We made it to Thursday! The sun is shining here today, at least it better be because as I am writing this post it is pouring rain again, but the weather forecast promises the rain will finally leave and summer will arrive with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures by the week's end. So I sure hope that I am not lying and that the sun really is shining here in Oregon today. I am rambling, let me get to the point which is that I am happy to welcome author Shana Norris here today with her latest release The Rules of You and Me. Shana is here to tell us a bit about her experiences while writing her book and the research that went into it. First here is a bit more on Shana:
Shana Norris is terrified of heights just like her character Hannah, yet she still loves hiking to the top of mountains and waterfalls. She lives in a small town in eastern North Carolina with her husband and their mini-zoo: two dogs, five cats, and five chickens. Visit her online on her website, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.
Please welcome Shana:
The Perks of Being a Writer
There is one big perk of being a writer that you don't often hear people talk about, other than travel writers--the benefits of location research. By which I mean, VACATIONS!
The common mantra is to "write what you know," so a lot of writers write about places they know well. Many of my stories are set in small towns in eastern North Carolina because this is the area I know best. I've spent most of my life here and I'm comfortable writing about the way the area impacts the people that live there.
Writing about a place similar to the one you live in is perfectly fine, and it can help you grow in your storytelling by writing about a setting that you know so intimately. But after a while, you might get bored with having all of your stories set in the same kind of place. And that's where the location research comes in, which means road trips! Vacations! All in the name of research.
Okay, maybe it's not really a vacation because it is still work. You're spending your trip taking notes, thinking about your story, experiencing parts of the locale that your characters will experience. So you're probably not just kicking back the whole time with a good book on a beach somewhere, soaking in the rays. (Unless, maybe that's what your characters do throughout the story you're writing...)
In The Rules of You and Me, I got to write about one of my favorite places, Asheville, North Carolina. My narrator Hannah is from a small town called Willowbrook, a fictional place based on the small town I live in. But the book covers the summer that she spends in Asheville with her aunt. I first visited Asheville a few years ago and fell in love with it.
The mountains are beautiful, the city is unique, and there is a lot to see and do in the area. When I was brainstorming a setting for the book, Asheville felt like the natural location because Hannah needed a place where she could hide and so the mountains provided a barrier between herself and the rest of the world. I was able to pull from my vacation memories and incorporate some of my favorite landmarks into the story. As I started writing the book, I told my husband that we needed to go back to the mountains so I could do "research." Since he loves the area just as much as I do, he had no problems with that suggestion! Hiking, museum visits, Biltmore Estate tours, and local food were all part of my story research.
What about if you write fantasy or science fiction? How do you research settings that don't exist? Even if you write about made up places, you can still find locations that might be somewhat similar to your setting or have aspects to it that will inspire you. Are you writing about an advanced alien civilization? Visit technologically advanced cities for some inspiration.
Just a quick note: Travel for research could possibly be tax deductible, but you should speak with a tax professional about what, if anything, can be deducted. I am not an expert in taxes and am not offering any advice on what to do in your situation. But that is one of the benefits of writing being a business for you rather than just a hobby.
Next up: I need to start writing books set in Paris or Hawaii, and then convince the husband that I need some more research!
What about you? Have you ever written a story set in a place you've visited? Or is there a place you'd like to visit so you can write a story set there?
Thanks, Shana! I certainly agree on the more research part. Paris or Hawaii both sound fantastic! A big thank you to Shana for guest posting here today, and she comes with a chance to win her book The Rules of You and Me. Shana wanted to make the giveaway International so everyone can participate so she is offering an ebook copy of The Rules of You and Me. To enter please fill out the Rafflecopter after reading the Contest Policies. Good Luck!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here is my review:
Hannah Cohen has always lived her life by a set of carefully constructed rules to maintain the image of perfection. But now, the rules aren’t helping control the chaos that is quickly taking over. Opting out of spending the summer in Paris with her mom, Hannah instead heads to the mountains of North Carolina to stay with her aunt. The Blue Ridge Mountains provide a barrier between Hannah and the rest of the world, a safe haven where her secrets can be forgotten. When Hannah crosses paths with Jude Westmore, a guy who hangs a different shirt from the tree in his front yard every day, she finds herself breaking out of the comfort of her rules and doing things she had never dared before. As the summer passes, Hannah and Jude grow closer and make up their own rules for dealing with life. But when the secret Hannah has tried to forget is finally revealed, even the new rules can’t save her from possibly losing everything–including Jude. This young adult romance is a standalone companion novel to The Boyfriend Thief.
ebook, 191 pages
Published June 24th 2013
Source: Publisher for an honest review.
