I’m not sure what finally pushed me over the edge. Was it the 2015 mass shooting in Paris? Was it the Orlando nightclub shooting of 2016? Was it moving to Chardon, Ohio, where, in 2012, a high school student opened fire and killed three of his classmates?
I can’t be sure of the exact moment when my brain screamed, “Enough!” I do know that the first words of the first draft of We Still Live were penned August 16, 2016. I also know I signed a contract with NineStar Press yesterday that will finally bring this manuscript to life.
A rough “about the book:”
Running from a scandal that shattered his marriage and threatened to ruin his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter. John carries with him the gravity of the event as well as the last words the shooter spoke before taking his own life.
When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for Being Frank, the school’s contentious literary magazine focused on the shooting and its victims, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair, both men assuaging past pain through their present embrace—until Simon arrives.
Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered by an attempted attack, John must come to terms with the truth of that bloody day on College Green and the irony of his nickname, “the Hambden hero.” Isaac intends to love John completely, but he can’t with John hiding so much of himself, frightened of revealing the severity of his mental illness and its true cause. For both Isaac and John, the misdeeds of their pasts might destroy what they could become.
We Still Live is about a college shooting, but the shooting isn’t the focus; the aftermath is. What happens to the survivors, including the hero who stopped the bloodshed? What happens to a small town racked with grief?
Told by way of a tragic love story, the novel also tackles mental illness (especially depression, anxiety, and PTSD), but it’s not all sad. There’s love, too, because we need love to heal—and understanding, especially as John plummets and Isaac realizes maybe he can’t save him.
I have spent years fighting my own demons. I recently started a blog, Successfully Mad, where I write openly about my mental health battle. Like John, I have trouble watching the news. I cry every time there’s another shooting.
We Still Live is an exorcism of many personal fears. Not only is the setting based on Athens, Ohio (location of my alma mater Ohio University), but also every character is a little bit of me. The meltdowns are me. The self-medicating is me. Maybe it’s a little bit of you, too.
We Still Live is funny, sad, sexy, and dark. It’s a mirror, reflecting back the things we fear and don’t want to face. Sometimes, everything isn’t going to be all right, but that’s okay, as long as we keep living.
Release details coming soon, but many thanks to NineStar Press for believing in me and in this book.