After two years of being on submission and getting super close more times than I can count, I’ve decided to self-publish my YA romantic dramedy, SECRET HEART.
SECRET HEART is a teenage KISSING JESSICA STEIN with a DAWSON’S CREEK vibe set to a soundtrack of Sleater-Kinney, Tegan and Sara and Taylor Swift. In fact, the lyrics to Tegan and Sara’s new song “Boyfriend” are pretty much the synopsis to SECRET HEART.
This story is my heart and it’s been killing me for the last two years (3 3/4 years if you count the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2012) that it’s not in the hands of those who might need it most. I could keep waiting for the right editor to find it in their inbox, but it’s more important to me right now to forge my own path than to wait for a trail guide to lead me along the rocky terrain.
And then there’s Orlando.
I grew up in what I lovingly refer to as the armpit of Florida, a small town on the Gulf Coast, about 100 miles from Orlando.
There’s a reason why everything I write is set in Florida. There’s all the comedy news bits about snakes driving tractors and alligators at Walmart and sink holes swallowing up trailers and then you have the Florida that I grew up in. This is the Florida where my lesbian bff wasn’t comfortable to be out and my gay friends dropped out of high school because it wasn’t safe place for them, where the oppressive humidity made you question your life, and where there are still places where the Civil War is still being fought. I lived on a weird peninsula that was always and never in the direct path of a hurricane. We were too far north to have the Yankee transplants and fabulousness that is Miami and too far south to be called the South. My town was too small to be a real city and too large to be a small town. No one drove over 30 mph. It was retirees as far as the eye could see.
During my teenage years 20 years ago, this was a cultural wasteland. We had the mall and movies and that was pretty much it. There was nothing for teenagers to do but drive around aimlessly, hang out at Steak and Shake or Dennys, and walk the beach at night. We were full of angst, desperate to hightail the hell out of there after graduation.
Avery, my main character in SECRET HEART, has the same history with Florida that I do. She loves and loathes it. And while she is open and living the life she wants to live, it doesn’t work like that for everyone. And so I wrote that novel. A novel about a girl falling in love with another girl, one who wasn’t comfortable in her own skin and ready to be labeled. I wrote a novel about best friends who support each other and give each other shit. I wrote a novel about a community of students who decide to stand up to their high school’s antiquated ways and prejudices and throw their own damn Prom.
I wrote the novel I wanted to read at 17. A novel that my best friend should have had to read.
My agent and I had already made the decision to self-publish SECRET HEART before the terror in Orlando, and those horrible events only made me want to contribute to the community I love even more. It felt like the right decision not to wait anymore. It was time that I shared the book I love with the characters I love like they are my own damn kids with everyone.
On September 13th, 2016 everyone will get to meet Avery, Scott and Madison.* In the meantime, rock out to Tegan and Sara.
*If you don’t like sex, swearing, and sarcasm, you probably won’t like SECRET HEART. And I’m cool with that.