WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!!! –> Congratulations Michelle! You win an e-book copy of Colleen’s books!!
Slammed and Point of Retreat. Easily two of the best books of 2012 (already!!). I totally TOTALLY feel like I lucked out with these!! I can’t even believe that Slammed has been available to read (since January), and I didn’t know!! There I was, so desperate for our next big *squee*, and there they were. Luckily, one of our fellow readers found it, and we went crazy, didn’t we!? And yet, it was a nice, gentle… cuddly kind of crazy.
“Will” is no “bad-boy alpha” but OMG who cares?!! He. Is. PERFECT. That’s it. That’s all. And the depth, the emotion, the sweet, the funny. To me… simply… wonderful.
So many of us 5-star-loved it, including Jackie, who also sent a few questions Colleen’s way.
Jackie: “Started Slammed about 5 hours ago…….Its 4.05 am here and I’ve just finished it. What a brilliant book. I loved every page of it.”
I knew you would, Jackie. I know you well.
And now, we get to speak with the author!!! *Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!* Let’s welcome Colleen Hoover!!! (err *blush* .. ermmmm…. is it okay to *squee* at an author?). I did it again, didn’t I? *woops* I keep deafening them!! (That’s okay. They don’t need their ears to write – tee hee!!!)
Maryse hugs Colleen: Welcome Colleen!! I’m so glad we finally get to talk about all of the fun details of this series. I was so excited when I got to *that part* in the book… you know the part. Remember? When I emailed you and said: “Oh noooooooo! No way!! 21% in and I’m laughing ’cause I so didn’t see that coming. This is gonna be fun.” – That’s when I knew you were gonna be one of my new favorite authors!!
You mentioned having the idea for Slammed ”out of the blue” around Christmas time. Had you always wanted to write? Or was this idea for the book, your first inclination that this was in you? Had you ever tried your hand at writing before?
Colleen: Writing has always been one of those far-off, unatainable dreams of mine. I would write stories when I was younger, but have never attempted a novel. I met my husband when I was 16. We married when I was in college and had our first baby when I was 20. By the time I was 25, I had three kids and was working on my Master’s Degree in Social Work. My focus was school, work and raising my boys. When I started writing Slammed, I still wasn’t sure what my purpose was. I just fell in love with the character’s, so I continued writing and I suddenly had two chapters in my hands.
Maryse: What happened when the idea for Slammed came to you? Where were you? How did you react? Did you tell anyone, or did you hole yourself away for the entire period, crying and laughing in a delirious frenzy? LOL!
Colleen: Well, my middle son has always been interested in community theater. He is eight years old and they were holding auditions for Cheaper By the Dozen at our local theater. He auditioned and got a part, but I wasn’t at all prepared for what that would consist of. I work 11 hour days and immediately after work I would take him to practice for up to three hours a night, every night I worked. I would have to sit in the auditorium while they practiced so I would read. I have always loved Slam Poetry and was searching for a fiction novel where a character Slammed. I couldn’t find one that included the subject, so I just thought, “I guess I’ll write one, then.” And that night I started the first paragraph. I tried to do an outline but that went out the window every time another sentence would pop into my head. I wrote every night at his rehearsals, then would write until 2am most nights. Once I started, I just couldn’t stop! So yes, i was a delirious loon for an entire month!
Maryse: Can’t find a book you’re looking for, so just write it yourself. Ahhhhh!! Interesting concept!! At what point did you realize that Slammed would turn into something that you would publish (or did you know from the beginning that this was going to be a book)?
Colleen: Oh I had no idea. I remember handing the first three chapters to my mom one day, wanting her opinion on it. My mother is NOT a mother that will tell you what you want to hear. If she thought it sucked, I knew beyond a doubt she would be the first one to tell me. So naturally, I waited by my phone for two hours for her to call. We were going to the casino that night, so the phone finally rang and she said, “Are you ready to go?” We hung up the phone and she didn’t even mention the book. When she pulled up in my driveway and I got in the car, I was so nervous as to what she was going to say. I had fallen in love with the characters and wanted more than anything for someone else to love them, too. As soon as i got in the car, she started bawling. She butterflying loved it. She just kept saying over and over, “It’s so good. It’s soooo good.”
Of course I had left her hanging in the hallway scene, which was pretty cruel of me. lol.
I needed a second opinion, though. Deep in the back of my mind, I thought she was just partial because her daughter wrote it. So, I gave it to my boss, Stephanie, to read. As soon as she finished, she was extremely excited. Their enthusiasm encouraged me to keep going.
Maryse. OMG!! Left hanging at the hallway scene!?? That was where I totally freaked the first time. Of course, it’s also where I just KNEW I was hooked! I was already hooked.. of course with all that intensity, but in the hallways. I was delightedly hooked.
You also mentioned that you wrote it in a month, and barely got any sleep while working and writing. I can just imagine the story flowing right out of you into your computer. Tell us about that experience.
Colleen: December 2011 was by far the craziest month of my entire life. Not only was my husband only home 3 days that month (he worked on the road), but I worked 7am to 6pm, had three boys, and of course the theater production rehearsals. I carried around my laptop everywhere I went. I would get up sometimes at 5am and write before work. I would write during rehearsals. I would write until 2am on weeknights and sometimes 5am on weekends. I literally lived off of four hours a sleep a day for the entire month. But I freaking loved it! I was so in love with this story and the characters, it was like I was on a constant adrenaline high. I couldn’t get it out fast enough.
Maryse: Wow that was a lot of work! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Although… sometimes some of our best work happens when we’re running on creative adrenaline alone. Obviously this was the case, here. How did you feel once Slammed was complete? Elated? Relieved? Nervous?
Colleen: I remember I finished the last scene on Christmas Eve. My mother was anxiously awaiting the last chapter, so I went and dropped it off at her house. Later when I went to pick it up, she didn’t say much. I asked what she thought and she shrugged her shoulders and said, “it was good.”
“Good?” I said. “I just gave you the last Chapter of a book I wrote and you just say it’s ‘good?’”
She was honest. She said she felt like something was missing and she was absolutely right. I went back home, added Will’s last slam and took it back to her. She cried after she read it and looked up at me and said, “It’s done.”
Maryse: “It’s done.” Oh wow!! Both my husband and I just LOVED that little tidbit!!! We both “awwwwww’d”. What a wonderful memory. All of that anticipation. Our mothers always push us to do out best, though and I’m glad, because there is NOTHING I’d want to change about Slammed. When did you decide to write Point of Retreat?
Colleen: I actually had no intention to write a sequel. About a week after I released Slammed, I started getting emails begging me to do a second book. I even went so far as to post a blog about it, stating that there would be no second book because their story was finished in my opinion.
Little did I know, Lake wasn’t happy about that. I was laying in bed one night and was thinking back about the last chapter of Slammed, wondering what would have happened if Lake wouldn’t have been brave enough to tell Will how she really felt. I thought, “Isn’t that bothering Lake? Just a little bit? Isn’t she wondering what ‘might have been’ had she not went to Club N9NE that night?” I shot straight up out of bed and started jotting down notes to take their relationship further. I think Lake needed confirmation that Will honestly would have done anything he could have to be with her.
Maryse: I am thrilled Lake continued speaking to you. We weren’t ready for it to end, and I can hope that they might speak to you again sometime… Were there any moments in that book that were taken from real life? Do any of your characters resemble people you know? If you could have a “dream cast” who would portray your characters?
Colleen: The snowman scene actually happened with my boys. They made a snowman and poured koolaid all over him. It was pretty awesome. And ‘Kel’ was loosely based around my middle son “Cale.” Very unique, but in the best way. My youngest son, Beckham, calls lasagna ‘basagna.’ That’s where I got that from because I think it’s so stinkin’ cute! The other characters I didn’t base on anyone in particular. I’m the one who actually loves Chuck Norris jokes. And The Avett Brothers, of course.
As far as a “dream cast?”
There is a show my husband and I love called SUBURGATORY. I love Jane Levy on that show and would love for her to be Lake.
As far as Will goes, I just think Zac Efron is adorable. I have had a few readers mention to me that they envisioned Will as Darren Criss. He plays Blaine on Glee.
Maryse: Here’s a question from my friend Jackie (that insists I tell you she LOVED the book): “Will *sigh* is so cute – a true gentle soul who obviously loves his brother very much. But I’m curious, where would you see Will, had the accident with his parents not occurred. What path would his life have taken and do you think he’d have been half the guy he is now?”
