Beautiful Books 2016 – Library Love Story

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Hey guys! I know it’s been awhile so if you’re reading this, that means you still care and, for that, I appreciate you. I didn’t think school would keep me as busy as it has and I didn’t have any posts queued up but it’s mid-semester break at my school, so I’ve got time to put some posts up and I really wanted to do this one.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’ve done the Beautiful People feature hosted once before and with NaNoWriMo coming up, I’m working on some planning for a new project that’s been in my head for a little bit but that I’ve recently shared with my amazing Twitter followers who have been so receptive and encouraging. This is a bit different from Beautiful People since it’s called Beautiful Books, but it’s still hosted by Cait at Paper Fury.

Hopefully this works to give you guys more information on my project, which I’m calling Library Love Story.

1. What inspired the idea for your novel and how long have you had the idea?

Currently, Library Love Story is a mesh of two different ideas I had, one from high school about a girl running away from her old life to start fresh somewhere else and the second, which is sort of more new, which is about a girl who works in a library and falls in love with one of the patrons based on the books she pulls for him. A lot of both pieces come from my own personal experience. I was in a bad place where I had this fantasy of running away and losing touch with everyone I knew to just…start over. My depression was bad because a lot of things in my life were happening at once: my grades weren’t what I wanted, I was losing friends, my boyfriend had just broken up with me, I’d been fired from my first job and a lot of other stuff and I just felt like…what was I supposed to do? The second idea I’ve sort of had in my head since I started working in my college’s library last semester. I’ve always felt like you can tell a lot about people based on what they read but even if you can’t, people that like the same kinds of books as you are a kind of soulmate. I fall in love with no fewer than 5 people a week pulling books for them. I don’t know anything else about them so I can kind of imagine who they are based on that and I felt like that’s an interesting way to write a love story. My dream is to meet a love interest in a library or a bookstore. No luck yet, though.

2. Describe what your novel is about.

Library Love Story is the story of Gwen Hawthorne, a seventeen year old black (I say this so that there is no doubt of her race at any point) girl who has kind of…lost her way? Gwen has a family that she loves: a father that she is close to, a (step)mom that loves and supports her, and two younger sisters. For the longest time, Gwen was the golden child, a shoo-in for valedictorian and her dream school, a moderately popular girl with a fairly stable group of friends, an (almost) boyfriend and an after-school job. To most everyone around her, Gwen seems like she can handle anything and she tries her best to keep all of that together despite a great deal of pressure she’s put on herself and that she feels. After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that her biological mother who she hasn’t seen since she was 5 or 6, Gwen feels as if her life is unraveling. She has tried incredibly hard to not be her mother and she feels as though she has no choice. Her “perfect” image falls apart and she quits her job, separates from her friends and after graduation, she has no idea what to do until a teacher who she adores recommends she consider a change of scenery. She goes to a city called Aberline, a very literary city that she remembers reading about in a short story from her lit class “Last Stop on the Midnight Express” to work with the Almenda Valley Library and Information Services (AVLIS) where she ends up making friends and developing a crush with a patron she doesn’t know but ends up communicating with after she takes an interest in the books he reads. More importantly, she comes to terms with what she wants and develops relationships and an understanding of her diagnosis and who she really is with or without it.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

For now, I think I’ll just stick with (briefly) introducing the main character of the story, though I do have some other characters planned out, but they’re more of a surprise (and will probably be revealed later).

Gwendolyn Selene “Gwen” Hawthorne is the heroine (or more appropriately, the protagonist) of Library Love Story. Gwen has a number of (metaphorical, at least in this story) demons she’s fighting. She’s a 17-year old recent high school graduate and has just experienced a development that has caused her to question everything in her life and abandon the course she had planned for herself. Inspired by a favorite teacher from high school, Gwen goes to Aberline in the hopes of sorting things out, or at least, figuring out her life a bit more and giving herself space to think away from what she perceives as a negative part of her life. She was raised in good household by her father and her step-mother along with two sisters, all of whom she loves dearly. She is determined to find herself and get back on track with her life.

