Rad-Reader:  What made you want to write this story?

C. E.:  I wanted to tell a story where the main characters were solid in their faiths, but they were still struggling with life. I believe so many of us struggle with simple things that we make into insurmountable obstacles in our hearts and minds. Both Tessa and Ryland are in this place at the beginning of the story. I also liked the idea of their backstory – unrequited love mixed with ‘bullying’. Classic Elementary School love story gone awry. 

Rad-Reader:  Is this meant to be a faith-based story?  Or did it just work out that way?

C. E.:  The intention was always for the connection between the characters to be strengthened and threatened by their personal relationships with God. All too often people raised in the church can get mired down in the work and duty of the church and miss out on the passion and purpose of love filled faith. I believe both Tessa and Ryland found themselves on the “duty” side of faith more than the “passion” side at the beginning of the story. They are both in crisis – of sorts – and a renewing of their faith helps them to not only rely on God but to see each other through His eyes.

Rad-Reader:  What gave you the idea for this story?

C. E.:  I was actually inspired with the opening line of the book: “Tessa Tarrington’s life was in the toilet.” I was walking in a book store, killing time between two sporting events and the opening line popped into my head. I began to think, “Why is Tessa’s life in the toilet?” “What could be so horrible to have caused this terrible thing?” From those initial questions, the story began to unfold and the characters themselves showed me where they were throughout the story.

Rad-Reader:  Can you give us some backstory on Tessa, Ryland, and Joey that the blurb doesn’t give us that helped you form their characters that may not have made it into the books?

C. E.:  Growing up Tessa was the “perfect” PK (Pastor’s Kid). She sat quietly in the front row while her father preached. She was quiet and respectful in school, not willing to do anything that may have reflected poorly on her parents. She shrugged off the spotlight – even when her gifts and talents tried to force her forward. With her self-imposed sheltered life, she explored the world through books rather than people. She struggles when the world doesn’t work the way the plot of a novel works. She wants guarantees for her life, but with her work as a ghostwriter, she’s been able to help others work through the messiness of their lives. She is the truth in the cliché “those who cannot do, teach”.
Ryland is the youngest of a family of six. He has no older brothers and has a mixed sense of security as the ‘baby’ of the family and duty as the only living male. With the heavy influence of his sisters and his classic literature loving mother, Ryland has a deep longing to find meaningful relationships – even as a young boy. Losing his father – his touchstone – in his early twenties made him seek out security in any person he can find it, leading to his quick marriage and family in his early twenties. He wanted to recapture the balance he felt in his parents’ home, and his desire for stability overshadowed the gaps in his relationship with his young bride. His wife’s betrayal hurt him, partially out of male pride, but more so out of a need to protect his daughter. Ryland’s need to give Emma the love and care he had growing up drives every one of his decisions. He is seeking a deeper, more profound relationship with God because he continually wants to walk in the long, broad footsteps of his father. 

Rad-Reader:  How long did it take you to write this book?

C. E.:  Tessa and Ryland told their story rather quickly, and the first draft was completed in about nine months. I spent a couple months editing and the MS was submitted to the publisher one year after I had the first sentence inspiration.

Rad-Reader:  We know Ryland comes home to be the coach of his high school football team after playing for the NFL after his wife dies how does she pass?

C. E.:  Macy died in a car accident. She was on her way to meet the man with whom she’d been having an affair.

Rad-Reader:  Why were they going to get a divorce?  What was going on in their marriage?

C. E.:  Macy didn’t want to give up her “NFL” wife life. She pursued and was in an extramarital affair with the quarterback of Ryland’s team.

Rad-Reader:  Why did Ryland leave the NFL?

C. E.:  As is often the case in the NFL and other professional sports, Ryland had reoccurring knee injuries that were causing him to have to rely exclusively and excessively on painkillers. He knew if he continued in the NFL he would become addicted to the painkillers or run the risk of not being able to walk in the future.

