(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Dana was written by D. L. Pitchford.)
Kelly finished clearing off a space on a shelf in her Muse Shop and nodded content. She’d finally taken the time to make room for more items she’d collected from the story realm, so she needed to retrieve them, but she heard the door chime first, so she stepped back and a woman enter her shop, her gaze taking in the quaint little place.
Kelly stepped away from the shelf and smiled at her visitor. “Hi, I’m Kelly Blanchard. Welcome to my shop. Please come in! You must be D. L. Pitchford. Wonderful to meet you! Would you care for some freshly baked homemade chocolate chip cookies? Or something to drink before we go and sit down to chat?”
Dana looked up from admiring the wares on the shelves at the sound of the voice, and her gaze fell on the speaker, only a few feet away now. “Uh, yes,” she said, brushing a few strands of hair behind her ear, “You can call me Dana.” She glanced around the room again before taking another step toward Kelly. “A glass of water would be wonderful.”
“Fantastic. One second.” Kelly disappeared in the back for a moment and returned with a cool glass of water, offering it to Dana. “Here. Would you like to sit down? We can sit at the table near the window. It’s nice there. Afterwards, you’re welcome to explore the shop and see what you can find!” Kelly smiled then led the way to the table and sat. Once Dana sat as well, Kelly smiled once more at her. “So, tell me about yourself. What do you do in real life? Full-time writer? Or do you have a job on the side? Or what exactly?”
Shifting her weight to get comfortable, Dana took a sip of the proffered water. “I’d like to say I’m a full-time writer, but that’s nowhere near true. I stay at home with my son while my husband runs the kitchen of a restaurant. Before we started having kids, I was a staff writer for a vacations company, but I don’t know how long I could have kept that up.” She laughed slightly. “Writing descriptions of tours and amusement parks for prospective clients is boring in comparison to novel writing.” She took another drink of the water and settled into the chair a little more.
Kelly chuckled. “I bet, but you’re able to stay home, which is a blessing. So, when did you first start writing? What really inspired you to get serious about it?”
“I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember,” Dana said, smiling nostalgically. “My mother, growing up, always encouraged me and my sisters to do anything creative, whether that be drawing or writing or just using our imagination in play, and we’ve all enjoyed writing and drawing to an extent.” She paused, taking a long gulp of the water before glancing out the window.
“The first thing that really made me want to write was reading the Lord of the Rings when I was ten. I was entranced by this fantasy world and so many others that I read or came out around that same time – Lloyd Alexander’s books and Harry Potter in particular – and I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
She turned back to Kelly with a smile. “But the more I wrote, the more I realized I cared more about the characters than the plot of the stories, and writing high fantasies like the Lord of the Rings doesn’t exactly lend itself to character-driven writing. And that’s about the time I discovered Harry Potter fan fiction, and all fan fiction in general, which allowed me to work more on the character aspect of writing, but I wouldn’t say I really got serious writing until a couple years ago when I finally stepped away from the high fantasy to look at more character-driven, contemporary works, which spawned the series that I’m writing now.” She heaved a sigh and returned to her water, sipping at it quietly.
Kelly smiled as she listened to all this. Hearing the story behind each writer and how they came to this present moment in their life was special, and Kelly leaned forward. “And what is this series you’re working on now? Tell me all about it!” She gave Dana a grin then sat back because she knew writers always enjoyed talking about their work, and Kelly was here to listen.
Setting the now empty glass down, Dana tried to focus on Kelly’s question—and where to begin. “Mostly, it’s a series of stories that center around my main protagonist, Billie, who is a teen girl just on her way to college,” she said. “Like any college freshman, she’s nervous and scared to be away from home, but she’s also very excited to be on her own for once. She has trouble getting along with her parent, but she goes to this school because her estranged father is a professor there and anyone who’s been to college in the U.S. knows that you need all the financial help you can get.” Dana pushed the glass a little farther away and leaned back in the seat again. “So the first book, which I’m revising right now and about to send off to the beta readers, focuses on her first real experiences in this all-new life, but it mostly focuses on her relationship with her father, who she resents for leaving. At the heart of it, it’s about family and figuring out where you belong.”
