Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

YA Fiction

Six months is all it takes for the walls that eighteen-year-old Layken Cohen has built around her to come crashing down.

It's the beginning of her senior year and the financial aftermath of her father's unexpected death forces Layken and her family to move across the country. Torn away from everything and everyone she knows, Layken's outlook on life is anything but hopeful.

Enter Will Cooper: the attractive twenty-one year old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry. After a night together that turns out to be everything but the expected, both Layken and Will are left with feelings they never knew they could have. Unfortunately in Layken's life, things are never what they seem. Just as quickly as it develops, their relationship is derailed by a shocking revelation, sparking a tumultuous battle between their hearts and their ethics.

As if the dramatic turn of events in her life isn't enough, Layken is slammed again when her mother reveals a secret of her own. A secret so intense, all of Layken's current problems pale in comparison to her seemingly insurmountable future. Unable to confront the changes that lie ahead of her, Layken ignores her conscience as she turns to Will for solace. Struggles ensue as both Layken and Will search for a balance between that which keeps them apart and the feelings that pull them together.

Slammed is a 70,000 word engaging young adult novel that intertwines heartache with humor, desires with ethics, and ultimately proves that the harsh reality of death can sometimes be overcome by the beauty of life.

The next afternoon, I’m picking out what to wear but can’t seem to locate any clean, weather appropriate clothing. I don’t own many winter shirts, besides what I’ve already worn this week. I choose a purple long sleeved shirt and smell it, deciding it’s clean enough. I spray some perfume though, just in case it isn’t. I brush my teeth, touch up my makeup, brush my teeth again and let down my ponytail. I curl a few sections of my hair and pull some silver earrings out of my drawer when I hear a knock on the bathroom door.
My mother enters with a handful of towels. She opens the cabinet next to the shower and places them inside.
 “Going somewhere?” she asks. She sits down on the edge of the bathtub while I continue to get ready.
 “Yes, somewhere.” I try to hide my smile as I put in my earrings. “Honestly, I’m not sure what we’re doing.  I really never even agreed to the date.”
She stands up and walks to the door, leaning up against the frame as she watches me in the mirror. She has aged so much in the short time since my dad’s death. Her bright green eyes against her smooth porcelain skin used to be breathtaking.  Now, her cheekbones stand out above the hallowed shadows in her cheeks. The dark circles under her eyes overpower their emerald hue. She looks tired. And sad.
“Well, you’re eighteen now. You’ve had enough of my dating advice for a lifetime,” she says. “But I’ll provide you with a quick recap just in case. Don’t order anything with onion or garlic, never leave your drink unattended and always use protection.”
“Ugh, Mom!” I roll my eyes. “You know I know the rules, and you know I don’t have to worry about the last one.  Please don’t give Will a recap of your rules.  Promise?”  I make her promise.
“So tell me about Will. Does he work?  Is he in college?  What’s his major? Is he a serial killer?” She says this with such sincerity.  
I walk the short distance to my bedroom from the bathroom and bend down to search through my shoes. She follows me and sits on the bed.
“Honestly Mom, I don’t know anything about him. I didn’t even know how old he was until he told you.”
 “That’s good,” she says. 
“Good?” I glance back at her. “How is not knowing anything about him good? I’m about to be alone with him for hours. He could be a serial killer.” I grab my boots and walk over to the bed to slip them on.
“It’ll give you plenty to talk about. That’s what first dates are for.”
“Good point,” I say. 
Growing up, my mother did give great advice. She always knew what I wanted to hear, but would tell me what I needed to hear. My dad was her first boyfriend so I have always been curious how she seems to know so much about dating, boys, and relationships. She’s only been with one person, and it seems most knowledge would have to come from life experiences. She’s the exception, I guess. 
“Mom?” I say as I slip on my boots. “I know you were only eighteen when you met Dad. I mean, that’s really young to meet the person you spend the rest of your life with. Do you ever regret it?”
She doesn’t answer immediately. Instead, she lies back on my bed and clasps her hands behind her head as she ponders my question.
“I’ve never regretted it. Questioned it? Sure. But never regretted.”
“Is there a difference?” I ask. 
“Absolutely. Regret is counterproductive. It’s looking back on a past that you can’t change. Questioning things as they occur can prevent regret in the future. I questioned a lot about my relationship with your father. People make spontaneous decisions based off of their hearts all the time.  There’s so much more to relationships than just love.”
“Is that why you always tell me to follow my head, not my heart?”
My mother sits up on the bed and takes my hands in hers as she speaks. “Lake, do you want some real advice that doesn’t include a list of foods you should avoid?”
Has she been holding out on me? “Of course,” I reply. 
She’s lost the authoritative, parented edge to her voice, which makes me aware that this conversation is less from a mother-daughter standpoint and more woman to woman.  She pulls her legs up Indian style on the bed and faces me. 
“There are three questions every woman should be able to answer yes to before they commit to a man.  If you answer no to any of the three questions, run like hell.”
“It’s just a date,” I laugh. “I doubt we’ll be doing any committing.”
“I know you’re not, Lake.  I’m serious. If you can’t answer yes to these three questions, don’t even waste your time on a relationship.”
 When I open my mouth, I feel like I’m just reinforcing the fact that I’m her child.  I don’t interrupt her again.
“Does he treat you with respect at all times?  That’s the first question.  The second question is, if he is the exact same person twenty years from now that he is today, would you still want to marry him?  And finally, does he inspire you to want to be a better person? You find someone you can answer yes to all three, then you’ve found a good man.”
“Wow, those are some intense questions.” I take a deep breath as I soak in even more sage advice from her. “Were you able to answer yes to all of them? When you were with Dad?”
“Absolutely.” She doesn’t hesitate. “Every second I was with him.” 
I watch the sadness enter her eyes as she finishes her sentence.  She loved my dad. I start to regret bringing it up. I put my arms around her and embrace her. It’s been so long since I’ve hugged her, a twinge of guilt rises up inside me. She kisses my hair, then pulls away and smiles.
I stand up and run my hands down my shirt, smoothing out the folds. 
“Well?  How do I look?”  I ask. 
           “Like a woman,” she sighs.