5. How do you prepare to write?

Umm…I don’t? I mean, I guess when I have an idea, I try to sort as much of it out as possible, so I guess I have some outlines of characters and kind of a synopsis of my stories. I don’t do any extensive outlining (although maybe it would be helpful if I did), but I do try to figure out things like setting, characters and their relationships to each other. If I have a story idea, ideas just kind of come to me and I try to write down as much as I can because otherwise I get good ideas and they go away, but a lot of my prep process is crying, reading, crying some more and performing sacrifices to elder gods in hopes that I may be blessed with some kind of creative inspiration. I love doing research for stories and this one requires a bit of it, especially when writing about Gwen’s bipolar disorder. While it runs in my family, I only suffer with depression and generalized anxiety disorder (which Gwen also has) so I’m not the most qualified person to write about so that requires some research on my part because it is important that I get the disorder right. So, I guess my process is a lot of tears, tea, research and ink stained hands while I write out as much as I know about the ideas I have in my head.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Well, the love story is definitely going to be fun to write. Like I said earlier, this is definitely something I experience so I thought it would be fun to write and I haven’t seen anything like it in YA, so that part definitely makes it even more fun to write. The reception to the one sentence tweet that started this whole thing has been amazing. I have some plans for that part. I am also looking forward to writing about Gwen dealing with her bipolar disorder. YA novels have a very mixed reputation when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, which is something that I find disheartening as someone who deals with mine on a daily basis. I haven’t seen many that deal with bipolar disorder and while I was considering whether or not it’d be smarter to stick with my personal diagnoses, I feel as though Gwen’s is a story that I want to tell and hope that it reaches someone.

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

Well, the city that my story takes place in is called Aberline, which is located in Northern California (at this point in time). Three things about Aberline are:

1.) It has a very storybook, fairy tale like feel, which is important since its biggest claim to fame is its connection to literature, specifically certain writers that have lived (and died) there. Every year it hosts a storytelling festival that is a big draw for tourists.

2.) It is the location of Aberline College, an elite liberal arts college and home to four different libraries that are part of the AVLIS Network.

3.) Aberline has a number of monuments and areas that have a lot of associated mythology and superstitions, especially about women, writers and couples.

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Although Gwen doesn’t totally know this yet, she wants to figure out what her place is and what she wants. She had these plans for herself and they were kind of derailed when she found out that she had bipolar disorder and her desire to not be her mother came back to haunt her. She doesn’t really know who she is as she’s spent her life trying to be what other people want her to be. She really just wants to know herself but is very much afraid that she won’t like who she is. The only thing that really stands in her way is herself, to be honest. She starts off very cynical and discouraged believing she has given herself an impossible task and sort of setting herself up to fail. She doesn’t really know much about bipolar disorder except the stereotypes and media depictions and what she knows from the bit that her father has told her about what she was like. She is very hopeless about what to do with herself and doesn’t even know where to start with this impossible task, especially as she deals with her unstable moods and confronting her diagnosis.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Gwen becomes better equipped with coping skills that help her to better deal with her bipolar disorder. She understands it better and she understands herself better and knows more about what she wants. She has worked at developing relationships with the people around her and has a clearer plan on what to do with her future. Everything isn’t perfect but she is a lot less hopeless than she was at the start of the book.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

I want readers to feel hopeful when the story is over but I also want them to feel satisfied with Gwen’s character arc and her development. I think that hope is so important to this story but also love, of all kinds, and family, the kinds that we have and the kinds that we create ourselves, along with identity and how we define ourselves. I want people to be able to relate to this book, but to also enjoy it as fun and not just “sad” or a book “about issues”. This book is about dealing with mental illness and the struggle that that is but the fact that it is possible to get better, no matter what. I think I want this to be a sort of fluffy, comfort food type of book that deals with some serious things but is also enjoyable and fun to read.

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