High school tends to be a mixed bag. Some of us look back on those years with fondness, others try to forget it as much as possible.
These days, I fall somewhere between the two. I’d never go back and relive that time, but I can glance over my shoulder now and pick out the best parts. And it’s those parts I hang onto, the memories that shine the brightest and bring a small sense of wistfulness the present often lacks.
I think what most people remember from that time is how BIG it all felt. Every personal slight, every heartbreak, every first, every happiness… it was all blindingly brighter, taking up every inch of our mental space and expanding past the corners of our emotions until we thought we might explode, unable to contain the MUCHNESS of it all.
And that is what I looked back on as my (yikes) 20th high school reunion approached last year. That MUCHNESS is what fueled a 19-day explosion of words that I couldn’t have stopped if I tried. I wanted to capture that feeling and surround it with the best things I remember from those days; the times I still cherish, even if they were sandwiched with many days I’d rather erase than relive.
Even for the ostracized, there are places we feel at home. There are people, even if they’re very few, who can feel like a shield against the storm. Growing up, I was heavily involved in the music program, and it was the one place I (mostly) felt this way. Sure, there were people in those groups I would’ve rather not have been there, but, on the whole, and especially my senior year, the choir room was a refuge. Rehearsals were a blessing. Performances were a place to let go. And the ones who excelled in these programs… the triple threats… they amazed me. There was magic in them, whether or not they’d agree with me, and anyone who knew them or saw them perform was affected by their gifts and skills. I would’ve loved to have been one of them myself, but, alas, I wasn’t nearly as talented or dedicated or brave enough to take the leaps they did.
I sure did love watching them shine, though.
All of the above came together in a perfect storm of inspiration. The words flowed and coalesced into the book that went live yesterday. It’s entirely fictional, however, there were a few gems I plucked from reality and set in this book. These tiny references are nods at the past, and I think will elicit smiles from the people who lived those years with me. The most obvious of these is the school these characters attend. I tweaked a few things, but the layout will be very familiar to anyone who’s been to East High School. I may not have graduated from there, but I spent three years there, and it left its mark in my memory for sure.
And if you haven’t been, here’s a setting reference for you, should you pick this one up and want to know in painstaking detail where Trina and Ethan spend their time.
It’s amazing what this photo evokes in me, if I’m being honest. It’s part nostalgia and part anxiety; part hell, and part home. I think it’s impossible to fully describe what I feel when I see this picture. I haven’t been there in person in over 20 years, so I can’t imagine how it would feel to stand there now. Even within this shot, I can point to specific memories and people that exist like ghosts in my mind. I can remember conversations and inside jokes. I can remember how the wind felt on winter days when I was bolting from the parking lot to the music entrance, the way the air would kick up and blow your hair back when you opened the door. And stepping inside… the smell of aging sheet music and the sounds of a piano being plunked and the latches of instrument cases opening.
It was a mixed bag, for sure, but those years are chiseled into my brain.
So… new book, then? Eh heh. It appears I’ve gotten off track.
“In my head, I saw myself zipping down the road, checking the map and matching it up with the mile markers I expected. One, two, three, four, five… I had a good idea of what lay ahead.
“But life put up a little detour in the form of one beautiful boy with a smile I couldn’t get enough of. That side road wound away, and I couldn’t see beyond the first turn.”
Katrina Crawford has a plan for herself, and the first step is getting the heck out of Highland, Iowa. Unfortunately, she still has one year left of high school before she can pursue her dreams of costume design at the college she’s set her heart on.
The problem with plans, though, is that life has its own ideas.
Ethan Clark is king of Rockford Community High School, and is so far out of her league it would be a fantastic joke if she could bring herself to tell it. A triple threat in music and the son of a Christian minister? Yeah, not even in Trina’s dreams would he have a reason to speak to her.
Ethan, however, seems to see things a little differently.
And he sees her differently, too.
That’s gotta be her imagination, though, right?
Life certainly loves a detour, but once you step off the road, how do you get back on?
Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera is… I suppose it’s sort of my ode to those years of muchness. It’s filled with the fondness I feel for that time now that wouldn’t have been possible then. It mashes together the kinds of people I knew, the kind of lives we led, the big things we experienced back then. I suppose that’s how life is, isn’t it? The mundane fades into nothing, while the important things stay. The scars and smiles stick with us; the dreams and heartaches of those turbulent years forever waft around our consciousness, quietly molding and shaping who we are. Those things are all true for the characters in this books. It isn’t their entire story, but it’s an important one that will define who they grow into.
As an added bonus, this book has an accompanying playlist on YouTube if you’d like to hear all the songs mentioned in the book. It’s got some of my all-time favorite tunes, so it was an amazing opportunity to share them with the world.
So there you have it. Happy release day to me, and happy reading to you! x