Colleen: I think the death of his parents definitely forced him to grow up faster, become more responsible than he probably needed to be at such a young age, and definitely formed a deeper bond between he and Caulder. However, I also believe he loved Vaughn and would have married her. He probably would have even been somewhat satisfied with his life. (Until that tart Vaughn did something to screw it up…which we all know she would have done eventually). Like he said in Point of Retreat, even he didn’t realize what love was until he met Lake. So, I believe he would have still been a decent guy, but not near as satisfied…if that makes sense. It’s odd how that worked out….that the death of his parents is ultimately what brought him to the place he needed to be.”
And another question from Jackie: “Eddie Izzard???? A very strange inspiration for a teenage girl character. Where on earth did that come from?” (side note from Maryse: my aunt told us everyone should have an “Eddie” in their lives – she loved her character).
Colleen: What can I say? Eddie was strange! lol.
My father’s name was Eddie and he passed away in 2005. I always thought Eddie would have been a cute girls name and might have considered it for my own daughter had I had one. As far as Eddie Izzard…I have no idea. No idea. I don’t even remember writing that scene to be honest. Sometimes if something was on T.V., or someone was around me when I was writing a scene, they sometimes would get wrote into the book. Like the character Joel? There is a co-worker of mine named Joel who was standing across from me when I was making character notes…so that’s where I got the name Joel from.
Maryse: Did you cry like we did? What was it like to write something on that deep of an emotional level?
Colleen: This is a little crazy. I am not an emotional person AT ALL! I don’t cry at movies, I don’t cry at books and I just. don’t. cry. My older sister always teases me that she sucked all of the emotion out of the womb.
So when people started reading this book and telling me that they cried I would be like, “What? Which part?” When they started naming all of these different scenes that made them cry I just didn’t get it. I was worried people wouldn’t think it was funny….not that they wouldn’t think it was sad. Perhaps that’s why I was able to write emotions that ran a little deeper, because it takes a lot to have an effect on me.
Maryse: Really??!! I’m so glad you were able to dig that deep. It was exactly what I needed to love it to the extent I did!
Jackie also admitted that the book touched her on a deeper level, and she wanted to know: “Slammed is a novel that contains a huge amount of tragedy and loss. yet somehow, the message you give is to embrace and live your life to the full. Its a message that I believe you delivered very well, but was it a concern for you when writing the book, that it would be seen as a depressing storyline and what efforts did you take to counteract this? Also, this is obviously a controvertial storyline – were you concerned by public reaction?”
Colleen: I LOVE to play devil’s advocate. If people come to me with a problem, I turn it around on them and like to make them look at it from another point of view. So I wanted to take something that is unethical, and make the reader empathize and root for it. I’m hoping I can sort of incorporate this into future books, because I had so much fun doing it. Was I worried about public reaction? ABSOLUTELY! I was so scared for my children’s teachers to read it and what they might think of me. Not a single person has mentioned it! It’s odd, really. Sure, they may be talking all kinds of crap behind my back, but so far no one has had anything but positive things to say about that aspect of the book.
As far as the message I gave in Slammed, that is going to take a little explaining that may not make sense. I didn’t have a particular way of setting up the plot or storyline in Slammed. If you saw the outline I had in mind, you would laugh because it SOOO didn’t go there. The first poem I had Will perform for Lake wasn’t even the one titled ‘death.’ In fact, after i finished chapter two, I didn’t even know his parents were dead. lol. I got a little further and decided to go back and re-write that scene. Once I wrote it, I had no idea I was going to use the poem again to deliver a message until the end of the book when I was writing that scene. I was like, “Oooh! That’s good! This is good!” I was so excited. In fact, I didn’t even know what was going to happen to Julia until a chapter before it happened. That’s when I went back and did a little foreshadowing. It’s very strange how this book fell together…it just literally fell together. It was like these characters were real and they were just in my head telling me their story. At first, this book was going to be mostly about Will and Lake trying to figure out how they could be together. I knew the reader would be anticipating the moment they ‘got caught.’ But I knew the story had to be bigger than that. Their relationship had to be more than just them getting to be together. I wanted to show that sometimes the things you think are so important, are really quite insignificant in the grand scheme of life.