Rad-Reader:  How did he not understand that he was singling Tessa out and embarrassing her back in junior high and high school by using her nickname?  Yet, did she ever tell him to stop either?

C. E.:  The easiest answer to the first question is, he was a teenage boy and she was giving him a reaction. And no, Tessa never would have been brave enough to tell him the name hurt her feelings. She also feared the repercussions of her parents finding out that she reprimanded one of the children of a prominent family in the church. She held herself to an unreasonable standard as a PK. All Ryland wanted was for Tessa to give him any form of attention.

Rad-Reader:  Ryland really had it bad for Tessa.  Why did he always go out of his way to embarrass in all the ways he did?  He never explains that.

C. E.:  The truth really is he didn’t have a better way of gaining her attention. After years of working with teenagers, their communication skills are rather limited and this is how a young man often tries to gain the attention of a girl he has liked. If she rejects him, it’s not a big deal, because he was just teasing her, but if she responds with teasing she might be open to meeting him. As an adult, Ryland can’t articulate the whys behind his treatment of Tessa, which is why he takes the verbal abuse from her throughout the story.

Rad-Reader:  Ryland seems to really have a kind heart.  Why is it that Tessa is so scared to be around or take him as a friend or more?

C. E.:  Tessa wants perfect guarantees. She is not a brave person. Her whole life has been lived in the shadows and behind the curtain, allowing others to shine. She lives this way out of a fear of failure. If she takes a risk with Ryland and fails, to her the outcome would be disastrous. For her life was very black and white, and Ryland was bad because of the way he made her feel, growing up. How could she possibly trust the feelings she has for him?

Rad-Reader:  Joey walks in and she melts and lets him call her TT why?

C. E.:  Because with Joey, she is still a teenage girl who has an enormous crush. She would probably melt if he called her “hey you”. She has lived in a fantasy world with Joey, and now that fantasy is coming to life.

Rad-Reader:  What is Joey’s end game with Tessa?

C. E.:  Joey doesn’t have an end game in mind with Tessa. Joey is trying to avoid the challenges in his own life and along comes this beautiful, kind girl he remembers from high school – a time when he was on top and didn’t have life’s pressures beating him down. He wants to ignore his reality. 

Rad-Reader:  Is Joey only kissing up to Tessa to make Ryland jealous so that he will finally make his move already?  He has to know she is Ryland’s longtime crush, right?

C. E.:  Joey is self-involved. He is focused on ignoring his own problems, and Tessa is an excellent diversion. Ryland is his best friend, but Joey is used to being the one that all others defer to…

He knew Ryland had a crush on Tessa, but in his mind, Ryland was married and had a child with another woman. Ryland had twenty years to truly show Tessa he was interested and didn’t take the opportunity. Joey can justify anything

Rad-Reader:  How long is Joey even in town for?

C. E.:  Joey came home to stay with his brother Sean, after the end of the season (October) and was supposed to be in town until the beginning of Spring Training (late February).

Rad-Reader:  Ryland is as jealous as a green-eyed monster.  Yet, will do nothing about it.  Why?

C. E.:   In his mind, he is being noble. He is trying to atone for the years of teasing. He also doesn’t think he is truly worthy of Tessa. She seems to want Joey and he wants her to have whatever she wants…even if it means he suffers.

Rad-Reader:  Joey must be using, the not being aware of, the feelings that Ryland has for Tessa.  Is he?  In order to continue to keep asking her out.

C. E.:  He really is focused on himself and what he wants at the moment. Ryland hasn’t told him to stop and he takes that as a pass to “keep going”.

Rad-Reader:  You know at first, I thought Lily was funny but for her coming from the south to not shake someone’s hand is rude.  Why would she do that and act so hostile?  Before, she got to know who the man is now?

C. E.:  Lily is a bit judgmental, to say the least. She has heard years of stories of how Ryland made Tessa’s elementary through high school years miserable. She is quick to defend her friend. Her fiery temper overrides her Southern hospitality.

