Young Adult author Ashley Heckman joins us today, describing what the writing process is like. Be sure to check out her new release, The Last Three Words!
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When I sat down to write this guest post the first time, I had no idea what I was doing and got distracted by the shiny internetz. Lather, rinse, repeat for several days, and now I’m back where I began: sitting here with no clue what I’m going to write about. But what the hell, walk with me.
I suppose this is how I begin a lot of my writing endeavors. Of course I have those days where the blinking cursor on a blank white screen or the idea of composing something as mundane as a two sentence email infuses the fear of God into my very bones (and I’m an Athiest), but more often than not, it’s a symbol of endless possibilities. That little blinking bastard can take me anywhere, and I’m usually just as surprised about where it dumps me as I hope the reader will be.
The days when it all works are glorious. I sit at my laptop, the heavens part, and I’m bathed in the warm glow of inspired creation, a mere instrument through which genius flows. The words all but fall and clock me on the head like overripe fruit, their ethereal juiciness quenching the thirst of the clean slate that is a blank .doc file. Can you tell that I really enjoy these moments?
But there are also the days when it doesn’t all work so effortlessly. Take this very exercise. That last paragraph you read? It was an unstoppable deluge. If I’d been speaking, it would have tumbled out of my mouth as if it were one big long run on word the likes of which Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke could never have imagined. This paragraph, however, has been like swimming through a pool filled with half-set concrete. I have no clue what to talk about next. There is no arrow lined with flashing lightbulbs, no gameplan. In fact, if I weren’t rambling on about not knowing what to talk about, I’d have nothing to talk about at all (or at least nothing as enthralling as this peek into my head is, I’m sure).
I wish I knew the secret to making every moment of my life–be it writing or any other aspect of daily existence–just…easy. Painless. Natural and pure. Art. That’s what life is, after all, right? Art. And art is all of it. It’s the beauty and awe and wonder and all of that good shit. But it also hurts. It’s messy. It forces you through the dark hallways and concrete swimming pools, often with no discernable goal but to just keep going. Because it feels better than stopping. Because you have no other choice. Because sometimes, every so often, it’s worth it.
Title: The Last Three Words
Genre: Young Adult
Release date: November 15th 2013
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Seventeen-year-old Christian Marx never belonged anywhere but with his best friend Maye. Life with her beats the hell out of the dingy apartment he shares with his neglectful mother. Mom may be blood, but Maye and her little sister Rowe are family. Life would be perfect if only Maye loved him the way he loved her.
Last night, she did. Today, she’s dead—a tragic accident no one could have predicted.
With Maye gone, it’s up to those she left behind to figure out how to move on. Only one person can drag Christian away from the ledge. Only one person can save Maye’s little sister from making a huge mistake.
Sometimes the only way to un-break yourself is to fix someone else.
Ashley is a thirty-something perpetual teenager. She (slowly) writes young adult fiction that pulls no punches and rarely conforms to the unspoken rules. Home is upstate South Carolina, where Ashley lives with her daughter, working for a living and striving to better herself and her craft.
“Yeah, 387 Greer Highway,” my voice was flat over the sound of sobbing, begging, in the background. “Overdose…barely…bourbon and something prescription, I’m not sure.”
The dispatcher pledged to stay on the line until the ambulance arrived, but I abandoned her first, setting the receiver on the kitchen counter and grabbing the car keys before walking out the front door, unnoticed. What was one more unforgivable act? Besides, I’d done my part. The rest would have to be on the two of them. I stood in the driveway looking back at for a few moments at this place that used to feel like home, and continued on my way to anywhere but here.
I don’t remember the three point turn, or creeping under the canopy of trees that shaded the long gravel drive from the house to the road. Time was lost and instinct took over steering, the gas pedal, and the brake, though I had no need for it. There was no traffic this time of night, when morning hung only a couple of hours over the horizon. I just drove, the lazy speed of the car moving through the dark echoing the numbness I’d succumbed to after struggling against it for so long. It felt almost nice.
I watched, lost in thought, as the darkened houses and pastures passed. I’d considered the existence of fate many times in my life, but only for the past few weeks with any real seriousness. The mistakes made tonight were no accident, no coincidence. Had any of it ever been?
Without realizing, I pulled the car off to the shoulder and into the grass, at that place on Greer Highway that had haunted me for what seemed like a lifetime. It felt like another life, when we’d been happy. I stared out the windshield, willing myself to see something real, something to anchor me in reality, but there was nothing.
I needed to feel it, this road I’d been avoiding in the weeks since. To touch it, know if there was anything left there. It felt like the natural place to make peace with all that had happened, apologize. There had been a purpose to all of it. Maybe she could forgive me. But would I ever forgive myself?