely off that channel.
Q – If you could switch lives with a celebrity, who would it be and why?
Anne - Katy Perry. Hands down. But not for very long because I don’t think I could keep her pace. I’m a proud Katycat, inspired by her story, her journey, her lyrics. The message she sends her fans on self-love and following dreams is how we all should encourage each other. I also admire her bravery. I’m dyslexic and I struggle with huge amounts of personal anxieties because of it (and typos, darn it). I always gravitate to those who are bold and don’t care what others think.
If you haven’t seen the movie, Katy Perry: Part of Me you are missing out on some amazing good energy. Even if you think you don’t like pop music, or cup-cake outfits, you should watch this documentary. You will end with a bigger heart. I swear. Katy Perry is a deep, deep well of cool love. TRUST ME. #LOVEKaty
Q – Three words that best describe you:
Anne - Working. Loving. Worrying.
Q – Any parting words for your fans, new and old?
Anne - First, I can hardly believe I’m lucky enough to have fans and I am beyond grateful to think they are out there at all. :) Advice: remember fear/pain/darkness is only energy NOT A WALL. If you know that to be true, these things can never control you or keep you for long. You can use the energy like air...to breathe in, breathe it right back out, and easily move through to where you want to be. Set goals. And no matter who, or what obstacle in life tries to bring you down, stay focused, bare your whole heart, stay in love and never give up. Always. Love.
Thank you so much for being with us today, Anne. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you. I’ll proudly pimp out your books to anyone willing to listen to me because you are just an amazing writer and Almost just blew me away. I hope its success will continue to grow and that Unmaking Hunter Kennedy will be a monstrous success as well. We hope you’ll stop by again soon, my friend. Until then, Cheers!
**Anne will also be giving away 2 Kindle eBook copies of Almost and Unmaking Hunter Kennedy (upon its release) to two lucky winners**
Two lucky commenters will be chosen to receive KINDLE copies of Almost and Unmasking Hunter Kennedy.
*Please note that this is a Kindle only giveaway. Please leave your email address with your comment. *
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