How did you start your writing career?

I’ve always loved to write, but it’s never been a profession of mine.  I’ve wanted to write books since I was younger, but I married young and have three boys so I rarely have time to write.  My middle son joined the local community theater and I was sitting in the auditorium researching a book to read to pass the time.  I’ve always been interested in Slam Poetry, but couldn’t find a fiction novel that included Slam Poetry.  So, I decided to write one.  I started a rough draft that night in the auditorium, and couldn’t stop.  I became addicted to the story and wrote constantly until it was finished.  I work eleven hour days at my regular job, so I was living off of four hours of sleep a day for over a month.  It felt like I had finally found what I wanted to be when I grew up, and absolutely loved it!


Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

This one is hard, I love them all.  I would have to say my absolute favorite character is Eddie.  Eddie is a female, and she’s the main characters new best friend.  She’s very spunky and doesn’t hesitate to say what’s on her mind. 

Tell us about your current release.

Slammed is a book that centers on the life of eighteen-year-old Layken Cohen.  Her father recently passed away, and as a result of his death, her family has to move across the country.  In the midst of her grief, she meets Will.  They form an immediate connection and she finally feels like her life is taking a positive turn.  On their first date, Will takes her to a poetry slam.  Slam Poetry is performance poetry that is performed on a stage and can be very emotional.  He performs a slam and she falls for him even more.  Unfortunately, days after their first date they are met with an ethical dilemma that does not allow them to be together.  They struggle to find a balance between what feels right, and what is right.
Just when they think they have transitioned, another blow slams Layken to the core, sending her life into a tailspin.  Unfortunately, Will is the only one that has been in her shoes.  He wants to help her, but there are still barriers that are forcing them apart. 

