Book Title: Life After Juliet
Author: Shannon Lee Alexander
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Genre: Contemporary YA
Becca Hanson was never able to make sense of the real world. When her best friend Charlotte died, she gave up on it altogether. Fortunately, Becca can count on her books to escape—to other times, other places, other people…
Until she meets Max Herrera. He’s experienced loss, too, and his gorgeous, dark eyes see Becca the way no one else in school can.
As it turns out, kissing is a lot better in real life than on a page. But love and life are a lot more complicated in the real world…and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed.
The companion novel to Love and Other Unknown Variables is an exploration of loss and regret, of kissing and love, and most importantly, a celebration of hope and discovering a life worth living again.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been back in school. I don’t really do days anymore. Time is measured in pages. I’ve read 3,718 pages since Dad dropped me off on the first day. It’s been 108,023 pages since Charlotte died. I’ve read 150 pages since I stepped on the bus this morning. It’s been ten pages since I thought of Charlotte.
She’s not coming back, and I don’t know what else to do, so I keep turning the pages.
However long I’ve been back at Sandstone High, the advanced literature and composition teacher, Mrs. Jonah, informed me yesterday that I am no longer allowed to “sit like a bump on a log, reading books” in her class. I find this strange, but then, I don’t understand the real world. I’ve given up trying to make any kind of sense of it. Today in class, I am sitting like a bump on a log, staring out the window.
Sandstone is a typical high school, unlike the fancy math and science school on the other side of town that Charlie graduated from last spring. It’s the kind of building that’s been pieced together—add a wing here, convert a gym there, dump mobile units here—throughout the decades as the town’s population grew and it had to be quickly expanded. There’s no one defining style. It’s a mishmash. The kids who go here are also diverse, so it’s not hard for me to fade into the background.
Lit and Comp is a junior course. The guidance counselor signed me up for it at the end of last year. She described it as a lively class full of opportunities for personal and artistic growth. In other words, it’s my worst nightmare. I’ve decided growth is overrated.
Mrs. Jonah’s classroom is long and narrow, with a wall of windows down the side. She’s decorated the wide windowsill with spindly spider plants, stacks of books, empty vintage Coke bottles that catch the sunlight, and a bust of Sir Isaac Newton, which is strange since she’s not a science teacher.
Mrs. Jonah raps on her desk now to get our attention. She stands and brushes invisible lint off her black pencil skirt. Tall and unafraid of wearing high heels, she towers over everyone in the school, even the basketball coach. Her pixie haircut and makeup are always perfect. She’s the most with it human I’ve ever seen.
“Time’s up,” she says. “Please, pass your quizzes forward.”
I’ve been done with my quiz for what would have been about twenty pages, if reading were still allowed in Lit class. I pass my paper to the boy in front of me. He runs his hand through his choppy black hair and smiles. His lips are chapped, and the smiling pulls the raw skin too tight. It makes me wince. I instantly feel bad, because I remember this guy.
Max. He was in Mr. Bunting’s World History class with Charlotte and me last year. He was the only student at Sandstone who spoke directly to me after Charlotte died. He came right up to me in history, cleared his throat so I’d look up from my book and said, “Sorry for your loss.”
I remember I got up and left the room. It was either that or start crying.
He’s still looking at me now. I should say something, something nice, like “Thank you for your condolences.” Instead, I look out the window again.
Max sighs, soft like the riffle of book pages, as he turns around and passes our quizzes forward. I’m used to that sound. It’s the sound of my father when I refuse to put my book down and come join my mother and him. The sound of my mother when she realizes I’ve been listening to the book characters in my head instead of her. Lately, I’m really only safe lost in the pages of a book. Outside, in the real world, it’s like I’m walking around with no skin. Everything hurts.
Guest Post – Character Development and Outlining
As a reader, I read stories for the characters. A good plot is a nice addition, but I’m really pulling up my comfy chair and mug of coffee for the characters. So when I began writing my own stories, I naturally gravitated to creating full and meaningful characters.
I’ve always had voices in my head. As a kid, I didn’t know this was weird. I thought everyone lived in a world where the insides of their brains were bursting with people and places and adventures. It came as a shock to me, as an adult, to learn from my husband that this isn’t true. He’s never heard voices having a funny conversation or arguing or anything else in his head before. He gave me a look like maybe he shouldn’t be leaving me alone with the children anymore, but I explained that it wasn’t like the voices talked to me. They talked amongst themselves and I just listened.
Later I discovered my husband is constantly counting and doing math equations in his head. Now that’s shocking, if you ask me!
So, I come from a world of characters and the trick for me is to listen carefully. Eventually someone (or a group of someones) gets louder than the others, and then I’ll start writing down what I’m seeing and hearing in my head. Once I understand who I’m working with, I have to actually start doing some work.
I’m not a planner when it comes to writing. But I will use the character template in Scrivener to start collecting characters for a new story. I don’t fill it out fully, but will note things like physical description, quirks and tics, favorite sayings, and most importantly, I try to sum up in one sentence what each character’s internal desire is. External goals are easy to change as I write, but it’s impossible to go back and change a character at his/her core.
Next, I start writing. I write lots of scenes, placing my characters in as many situations as I can create within their world. I’ll have them try on different emotions and explore their world through their own eyes. Most of these scenes will never make it into the final draft, but they help me understand my characters from the inside out. And if I understand them that well, then I can write them well, too.
For my latest work in progress, I actually took the time to find photos of teens online that reminded me of my characters. I printed the photos out on index cards and then on the back I filled in the following information: emotional need, desire, controlling belief, stakes, strategy, and outcome. By doing this for each character (including secondary characters), I had a quick reference to go back to whenever I needed reminding about what makes my character real.
I’m still not sure it was worth my time to make the Character Cards, but I’m always up for learning new things and improving my craft, so we’ll see how it works! What kinds of things do you all do to help you develop characters?
Thanks for having me on the blog, today! I love getting to make new bookish friends!
Shannon Lee Alexander
About the Author:
Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife and mother (of two kids and one yellow terrier named Harriet Potter). She is passionate about coffee, books, and cancer research. She spent most of her time in high school hiding out in the theater with the drammies and techies. Math still makes her break out in a sweat. She currently lives in Indianapolis with her family.
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Giveaway Information: Contest ends May 27, 2016
Open internationally, but prize packs ship only to US. International winners will receive Amazon gift cards (listed below).*
- Grand prize: Hyperboles are the best EVER! tote bag, a 4oz. Novelly Yours Antique Books candle, Toe-meo and Juliet Shakespearean socks, Life after Juliet poison and dagger necklace, Velveteen Rabbit note card, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate*
- 1st Runner Up: Hyperboles are the best EVER! tote bag, a 4 oz. Novelly Yours Antique Books candle, Toe-meo and Juliet Shakespearean socks, Life after Juliet dagger earrings, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate*
- 2nd Runner Up: 2oz. Novelly Yours Antique Books candle, Life after Juliet dagger earrings, Velveteen Rabbit note card, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate*
- 3rd Runner Up: 2oz. Novelly Yours Antique Books candle, Life after Juliet dagger earrings, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate*
*All contests are open internationally, but international winners will receive the following:
- Grand prize: $25 Amazon gift card, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate
- 1st Runner Up: $20 Amazon gift card, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate
- 2nd runner up: $15 Amazon gift card, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate
- 3rd runner up: $10 Amazon gift card, signed Life after Juliet bookmark and bookplate