Saturday, October 20, 2018

0 Candice Montgomery, author of HOME AND AWAY, on writing without fear as best you can

We're delighted to have Candice Montgomery join us to chat about their debut novel, HOME AND AWAY.

Candice, what was your inspiration for writing HOME AND AWAY?

This is hard. One part of it that I can share is that I had seen that image of the blond girl high school football player and the cheerleader who's doing up her ponytail. And everyone was like OMFGG THEYRE GIRLFRIENDS!!!1! But the thing that stuck in my brain was, yo, what if they were Black though? What if they were best friends who ran in these completely wide open social circles like a ton of high school kids often do? Like I did? And then Taze was a thing.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The scene where Tasia listens to her parents arguing was really hard for me. I experienced a lot of that growing up. It stays with you, tar black.

But the scene I'm most proud of is the one closer to the end between Taze and Victory (you'll know the one). Those kinds of moments stay with you, too. :)

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Oof, I want to say, probably anyyyything Emery Lord writes. Especially THE NAMES THEY GAVE US. Emery is not just one of my best friends but also my muse in a lot of ways. Narrowing down specific books is so much pressure (omgg!) but I'll shout out some authors whose talent makes me weep, like, Lily Anderson, Dahlia Adler, Eric Smith and Corey Ann Haydu's books. They write these incredibly snappy stories with heart and SO MUCH glorious characterization. These literal heartbeats—they're legend, so it feels weird to put myself in the same wheelhouse as them, but their books brought Taze to the forefront for me.

How long did you work on HOME AND AWAY?

I drafted HAA through like half of 2015. And then revised it during that other half before any agent ever saw it. It's taken me YEARS to get it to where it is now, but it was born, essentially, over the course of a year.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I'm worthy. I'm capable. I'm powerful. And as much as those things apply to me, they also apply to the work I produce as an author.

What do you hope readers will take away from HOME AND AWAY?

I just want them to love the little stories. I want them to know they can be fun and romantic and heartachey and exciting and soft and slow but still so exhilarating. I want them to feel like at least one character in this very diverse world is relatable and real.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I think, in retrospect, my road to publication was generally pretty short, by comparison. But still incredibly difficult.

I wrote 3 other books before HAA (1 NA, 1 YA fantasy, and 1 Adult Contemp Rom.) All of which I can honestly say were awful.

I didn't get an agent or sell a lick of anything until HOME AND AWAY, though. All of that happened within a week's time when I pitched in #DVpit and saw some pretty immediate interest. So that was it's own thing. And signing with Jim McCarthy recently—that part still feels a little like a dream. I guess sometimes dreams aren't the result of a ton of pushback.

But having been published now (or pretty close to it)… There's still a long road ahead for me and this career of mine. And my skin color garners me a lot of not cool vibes in the world of publishing. That's it's own fight, too.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Okay. So, I gotta be honest and say that as an author, I actually still have no clue what the hell I'm doing. Never in my writing career have I experienced the AHA! moment, but I'd like someone to notify it—I'm comin' for ya! Because that only happens if you keep going. Keep writing. For a long while, through the duration of my cancer and radiation treatment this year, I wasn't sure if I was interested in pushing myself to write. I did though. And I suppose I'll continue to do so.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?


I listen to lyric-less film scores and Studio Ghibli's "All That Jazz" compilations, mostly. But I also create playlists for every project I start. And even some of the ones I don't. (Here's one for HOME AND AWAY :)

And, okay—I know they say never to work in bed. But I do. I always do. My writing desk isn't for writing, it's for holding unfolded laundry and bills that need paying. And I typically don't write anywhere other than home because I like to blast my music super loud. Plus, I live on a lake, so the view from my place is pretty dope. My only pre-writing ritual is to stretch, foam roll, put on my back brace and connect my bluetooth stereo.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Take it easy, turbo. Take deep breaths. Take one right now—it's so good, I promise, just do it. Take walks. Take a shower every so often, yeah? Meds? Where are those at right now? You get those in today? Good, now food and water. Get after it. Write without fear as best you can. Do not be afraid to ask for what you're worth. Timeout and take notice at the markers of your growth. That's progress. Got all that? Good. Now vibe in it.

What are you working on now?


Right now, I'm working on a contemporary YA called BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. It's about a boy name Torrey who's gone off to college only to find out the bee farm his late uncle/hero willed him is being foreclosed on by the city. It's a fun college-set YA with a group of Black STEM girls I hope to write about more later. Also, probably my favorite thing is how much more romancey this one is going to be than HOME AND AWAY. I've got an Afro-Brasilian love interest lined up for this one who dances ballet and is very devil-may-care and banter-y, I just adore him. He's got a man bun! (Plus, I mean, bisexual boys, ftw!)

ABOUT THE BOOK

Home and Away
by Candice Montgomery
Hardcover
Page Street Publishing
Released 10/16/2018

Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She's a senior, she's got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school's team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them―but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.

Purchase Home and Away at Amazon
Purchase Home and Away at IndieBound
View Home and Away on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Candice Montgomery is an LA transplant now residing in Seattle. By night, she writes YA lit about Black teens across all their intersections. By day, she teaches ballet to teen boys and works in the land of sobriety and rehab. It is the goal of her stories to interrogate the spaces of race, love, the body, and sexuality, all while being a witness of life.

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Have you had a chance to read HOME AND AWAY yet? Do you keep pushing yourself to write? Do you remember to take a shower every so often? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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