A warm smile touched Kelly’s lips when she heard this. “A story about family–that’s nice…refreshing even. So, you mentioned Billie, but who are the other important characters of the cast?”
“Well, her father, of course,” Dana said, smiling at her, “and her mother and her sister, who are both located at her childhood home, now hundreds of miles away, both play a role. But Billie isn’t very good with people, so she has trouble making friends. She has a bit of a jarring personality—she’s sarcastic, distrusting, and extremely introverted. The only friend she really has is the only other person at the college that came from her hometown, her neighbor Jimmy. In high school, they were barely acquaintances, but because they know each other, they become a lot closer. But living in the dorms, they have roommates, and she doesn’t get along with Jimmy’s roommate Xander, because they’re actually pretty similar, both extremely stubborn and maybe a little crass. Aside from that, she goes out of her way to not have friends, but she’s tutoring an older student who is a little intrigued by her. Despite her efforts to keep a distance between them, he keeps coming back and trying to get her to open up to him.” Dana’s fingers played with the hem of her shirt and glanced around the room again, trying to take in the views from the chair. The light from the window lit up the shelves, but the contents were still difficult to see. “What do you keep in here?”
“Oh, books and trinkets from other story realms. Sometimes characters give me things once we meet, and I bring them back here because they might inspire someone else.” Kelly motioned to the shelves but then turned to the topic at hand. “But what inspired this story? Where did you get the idea?”
“Honestly,” Dana said, heaving another sigh, “It mostly came from my own college experience—not that I have divorced parents or specifically tried not to make friends while I was there or anything like that. It’s just that before going to college, everyone always said what an amazing experience this would be, how you’d make everlasting friendships that couldn’t be broken, and how this is the time in your life that you’ll figure everything out. And frankly, college was a complete disappointment on that front.”
Laughing, she elaborated. “I mean, I got my BA in English, Writing, and Fine Arts—a triple major, which was hard enough in four years—and I had fun for the most part while there, but I barely made any friends, certainly not long-lasting ones. No one tells you how difficult it is to be on your own for the first time, and certainly no one tells you about how the drinking and the sex and the partying can really affect your life. It’s portrayed as a lot of fun, not something that can have serious consequences – and most college students do have serious consequences because they’re stupid, immature young adults that genuinely have no idea what they’re doing. So I guess this idea spawned from the concept that a college life should be portrayed realistically. Sure, some people do make those long-term friendships and have amazing experiences, but trust me, no one is going to figure out the rest of their life while in college. You’re going to spend the rest of your life figuring that out. And I want to use Billie’s experiences and those of the few friends that she does make to illustrate that point, because it’s not one that’s made often enough for prospective college students.” Dana took in a deep breath.
“I’m glad you’ve taken it upon yourself to write the reality of college–as long as you don’t write all those boring lectures that put anyone asleep.” Kelly shook her head, chuckling. “But you’re right. We need something like you’re presenting us, so I’m glad you’re writing it.” And she caught a glimpse of the clock on the wall and sighed, shaking her head again. “Really? Our time’s already up? Already?” She gave Dana an apologetic look as she rose to her feet. “Unfortunately I need to get back to work because my next interview, but you’re welcome to stick around and look around. Thank you so much for coming and chatting. I really enjoyed hearing all about this!” She reached out to shake Dana’s hand. “And remind me again, what is the title of your series?”
Dana looked over at her and smiled. “Thank you for listening,” she said. “I don’t really have a title for the series right now, but the title for the first story is ‘If We Had No Winter’, from a quote by the first published female American writer Anne Bradstreet.” She stood up and quickly pushed in her chair, ready to take a peak at the rest of the Muse Shop.
“I love that title. Well, keep me posted whenever you get a title for the series. I’d love to hear it. And take a look around. Holler if you need me.” Kelly smiled moving back to the backroom of the Muse Shop to collect some more things before leaving for her next interview.
D. L. Pitchford’s novel, ‘If We Had No Winter’ is scheduled to be released April 2017. Follow her on social media for updates!