Stereotypes run amok in this college love story: Parties, alcohol, hookups, and breakups. Alexandria Carmichael may find it a bit much as she deals with the unreturned love from the boy who completes her. When all is revealed, not only does she risk losing her best friend forever, but also herself. Without her childhood companion for support, Alexandria takes a journey of self-discovery but fears what she’ll find at the end.
This book grabbed me from the first page. Complete with snark and some very real heartbreaks of a girl who is in love with her best friend, who happens to be gay. Both characters became people I cared about and wanted to see happy. In the blog tour, I wanted to ask Reena some questions about her captivating novel. Here we go...
1. I was drawn deeply into Alex's story. Where did you get your inspiration?
I Loved You First was inspired by the College Rock station from the Sims 2: University. I fell in love with the songs and wanted to write a story loosely based on them. Somewhere along the line, the story took on a mind of its own and deviated from the initial storyline and the songs.
2. Seth tried to hide his true self with endless superficial dating. Do you find that is the case with your research and experience?
Seth isn't based off any particular person, research, case study, or experience. He's purely fictional. In fact, Seth started out as a straight guy whose main concern was living life to the max. His original character didn't understand why everyone wasn't taking the world for all it had, like he was. It wasn't until I decided to come at the story from Alex's perspective that Seth went through "conversion therapy."
3. Reading your information at the end of the book, you were raised in a Christian household, but hold no animosity for the gay community. Can you explain your point of view?
Tough question. I thought about it for quite some time. And the only thing I could come up with was: Why should I hold animosity toward the gay community?
I just don't see the point of targeting or hating people because of their sexual orientation. Maybe someone can explain to me what hating the gay community does for them, their family, their community.
4. Seth tries to commit suicide because of perceived peer pressure, the lack of a future in sports and being terrified of what his family will say. In your research, do you find this is common with teens struggling with their identity? ***SPOILER***
I'd like to pretend I'm an expert on this subject, but I'm really not. Still, I don't think suicide attempts are common. I also don't think the concept of struggling with one's identity is the issue. Discovering oneself is a part of life. Seth knew who he was. Fear kept him from letting other see him.
I think the increased rate of suicide attempts amongst teens in the LGBTQ community goes beyond coming to terms with sexual orientation. It's tough living in a world where "normal" is not you, where who you are is not acceptable, to know at any time someone might hurt you, not because you've hurt someone else, but simply because you don't meet an expectation.
Gay, straight, queer - I think any teen who is bullied or lives in constant fear of ostracism might see the future as bleak and consider extreme methods of handling the situation.
5. Alex stayed in the shadow of Seth for a long time, willing to be with him even as a sidekick, even though it cost her herself. Have you ever known anyone like that in real life?
I can't say I have, but I think a lot of teens are like that in some ways. It's difficult trying to fit in, make the right moves, say the right things. Sometimes it's easier to go with the flow than rock the boat and be an individual. Others might not be to Alex's extreme, but I believe it's common to make surface changes to be a part of the crowd. Too many changes, and one can lose themselves in a new identity.
6. What support groups are out there for teens and young adults who are scared of coming out and what that will mean for their family and future?
I can't predict the future, but I do have a list of support organizations I came across during my research:
PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Youth Guardian Services
Time Out Youth
7. What is your writing day like? How many hours do you spend working on your craft?
I have my ups and downs, but a normal day might include 4-8 hours of writing, editing, revising, or polishing. Right now, my brain is semi-recovering from this release, so I've been taking it pretty easy and focusing mainly on the blog tour.
8. How do you plot your novels? Loose and freeflowing or using a dedicated plot line of events so you don't deviate from the plan?
I started as a pantser but determined last November, I really enjoyed plotting. These days, I create a rough outline with main points then flesh out the plot with scenes. I'm not a stickler though. My original outline for I Loved You First barely resembles the end results.
9. What is one thing you would want a reader to get from your Seth and Alex's story?
Be yourself today, because eventually, you'll have to stand on your own two feet.
10. Where can people find your books and what other writing projects do you have planned for the near future?
Right now, I'm working on three items. The sequel to the Striped Ones series, a follow up story to Control Freak, and a flash fiction collection called Injustice Is Served. I'm getting pretty excited about NaNoWriMo this year and have been diligently plotting an 8-9 book series, the first which I intend to write during NaNo.
My works are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords. The list goes on, but pretty much wherever books are sold. :)
Reena Jacobs - Author of Lots of Words
Many thanks to Reena Jacobs for sending me a copy of I Loved You First and asking me to be a part of the blog tour. I found the book to be an exciting read with deep emotional connections that brought you into Alex's situation. Is there anyone out there who hasn't had a crush or fallen for someone out of reach and unattainable? It is one of the hardest things ever. The only thing harder is maybe coming out from the other side of it intact.