Maryse. I love when authors “go with the flow”. Let the characters tell their story. I’ve heard authors say that before, and it’s usually about the books I’ve loved the most. Music was also a big inspiration to you, it seems. The Avett Brothers and their beautiful lyrics/quotes scattered throughout the chapters are poignant and perfectly detail the very feelings experienced in each chapter. I’d love to hear more about that band. Do they know that they were a huge influence in your writing?
Colleen: Oh, I doubt they know. lol. I emailed their record company before I published it and politely asked if I could use some of their lyrics. When they replied with a ‘yes,’ I printed the letter out and kept it. I was stoked! They did truly inspire me, though. I first started listening to them in 2010. Every time I would listen to them, it would astound me at how I made it the first 30 years of my life without them. Their lyrics were so raw and profound and beautiful. They had such an impact on my life, I thought the only way I could repay them was to display their talent in my book in hopes that it would garner them a few extra fans. It has, and I’m ecstatic about it!
One song in particular has a line that says, “Decide what to be…and go be it.”
Well, I had never done that. I settled on my degree for the sake of raising my family. After hearing those lyrics, I decided that I wanted to be a writer and then I went and ‘be’d it.’ lol.
Seriously, they are some of the nicest, most genuine guys on earth. I had added their page and their father’s page to my facebook profile back in January. Their father sent me a message making a joke about my profile pic (It was the band). I wrote him back and told him that I loved his boys’ music so much that I dedicated a book to them. He offered to send me his new c.d. in exchange for a book, so I signed one and sent it to him. He sent me several c.d.’s in return. He is such a genuine, thoughtful person. I flipped out! lol. I’m not gonna lie.
Maryse: Oh wow!!! I LOVE that. They sound like a great family, and their music and lyrics are truly inspirational. I was in awestruck by each of the little tidbits you had from their lyrics, scattered throughout. “Decide what to be…and go be it.” Beautifully said!!
Another inspiration was the “Slam” poetry. What about Slam poetry? How were you introduced to it, what were your initial reactions, and do you participate in real live slams? Any funny (or scary) moments you’d like to share?
Colleen: Actually, I watched a documentary about it on HBO a couple of years back called “Brave New Voices.” I was mesmerized. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. They were high school kids, and extremely talented. I have never Slammed before and can honestly say I never will. I’m not near brave enough. After I published the book in January, my best friends and I decided we would go check it out in person. We went to the Women of the World Poetry Slam qualifiers in Dallas and it was un-freaking-believable. Honestly one of the most amazing things I’d experienced. I felt like I didn’t do them justice in my book at all. But hopefully that’s just me being sceptical. There are slams held all over the nation and it should be a requirement that everyone attend at least one! Mr. Cooper was right.
Maryse: I’d love to see something like that live. My reactions just to the slams in the book were from deep within me. I just… connected perfectly to the rhythm, the words, the images. Do you have any of your own slam-poetry pieces you’d like to share with us? Of course we were privy to the touching and emotional poetry from “Will” and “Lake. Gorgeous, heart wrenching, and so vividly detailed. Those poems helped bring us into their lives on a deeper level. But do you have something you’ve personally “slammed” in public?
Nope. Don’t slam.
Maryse: Bummer!! Well your “written slams” rock!!! So. What are you working on next?
Collen: Dun Dun Dun!!!! April 1st marked four months since I wrote the first word to Slammed, now I have two novels. I have written so much these past four months that I have to wear a wrist brace on my hand. lol. It’s really sad. I’m definitely going to rest for a at least a month or two and conjure up some more ideas. I’d love to hear what people think about a book from Eddie’s point of view. I’ve had a few people ask for that, and who wouldn’t want to get inside Eddie’s head for a while? That girl is something else!
Maryse: Ahhhh yes. I’ve heard of that too, with authors. Double bummer!! *maryse sends her good healing thoughts to Colleen’s wrist. Not for selfish purposes. Nooooo. Nuh uh.* ;) Oh hey!! I know!!! Is there possibly any room for a girl book blogger (extra) that just happens to be named Maryse in your next book (tee hee!!). Or maybe just an extra in the crowd? LOL!! Hey a girl’s gotta ask
Colleen: You never know!