CONSENT began as a cautionary tale about teacher-student relationships, prompted by a bad experience I'd had in high school. But as I wrote, the novel evolved into something more. Over my very strong objections, Bea and Dane insisted on falling in love, and their story got a lot more complicated. “Complicated” was what I needed, though. It was in that moral gray area where I was able to stretch my wings as a writer and really explore the controversial subject of sexual consent.
What scene was really hard for you to write and why?
It was really hard for me to write that first sex scene. Part of me was very judgy about the whole thing, and I had to rein that in and just allow the two of them to be together. But once I let go of the judgment, the scene flowed.
Is there a scene you particularly love?
About halfway through the book, there is a scene in New York City between Bea and a professor (not Dane). I cried when I wrote that scene; I cry whenever I re-read it. Bea has had a very tough life, but in that scene, the universe shifts for her. Her past, present, and future align like stars, and she manages to transform an old grief into something hopeful and spectacular.
Okay, now I'm crying again.
How long did you work on CONSENT?
A couple of years. I wrote almost two entire first drafts (which were vastly different from each other) before I found my characters and story in the third draft. There was a lot of fear involved in the writing process. At one point, I had to tell myself, convince myself, really, that it was okay to let Dane be a sympathetic character … and that it was okay for him and Bea to fall in love. I had many sleepless nights over those creative decisions. But in the end, it was exactly what was meant to happen.
What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?
Writing CONSENT taught me that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. That I'm capable of recycling a bad personal experience into a compelling work of fiction—a brave new love story—that will hopefully inspire lots of debate and discussion about an important topic.
What do you hope readers will take away from CONSENT?
Different people will have different reactions to CONSENT. It’s a very intense book about a very intense subject. Some people will find it incredibly romantic. Others will find it shocking. In general, my hope is that CONSENT will be a thought provoking, page-turning read.
How long or hard was your road to publication?
I started out ghostwriting for a children’s mystery series. That gig led to other ghostwriting gigs, and pretty soon, I was a full-time writer. But it was many, many years before I wrote my own original novel and got it published. I feel so lucky that this is what I do for a living.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I write every day, either at my home office or at the library or at a coffee shop with my writer friends. The Internet is my Kryptonite, so I try to stay offline as much as possible to avoid getting distracted.
CONSENT is all about classical music, so I played a lot of that while writing. There were days when I listened to the Schumann Fantasy Opus 17 over and over again. It’s the piece that draws Bea and Dane together, and immersing myself in it helped me to find the heart of their relationship. I also listened to the other pieces Bea and Dane share, like this insanely romantic song called “Les Chemins de L’Amour.” (I actually listened to all this music while poring over the original scores so that I could get the details right for the book.)
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Don’t chase trends or crank out some book that you think you’re supposed to write. Write what you love. Writing an entire book is a long-term commitment, kind of like a marriage, and it’s really, really, really hard work. You have to deep-down love it and believe in it in order to stay with it through the hard times.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a bunch of projects, including a mystery set in Alaska, a dystopian fantasy inspired by Chernobyl and Fukushima, another sort-of-fantasy about monsters, and some other stuff, too. I’m constantly inspired by the world around me, and my head is always swirling with new book ideas.
Thank you for having me here!
ABOUT THE BOOKConsent by Nancy Ohlin
In this sexy and intriguing novel, an intense—and passionate—bond between a high school senior and her music teacher becomes a public scandal that threatens the reputation of both.
Bea has a secret.
Actually, she has more than one. There’s her dream for the future that she can’t tell anyone—not her father and not even her best friend, Plum.
And now there’s Dane Rossi. Dane is hot, he shares Bea’s love of piano, and he believes in her.
He’s also Bea’s teacher.
When their passion for music crosses into passion for each other, Bea finds herself falling completely for Dane. She’s never felt so wanted, so understood, so known to her core. But the risk of discovery carries unexpected surprises that could shake Bea entirely. Bea must piece together what is and isn’t true about Dane, herself, and the most intense relationship she’s ever experienced in this absorbing novel from Nancy Ohlin, the author of Beauty.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORNancy Ohlin is the author of Consent; Always, Forever; and Beauty. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Nancy divided her time between there and Ohio. She received a BA in English from the University of Chicago, and she lives in Ithaca, New York, with her family. Learn more at NancyOhlin.com.
Have you had a chance to read CONSENT yet? Do your characters do things despite your very strong objections? Does it take you multiple drafts to find your characters?
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