I’m deeply in love with the characters, at least the good ones. I resent the bad ones in a wholehearted, obsessive sort of way that may be unhealthy. I hope the characters are as rich and alive for readers as they are for me.
Mara is one of those characters that felt like she “came” to me, rather than like I invented her. I sat down to write one day and did this thing I often do as an exercise, which is to say, “Anyone who wants to talk to me, start talking,” and then write the first words that come into my head. Whether this is an exercise in spirituality, insanity, or the power of suggestion is anyone’s guess. All I know is that it works for me. Words always leap into my head when I prompt myself like this.
That day, I heard, “Momma and Willy Macyntire made Iggy in a barn.” I wrote it down, and more words came. Within a couple of hours, I had this beautiful, broken character and twenty pages that would eventually become the outline for Beauty of the Broken. With this novel, I’ve always felt like the characters were writing the novel, and I was transcribing their story for them. I was as surprised by the events of the book as any reader. I had no idea what was going to happen next.
Early readers of Beauty of the Broken have been furious with me about the death of one of the characters. “You traumatized me,” they say, and I can only say that I traumatized myself too. Every time I read that book, I die a little.
I don’t know. Maybe I just refuse to take responsibility for my actions. I feel this perhaps alarming lack of culpability for the way the book turned out. I think I’ll get a T-shirt that says, “Don’t blame me. I just wrote it.”
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
People keep acting like I’m some overnight success, and it makes me laugh. I started writing when I could pick up a pen. Literally. As soon as I could form letters, I started writing books. My first was a cautionary tale about a kitten who enjoyed chasing hail and got beat up in the process. It was brilliantly titled Don’t Chase Hail! Such nuance. The illustrations were epic.
I first started trying to publish when I was 18. I had this weird beginner’s luck. The very first thing I sent out, a picture book manuscript called Whose Toes Are Those?, sold immediately for $1,000 to a small publisher. The publisher immediately went out of business and never actually published the book. But hey, I got paid.
That was the last money I made from writing for ten years. I wrote obsessively, submitted my work constantly, and got nothing but rejections. I finally sold my first article to a major magazine when I was 28.
During that time, I worked on five books, four of which I completed. One of my novels got agented, but didn’t sell. I got an MFA. By then, I was publishing in journals and magazines regularly, and one of my travel pieces got picked up for Best Travel Writing 2010, which led to me teaching a travel writing workshop at San Miguel Writers Conference in 2012, where I met my current agent, Andy Ross. He fell in love with my writing but didn’t like the book I was pitching. He asked if I had anything else, and I sent him Beauty of the Broken, which I kind of thought of as a throw-away book. Andy disagreed. He signed me within a week, and within weeks of sending the manuscript out, we had multiple publishers interested.
I was 41 when we closed the deal for Beauty of the Broken with Simon and Schuster. That means my overnight success took 24 years. Those years were paved with rejection and Ramen noodles. But during those years, I always, always knew this would happen, even if it happened when I was 100. I always believed in my writing, and I always worked on making myself the best writer I could be. I heard that 1 out of 10,000 completed novels gets published, so I told myself, “I have to be better than 9,999 other writers,” and I did everything I could to be that. I wrote for hours every day. I kept sending my work out. I simply refused to take “no” for an answer, and now, here I am: finally, an overnight success.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
I was inspired to write Beauty of the Broken by the protagonist Mara. She came to me during a brainstorming session, and I couldn’t stop writing her. People are describing Beauty of the Broken as an “issues” novel, but I really didn’t write it with the intention of tackling a big issue. I wrote it because I was in love with a character, who just so happened to have really big issues.
ABOUT THE BOOKBeauty of the Broken by Tawni Waters Hardcover Simon Pulse Released 9/30/2014 In this lyrical, heartwrenching story about a forbidden first love, a teen seeks the courage to care for another girl despite her small town’s bigotry and her father’s violent threats.
Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.
As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.
Mara knows she can't live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin? Purchase Beauty of the Broken at Amazon Purchase Beauty of the Broken at IndieBound View Beauty of the Broken on Goodreads