Rad-Reader:  Not to mention Ryland has made amends and Lily is acting Bitchy why?  She is rude.

C. E.:  Lily is still in the middle of the pain that Tessa experienced. Although Tessa has forgiven Ryland, Lily hasn’t quite released the anger she has manifested for this man. Yes, she is rude. 

Rad-Reader:  Until Tessa explores what she has with Joey don’t you think she needs to hold back from being alone with Ryland?

C. E.:  That is a fair challenge; however, she quickly becomes involved in a relationship with Ryland’s daughter Emma. She can see in Emma a potential new avenue for her writing and she finds herself loving this little girl. How is she going to avoid her father?

Rad-Reader:  Tessa knows the life Joey’s been living does she see it stopping any time soon if he goes back to playing baseball?  What will he do if he doesn’t play baseball he didn’t finish college?

C. E.:  When Tessa first reconnects with Joey, she is thinking like the sixteen-year-old girl who was head over heels in crush with Joey. She doesn’t fully understand all his struggles until she sees him further into the story. He does a good job protecting her from the destructive behavior he has been engaging in.

Rad-Reader:  If your book was made into a movie who would you want to play…

Tessa:  Margot Robbie

Ryland:  Joe Flacco

Joey:  TJ Watts

Tom:  Richard Gere

Emma:  Child Model - Pinterest

Lily:  Hayden Panettiere

Mabel:  Michelle Pfeiffer

C. E.:  I’ve always thought of this as a “Hallmark Movie”, so my picks are from their bevy of wonderful actors.

Emma:  Brooklyn Rae Silzer (she’s too grown up now)

Rad-Reader:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

C. E.:  When I was four and I was telling stories to my imaginary friend – an eighty-eight-year-old lady I called Grandma Mama. I would sit for hours creating adventures and telling her stories. This childhood experience is not too far off how the characters reveal their stories to me. Of course, my family thinks I’m a little crazy and I talk to myself. 

Rad-Reader:  Who has been your biggest cheerleader to keep you moving forward?

C. E.:  Wow, that is a tough question. I’ve had such amazing support from my family. My mom is always my first reader and is beyond encouraging, with her enthusiasm. My sister has been an unpaid publicist and advocate since I signed my first contract. My dad and my uncles read cheesy romance novels. My aunt has hosted book signings at her church and encouraged her friends to become engaged. The list goes on longer than I can write, which makes dedication pages entirely too difficult.

Rad-Reader:  What would you tell a new young writer coming up?

C. E.:  Write. Write. Write. And be open to all feedback. The first set of notes I received were crushing, but I recognize now that every time I receive notes my work improves.

Rad-Reader:  What are three of the things you can’t leave home without?

C. E.:  Car keys, something to read and a good attitude.

Rad-Reader:  Your favorite food?

C. E.:  Pretty much anything Italian. I love garlic, tomatoes, cheese, and carbs.

Rad-Reader:  Favorite music genre and favorite genre of book to read?

C. E.:   I like most music, but I’ve come to appreciate country music because of the stories told through the lyrics.
I love to read romance, but outside of romance, I really enjoy suspense.

Rad-Reader:  What is your next project and when is it coming out?

C. E.:  My next book is called “Girls of Summer”. It is a Christian Romantic Suspense story about two half-sisters who inherit their father’s business – including a minor league baseball team. They are forced to live together for a year in order to fulfill the edict of the will. The older sister has a past filled with unsavory individuals who try and capitalize on her new wealth.

The release date is a way out as I’m still in, edit.

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers buy your books?  Links

C. E.:  

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find you on the Web?  Links

C. E.:  

     I would really like to thank you for being with us.  It has been my pleasure to be able to read your book.  It was a funny book as well as a serious hit the heartstrings of a lot of our childhoods. 
     It takes the simple thing of stopping and asking for guidance before making a decision.  Something we all have forgotten to do these days.  Thanks for the simple reminder with a story to with it.

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