Three and a half stars: A summer filled with growing up and making new rules.
Hannah is happy to escape the pressures of her everyday life, especially after her father's drug overdose. She is opting to spend the summer with her Aunt instead of going to Paris with her mother. Hannah is nearly suffocating from the expectations and rules of her parents. She doesn't expect to meet someone who will help her break free of those rules. Can Hannah find a new beginning for herself and set her own rules?
What I Liked:
- I picked this one up expecting a light, fluffy, summery romance, but what I got was a book all about finding yourself and learning to let go of the past. While I was a tiny bit disappointed that this wasn't all feel good and easy reading, I was happy to see that it tackled some important issues such as: drug and alcohol abuse, loss, growing up, deciding your own future and healing. This book doesn't stray too far into the overly dramatic and gut wrenching fare that is so popular right now. I think this towed the line perfectly as it carried a nice balance between dramatic and fun. If you are a fan of the popular New Adult books, but want something that won't tear your heart out, this would be a good pick.
- The romance in this one is slow and subtle. Two people meet, and the first meeting isn't exactly all sparkles and butterflies, neither is the second. Over time, Hannah ends up forming a friendship with Jude, a troubled young man who just recently lost in brother in Afghanistan. The pair are complete opposites, Hannah is the good girl, straight A student who adheres to a set of complex rules. Jude is a bit of a bad boy and a rebel, especially since the death of his brother. Over the summer, a shirt flapping from a tree, a broken truck, and a mountain will bring the two together and through it all they form a strong friendship that eventually turns into something a bit more. This romance builds very slowly, and in fact it takes the entire book to get there, but I am a fan of romances that take their sweet time and are formed out of friendship. I thought the romance in this one was just right.
- I am a fan of character growth, and this book excels at character transformation. Hannah with Jude's help, learns to let go over the ridiculously stringent rules set by her parents. During the summer, she sets her own new rules to live by, and in the process, she learns a few things about herself, finds the courage to live as she wants by not adhering to other's expectations, she lets go and even does a few things that scare her the most. Jude also transforms. He is carrying a lot of baggage from his brother's death and he has not been able to break free. His friendship with Hannah helps him to finally bury his brother and move toward a new future. I thoroughly enjoyed the maturation of both characters.
- I enjoyed the writing in this one. Ms. Norris gives us plenty of sage advice on living, loving and more. There are some notable quotes and good advice to take to heart.
And The Not So Much:
- I felt like I was missing something as far as Hannah's backstory. She is fresh off a breakup with her boyfriend Zac. I got the impression that there was more to the story, and after I finished the book I learned that this was the companion novel to The Boyfriend Thief, and I am guessing the details of Hannah and Zac's relationship are chronicled in that book. This is not an issue because Hannah's story with Zac is in the past, but there are a couple of references to it. I am eager to go back and read The Boyfriend Thief now.
- I never felt like I had a firm grasp on Aunt Lydia's character. She seems aloof and rather mysterious for most of the book. She doesn't come across as particularly warm and fuzzy, but in contrast to Hannah's parents she is a far better role model. I finally got some answer toward the end of the book, but I found that I wanted to understand her a bit more. I would like to have more details on the relationship between Lydia and Hannah's mother.
- At the end, Hannah and her parents are working toward healing their relationship. I hated the way Hannah's mother treated Hannah and did not like her actions. I was hoping for a bit more admission of guilt and a little more resolution in regards to the mother daughter relationship, but it was realistic, and I know that in real life this is often the way things go.
- There were a few unanswered issues for Jude. For instance: I wanted to know what happened with Jude's mother. Did he get her to clean up her act? Did they make up? Will they be okay? What really happened with the missing money from Jude's former job? I really wished that the issue with the stolen money was resolved.
The Rules of You and Me is a book that will take you through the trials and tribulations of leaving behind childhood and moving toward an adult. There are always some difficult choices, and the question is will you learn to let go of the past and choose the path that will make you the most happy or will you adhere to the tight expectations of others?
"Be yourself, but be the you that you could be, not the you that everyone else wants you to be."
"The rules you think you should follow in life aren't always the right rules for you."
"I know the guy your parents don't like is exactly the kind of guy you think you want. But the idea of the bad boy is sometimes better than the reality of him."
"I wish I had the courage to not be the person everyone expects me to be."
"She loves the person she wants me to be. I'm not sure that she really loves me as I am."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.