So yeah, I read The Fault is in Our Stars, and I loved it. I laughed, I cried, and I asked myself over and over, “How can I write a book this good?” Of course, this question led me to an unfortunate answer. I am not John Green, and thus do not have his sense of humor, his philosophy of life, his life experience, nor his unique perspective. So I can’t write a book like he wrote, but I decided I could write a book about life, loss, and love, only through my own personal lens.
I believe that being alive qualifies me to write a book about life, and I’m in love with my husband and my children, so that area is covered too. But loss? I’ve been pretty lucky, actually. Of course, there have been tough times and depressing periods, when it seemed there was no way past whatever obstacle I faced. I can also remember being a teenager, to have that raw feeling of wanting everything. I believed nothing was impossible and my number one fear was that my “real life” would never begin. I recalled that while I wrote The Next Breath, and I pictured being young but knowing my days were numbered. I imagined falling in love for the first time, with a beautiful boy who had lungs that failed him.
Robin, my main character in The Next Breath is very healthy and exceedingly strong. Her strength is both her biggest burden and her greatest strength. She doesn’t always realize how strong she is, but it is through her strength that she is able to love and stay with Jed, who is not healthy. Years later, it is also through her strength that she finally confronts the demons that came with losing him.
But there are lots of novels with characters like Robin, right? So I asked myself, “How do I make this story unique?” First, I decided to use humor whenever I could. Jed reminds Robin that “Comedy is tragedy, plus timing,” and I couldn’t agree more. Whether she’s going for her morning run, competing with her siblings in a one-armed game of pool, getting breakup hair, or simply ruminating on her life, Robin is always finding humor in her situation.
Another way I decided to make The Next Breath unique was by drawing from my own experiences. I majored in theater in college, and I spent years acting and performing. It was fun to remember that time of my life, but writing “Jed’s” play was tough; it had to be profound, emotional, and well-written. It had to be a satisfying way to complete Robin’s character arc. Oh, and it had to make sense. But I knew if I could achieve all that, I would have written a book like no other. It would be a book that I could be proud was uniquely my own.
Finally, I did a lot of research. Jed had cystic fibrosis. I wanted to describe his disease accurately, so I read a lot of personal accounts of what it’s like to have CF. Eva Markvoort’s blog, 65_Red Roses, was especially compelling and descriptive. She was so tough, honest, and loving. She was committed to living life fully, for however long she had. And, she was generous enough to describe her life so vividly, that I, along with many others, felt like I knew her just by reading her blog.
I tried to give Jed some of her fortitude, wisdom, and kindness. I felt like a better person for having “known” Eva Markvoort through her writing, and I aimed to make Robin a better person for having known Jed.
So that’s the story of how I didn’t write The Fault is in Our Stars, but how I did grow and learn while I wrote The Next Breath. And that, if nothing else, makes me happy.
The countdown to The Standout's November 10th release has begun! To celebrate, The Next Breath is only 99 cents, but this price won't last! Download your copy today, because tomorrow it's back to $3.99!
Click HERE to download The Next Breath (which received Honorable Mention for Women's Fiction in the 2015 RONE Awards!)