Tell us about your next release.

The readers fell in love with the characters of Slammed and begged for a follow-up novel.  So, I wrote one.  Point of Retreat is the second book in the Slammed series and was just released in March, 2012.  I don’t want to go into too much detail about what the book entails for those readers who haven’t read the first one.  But I will say, if you read Slammed you will absolutely want to read the follow-up novel.

What was your first sale as an author? 

I actually wanted to be the first sale.  I was looking forward to being able to go on Amazon and purchase my own book.  When I released it, I didn’t tell anyone.  I rushed home so that I could get online and buy it, but when I looked there had already been a sale.  About the same time, my sister called me saying, “I just bought your book!!!”   She apparently knows me better than I thought, and knew I would release it early so she was stalking Amazon.  I didn’t mind that the sale went to her.  It was exciting.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?

Well, being as though I work eleven hours a day and I have three kids, I write when I should be doing laundry or dishes or any other household chore.  Honestly, when I’m in the middle of a book I tend to write most of the time until it’s finished.  I start as soon as the kids are in bed and write until about 2 a.m.  I spend the entire weekend working on my books, usually around twelve to sixteen hours a day.  I think that’s why I finish novels so fast.  Both of these books I finished in a month each.
Does your significant other read your stuff?

My husband and I have been together since I was sixteen.  I’m thirty-two now, so exactly half my life.  He has never, ever read a single word I’ve written.  Well, other than facebook posts.  ;)  He is not a reader, and it doesn’t bother me in the least that he doesn’t read what I write.  He is extremely supportive.  He doesn’t make me watch sports, so why would I force him to read a young adult book?  ;)

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

So many people.  Namely my boss, Stephanie.  She fell in love with Slammed and would threaten to fire me if I didn’t have something ready following the weekends.  She was very encouraging and supportive.  I also give my chapters to my mother as I write them.  She and Stephanie have very different opinions, so it was always good to have two viewpoints.  I also have a couple of author friends I’ve met online that give me feedback. 

How do you describe your writing style?

This is a good question.  I love to read, but I get frustrated when the author is more focused on using a huge vocabulary and describing things in such detail, that I tend to skip to the dialogue.  I’ve read a lot of books where I probably skipped a good ¼ of the words. To me, the story and the plot are way more important than how many different ways an author can write “she said.”  I also love to read screenplays.  When I started writing, I decided I would merge my two loves and write a good story, with a lot of dialogue.  I love dialogue and feel it gives more of a voice to the character than describing how they look.  I like some things to be left to the imagination.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

Absolutely.  The Avett Brothers.  I love their music and find their lyrics so inspiring.  In fact, I dedicated my first novel to them. 

How do you react to a bad review of your book?

This is pretty funny, actually.  The first bad review I received was a one star.  When I saw it, my heart sank and I was so scared to read it.  When I clicked on it, I recognized my husbands name.  He gave me a bad review, stating “I didn’t realize how obsessed my wife is with the Avett Brothers until I saw she dedicated this book to them.  For that reason, I am giving it one star.”
He deleted it the next day, but it was pretty funny. I know not everyone is going to like my book or my style of writing.  Everyone is different.  I believe people’s differences in opinions and personalities is what makes the world so great. One of the characters in my book said it best when she says, “Sometimes it takes a variety to make a good collection.  The same goes with people.”

Colleen lives in Texas with her husband, their three boys and her extensive collection of The Avett Brothers music. She has a full-time career that has absolutely nothing to do with writing, but enjoys opportunities that allow her to write on the side. She jokes that she writes when she should be doing laundry and other household chores. Colleen's writing goal is to take her readers on an emotional roller coaster ride, leaving them laughing out loud with a tissue in hand to wipe away their tears. Slammed is her debut novel.

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