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Why switch genres? Why write a hard hitting story that will leave you emotionally drained? Those were the questions my family and friends asked me because they know me. And knowing me, you would understand that being a writer means ups and downs and sometimes the downs can be a really long stretch. Previously published as a romance and erotic romance author about two years ago I hit the wall. I knew I needed to “change it up,” but no way did I imagine that the journey of me writing Off Leash would become a therapeutic outlet for me.
I started writing what I know—third person paranormal young adult and quickly realized I needed to move beyond my comfort zone. So I forced myself to move into first person narrative. Even more out of my zone, I thought I’d go first person boy narrative and give a dog a voice (I don’t own a dog but grew up with them).
Did I imagine at this time when I journeyed into developing my 15 year-old character Jay in Off Leash that I’d encounter dealing with my eldest son’s rebellious teen years? No way! Here’s what I envisioned—writing this book while applauding my teenager as he tackles making straight A’s in High School while encouraging him to go onto university. Here’s the reality—crying many nights silently in bed worried sick about the thought of him sneaking out of the house so he could get high, dealing with his in your face drama when I’d put my foot down, taking away privileges and grounding him for his inappropriate behavior. There, I said it. I wrote it. In fact it’s much worse than that but I could take up five pages to write about my motherly angst, and like many mothers there are books to read but living it is entirely its own hell. What I decided to do was add all those angry feelings he certainly was expressing to me when I laid down my rules into the development of Jay’s character.
And as I wrote Off Leash I realized something very personal. I never got over the death of my childhood friend Sissy who died of cancer, so I added those feelings into Jay and let him show those emotions when he interacted with his sister, Fay. Let me add here that in my small fishing community Sissy was my one and only friend. Life there got very lonely for me after she died. To say this was hard to write would be an understatement. Writing the scene where Fay goes back into the hospital I actually started crying in Starbucks. In fact, I wrote her death scene a few different ways but in the end I went with Jay getting the news over his phone and I think there’s that pivotal switch for the reader when you totally sympathize with him as he lets loose his emotions as he clutches Ollie, the dog, totally unaware he’s being watched.
So after one year of writing and then another year of edits I sent Off Leash out to a number of agents (15) and editors (6) and then entered it into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I was floored when it became a semi-finalist and had thought that might help me secure a publisher. Tried again that route and came close but one publisher folded, another agency said it just “wasn’t quite right for them but they loved my writing” and I thought I’m telling this damn story. So that’s why I went the Indie route. I really hope readers like that I’m offering alternate endings for Off Leash. Since it was so emotional I thought I’d allow readers to pick which version they wanted to read. There’s the Hollywood happily-ever-after ending and the real nitty gritty version.
(Note from Lisa: Love that you gave alternate endings. Now I have to read both.)
What’s next for me is another hard-hitting very personal story called Off Limits and yes once again I’m dredging up my painful childhood memories to write about a touchy subject, except this time the focus and POV is on two girls. I am hoping to have that ready for publication in December.
I’d love to hear from readers and authors. Drop me an email at email@example.com or visit my site at www.reneepace.com. I’m a twitter bug at ReneePaceYA.
Off Leash:Hollywood Ending (Nitty Gritty series)
Off Leash: Nitty Gritty Ending (Nitty Gritty series)
Thank you so much for being with us today, Renee! Remember, leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Off Leash!