Today I have the pleasure of hosting Meredith Towbin, author of STRAIGHTJACKET.
Eighteen-year-old Anna has lived her whole life in shame, losing herself in books to cope with crippling panic attacks triggered by her abusive parents. Forced into a psychiatric hospital, she can’t imagine a future that’s anything but bleak—until she meets Caleb, a gifted, 19-year-old artist who insists he’s an angel.
He swears his mission is to help Anna break free from her parents’ control and fulfill a destiny that she can only dream of. The doctors, however, are convinced that Caleb is delusional.
Anna doesn’t want to be that girl who’s in love with the crazy guy, but when she sees his stunning portraits of her and the way he risks everything to keep her safe, she can’t help but imagine a new future for both of them, filled with hope. But just when it seems they’ve created heaven on earth, Caleb’s past emerges full force, threatening to destroy their tiny, blissful world. And Anna has to decide if she should follow her heart, or if Caleb’s really as troubled as his doctors say…
This was the kind of book that really surprised me. It took a completely different turn than I thought it was going to, which is so, so refreshing in today’s world. Here are her answers to my burning questions.
What was your inspiration for Straightjacket, and how did you work to make it stand out from other angel books?
I’ve always been fascinated by psychology (I took a ton of psych classes in college). I knew I wanted the setting for my book to be in a psychiatric hospital just because they kind of scare me and intrigue me at the same time.
As I was creating my characters, I needed to come up with a reason as to why they might be there. Depression/suicidal tendencies is definitely one reason (for Anna), but I wanted something super weird for my other character. I mean, why be normal when you can be super weird, right? After mulling it over for a while, I came up with the idea that Caleb would be delusional and think he was an angel.
It wasn’t my intention to write a paranormal novel, like a lot of the other angel books out there. Caleb might be an angel, and he might not – he’s either completely delusional like his doctor says or supernatural. There’s doubt there, and I think most angel books make the reader suspend disbelief and accept that in the world of the book, angels definitely exist.
What was the single hardest scene to write in the book?
The sex scene, by far! Writing a sex scene, especially for YA, is very difficult, at least for me. I wanted it to be realistic, sweet, overwhelming, but still appropriate. I remember sitting in the Barnes & Noble café writing it, and even though no one knew what I was doing, I still turned 15 shades of red.
If one song out there could define your book, what would it be?
Funny you ask because there was one particular song that hugely inspired the book. Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark” was it. I love that song, and I would listen to it and think that I really wanted to write a book about two people that love each other so much that if one of them died, the other one would die too just so they wouldn’t have to go it alone.
If you met your main character at a bar, how would you interact?
If I met Anna at a bar, she probably wouldn’t talk to me. She’d plant herself in a corner and look as inconspicuous as possible. If I met Caleb there, I’d be the one not talking to him because I’d be intimidated by his coolness. And if he happened to come up and talk to me, I’d be a blubbering idiot.
If you could live in any literary universe, which would it be?
I absolutely loved the Wicked series by Gregory Macguire. Oz is definitely not the happy-go-lucky place out of The Wizard of Oz, but even so it’s magical and full of amazing characters that I would love to get to know.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
In real life I am a major organizer – it’s all about lists and calendars and putting things in places they belong. I have a minor (ok, major) obsession with The Container Store. So I figured when I went to write a book, I’d of course outline everything and know exactly where things were going.
I used my outline for the first chapter and then went totally off the rails. I realized that I’m a pantser when it comes to writing. I might know what will happen two or three chapters ahead, but it can always change. I think it keeps it fresher for me, like I’m reading along with it even though I’m the one doing the writing.
How has writing changed your life?
It was always my dream to write a novel, but for many years, I was too scared of failing to actually try. Now that I’ve gotten up the courage to do it, I really feel like it’s a dream come true, whether or not what I write gets published. Because there are definitely things I’ve written that haven’t gotten published.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Carve out time every day that you devote to writing. There are always a million excuses as to why there’s no time. There’s never a good time. Believe me. Make yourself do it just for an hour. I wrote STRAIGHTJACKET in one-hour increments. Five months later I had a book. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish if you just make it a priority.
Find more about STRAIGHTJACKET & Meredith Towbin here: