Some Good News in a Dark Time

I had been thinking of a few other topics for this blog post but when I got home last night and learned about the latest school shooting, everything else went out of my brain. (Sidenote: I am so glad I finished school before all of this started happening and that I’m not having children. I don’t know how parents and kids today deal with all of this.) I couldn’t think of a thing that seemed to matter in light of the state of our country right now.

Then this morning, I woke up and realized that what we need right now (besides action, rather than thoughts and prayers) is good news. So, I’m going to share my big news today. I’m in no way saying it is as important as these other issues, but it’s a bright spot at least.

My book, Daughter of Destiny, has won the North Street Book Prize!

It is one of only three winners: nonfiction/memoir, general fiction and YA. They put it in the YA category. It’s not a YA book, but given Guinevere’s age (11-15) and the fact that it is the “coming of age” part of her story, I can see why it landed there. But, I don’t care what you call it, as long as you like it, and the judges obviously did. Here are a few quotes from the official critique:

“Nicole Evelina’s Young Adult novel Daughter of Destiny is a lyrical, imagistic retelling of the Arthurian legend…The writer’s skill in creating a lushly imagistic fantasy world was a major reason for her first place award. Nicole Evelina has suceeded in creating a YA novel that is a pleasure for adults as well as teenagers to read. Although I am not normally a reader of fantasy fiction, I loved being immersed in the misty, magical land of Avalon.”

Here’s the whole critique, in case you are interested. And here’s the official press release.

This huge for me, as big of a deal as my two Book of Year designations. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am that my debut novel continues to receive accolades more than two years after it was published.

In light of this win, I have point out one irony. The very first rejection Daughter of Destiny received was from an agent (who shall remain nameless) who said it “read like a bad YA novel.” I kid you not. And here it won in the YA category. 🙂 Just goes to show that you shouldn’t listen to the nay-sayers!

Been Searching for You Publication and Book Award News

So before I get into my actual post, I have happy news to share with everyone! Daughter of Destiny was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews and won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards!

shocked

I know, right? That’s how I felt, too! (Here’s my blog post about it, in case you want the details.)

Been Searching for You eBook Cover LargeSo, back to Been Searching for You, which came out on May 10 . This was originally written for a guest post on another site, but captures my feelings so well, I’m going to use it again. Waste not, right?

I never thought I’d write a romance. I actually swore I’d never write romance because I really disliked romance books for a long time – until I realized what I really hated was certain types of romance, specifically the more traditional ones where the hero has a pronounced physical reaction every time he sees the heroine, if you get my drift. Those make me want to barf. Others are pretty darn good.

But I still had one pet peeve: most heroines, especially in romantic comedies, are under 30. If there’s a wedding involved, it’s “OMG, I’m going to be 30 and not married!” As a 36-year-old single girl, allow me to smack you. So, what did I do? I went and wrote my own love story, one for those of us who are over 30 *gasp*, still single and still romantics at heart. I wrote it because I wanted to write the happily ever after I haven’t yet experienced.

The book came to life because of the Civil Wars songs “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dust to Dust,” both of which my best friend introduced me to. They seem to be bookends to a love story to me, so I swore I’d write a book that began with the words “To Whom it May Concern” and ended with the words “Dust to Dust.” And I did.

But while Been Searching for You is a fun beach read that won’t set the world on fire, it’s also much more than “just a romance.” It’s about a woman’s struggle to overcome her past hurts, heal and learn to trust again. Even if the reader hasn’t been traumatized in the same way as Annabeth, chances are good there are a few scars he or she can’t let go of; such things are a consequence of dating.

It’s about the struggle to connect in a meaningful way in the modern world, which seems to value hookups more than relationships with actual lasting meaning. Throughout the book, Annabeth struggles with having old fashioned romantic tendencies in a society that wants her to be happy with getting laid. That dichotomy is part of the reason why I chose not to have graphic sex scenes in this book; I wanted to show that it’s possible to have romance while the sex takes place off the page.

It’s also about friendship and the ways we support or harm one another through our interactions, ulterior motives and positive and negative reactions to life. I have had a few frienemies in my life (friends whom you are aware are likely to stab you in the back when it is convenient) and I wanted to explore that odd dynamic, one that I’m finding from contest feedback is much more common among younger readers than older. It didn’t begin with Mean Girls but that movie certainly brought it to the fore of societal consciousness.

Finally, the book also has strong themes of the power of education (especially in literature and writing) to affect students and positively change the world. This is a topic I’m personally passionate about and I’m sure it shows in the novel. In a world fixated on wealth (the quicker the buck, the better) I wanted to show how less flashy, sexy career paths can have meaning. Chalk this one up to the book lover in me!

One element Been Searching for You lacks that most traditional romantic comedies employ is a deception of some sort. You know the storyline: the fake boyfriend/fiancée, the woman pretending to be rich when she’s not, the person with a lie that will have to come out in the end. I think reason for this is twofold: 1) I hate deception, especially when it is contrived, and when it’s obviously contrived its like nails on a chalkboard and 2) I never sat down with the intention of writing a romantic comedy. I was writing a love story, plain and simple. When it ended up being laugh-out-loud funny, I dubbed it a rom-com.

Whether you like it, love it or hate it, I hope Been Searching for You is a worthy contribution to the annals of contemporary romance, albeit on the sweet side (but it’s not totally sweet due to references to sex and a bit of adult language). It was intended to be a standalone novel, but my beta readers are begging for more, so if you want me to extend this into a series, I need you to let me know. Either way, I wish you happy reading and hope that Annabeth, Alex, Mia and Miles are good company into the summer vacation season for all of you.