Thank you so much for having me here, promoting my novella “When Fate Falls Short” with Dreamspinner Press. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for it to be released and also like the last few months have passed in the blink of the eye so I can’t decide whether I’m more nervous or excited about it!
I decided to talk a little bit about the research involved in writing in this post as that’s one of the parts of writing that I love the most. Most stories involve some kind of research. I know that even some of my earliest adventures in fanfiction involved me spending time trawling through reference sites. Usually, it’s just basic information about locations or seasons but sometimes a story calls for something a bit more in depth.
“When Fate Falls Short” was one of the most research-heavy stories I’ve ever worked on. First of all, I’m Australian so whenever I’m writing anything based elsewhere in the world I need to at least get a cursory idea of the geography and climate. If it weren’t for the internet, and my handful of wonderful international friends, I would have made all sorts of mistakes just by assuming that everywhere in the world has as temperamental a climate as we do. It isn’t unusual for us to have all four seasons within a week down here so sometimes I have to consciously rein myself in when it comes to writing weather however I feel like it. That usually only involves a couple of searches and a handful of words jotted down and is by far the easiest part of the research.
Researching congenital heart defects, the specifics surrounding organ transplants and the criteria necessary for someone to be able to donate their organs ate up a lot of time while I was writing this, especially in comparison to the rest of it. I spent hours scanning Wikipedia articles and getting lost in spirals by clicking through the reference links, scrolling through forums and pages and jotting down everything I thought was important to factor into my understanding. It was such an important part of getting my head around Jesse as a character that I couldn’t write him properly without knowing as much as I could first.
I can’t imagine how difficult it was for writers to research things like this before the internet was so accessible and extensive. Anyone with a smartphone and access to a wifi signal can get a working understanding of most things within a few hours nowadays and even then we’re so impatient. I can’t imagine how long this would have taken to write if I’d had to research from actual medical texts or interviewing real people. It would have been a much more intimate and complete understanding, I bet, but we’re so reliant on the instant gratification of the internet that it’s almost unfathomable.
Both speaking of instant gratification and winding this up, I’m willing to bet that everyone has a time where they’ve gotten sick and made the mistake of using the internet to either diagnose themselves or consulted Dr. Google about whatever it is their usual GP has diagnosed them with. What has been the most ridiculous thing that you or even someone you know has managed to convince themselves they have after using the internet as a diagnostic tool?
I’ve got a $5 DSP credit for one lucky commenter! As a sign-off, here’s an exclusive excerpt from Jesse’s past.
– Brooke Edwards
Eighteen years earlier. January 1997
Jesse Lawrence is seven weeks away from his fifth birthday when the “minor congenital heart defect; we’ll keep an eye on it but it should get better as he grows up” the doctors had found a few weeks after his birth comes back to haunt his family.
Melissa spends the next two years in and out of the hospital with their son while Arthur works to keep their collective heads above the ocean of medical debt.
Jesse is eight when things seem to level out. They’re cautiously optimistic as the period between hospital visits gets longer and longer each time. They stay out of the hospital for a record eight months—until it comes crashing down when Jesse’s nine and a half. He’s in the hospital for a six-week stretch and then for at least a couple of days every few weeks after that.
Jesse is barely ten, and too shy and cautious for most other kids his age in a way that breaks Melissa’s heart, when Arthur isn’t there the evening they come home from another several-day hospital stay. His car isn’t in the driveway, and there’s a note stuck to the fridge.
In thick black marker on torn paper, all they get is I’m sorry.
While their world crashes down around them, Melissa steers Jesse away from the kitchen, snagging the bag with his things in it in one hand and herding him gently up the stairs with the other. He doesn’t ask questions, blessedly, and she gets him settled in his room with the old baby monitor.
“Call out or make some noise if you need me, baby,” she says and kisses his forehead. Jesse just nods and hugs her around her neck tightly.
She doesn’t cry that night, too caught up in the hot anger that floods her.
Jesse does. It’s far from the first time he feels that his entire existence is nothing but a burden on his parents, but it’s the first time he realizes just how much of a burden it must be. He doesn’t know why else his dad would leave if Jesse wasn’t so sick all the time.
Melissa has to take two jobs to keep the electricity on and to pay even a fraction of Jesse’s bills. She knows without a doubt that if the house hadn’t been a wedding gift from her late grandparents, mortgage-free, she wouldn’t have even lasted a month. She’s fiercely grateful and unbearably angry all at the same time.
After six months she stops hoping, even a little, for Arthur to come home. She bites back the rage and vitriol burning her insides because Jesse still watches the door with the same intense focus he used to, waiting for his dad to walk in after another double shift.
She doesn’t know how to make it go away—that sadness she sees when he doesn’t think she’s watching. She keeps food on the table and his prescriptions filled, and she pulls him into her lap when she can, even when he’s too big for it, and runs her fingers through his hair to tell him she’s never going to leave like that.
Sometimes his tears against her neck tell her that he understands, and his grip around her neck tells her thank you.
Childhood sweethearts Nathan Maxwell and Sean Adams took ten years to realize they belonged together, followed by ten years of bliss. When it is snatched away, Sean is left alone with the aftermath. Lost and grieving in a world that doesn’t make sense without Nathan by his side, he struggles to keep himself afloat… until he meets Jesse Lawrence.
The shadow of a congenital heart defect has hung over Jesse like a dark cloud all his life. Nathan’s death saves Jesse’s life—providing the heart Jesse needs to survive—and a chance encounter between their best friends plants Jesse in Sean’s orbit. But how well can a love triangle between a dead man, his grieving lover, and the one with his heart beating in his chest possibly turn out? Real feelings and pure intentions might not be enough.
Review by Tracy C Muth
Nathan and Sean first meet when they’re six and five years old, respectively. They meet in line at an ice cream parlor they are at with their mothers and they become instant friends. We watch them over the next 20 years grow from those young children into pre-teens, teenagers and then adults in a committed and loving relationship. From best friends to lovers. Then tragically Nate is taken from Sean. The only silver lining is Nate’s heart is donated to and saves Jesse’s life. Jesse has been sick since he was a young child with a heart defect. Jesse and Nate’s best friends, Alice and Erin meet in the elevator at the hospital and they discover that Jesse is receiving Nate’s heart. They eventually bring Jesse and a very heartbroken Sean together. But Sean is just too grief-stricken.
I read the blurb, I knew it would happen, but when Nathan died I still cried like a baby. It was so heartbreaking to watch Sean try to get through Nathan’s funeral. To try to get through life. Sean is left empty and broken, and in the end, Jesse is left heartbroken, as well. Sean may never be whole enough to be able to move past Nate’s death, and Jesse is left to pick up the pieces of his own broken heart.
While this was a powerful and heartbreaking read, it could have been so much more heartbreaking than it was. Because the story is written in a journal-like style, and mostly told in the third person and we only get short snippets at a time, I found I didn’t connect with the characters the way I might have if it was told in the first person and I had truly been inside Nate, Sean and Jesse’s heads the entire story. I actually think I might want to thank the author for that. I wasn’t left as much of a sniveling mess, as I could have been. I am left at the end of this book somewhat angry with Sean for not taking the second chance at love he was so graciously offered, and heartbroken for Jesse because unfortunately, you can’t compete with a ghost. Sometimes love does not conquer all and the one you are truly meant to belong to leaves you far too early.
Even though I don’t like third person, this was still a well-written and gut-wrenching read. If you are in the mood for something heartbreaking this is your book. Just be sure to have something light and with a happy ending waiting in the wings for when you’re finished this one. Definitely recommended, but with tissues and caution.
Meet Brooke Edwards
Author, dreamer, fangirl and foodie – twenty-something Brooke Edwards will always call Australia home no matter where the wanderlust takes her. Her tertiary education bounced from history and linguistics to criminology and history and even went as far as nutrition and sports/exercise science. Making ends meet through a similarly wide variety of jobs from education, retail, fitness, hospitality and finance means she never has any shortage of inspiration for characters or their adventures. Writing, closely followed by the culinary arts, has been her longest-running and most consistent passion and her greatest dream would be to one day not have to do anything else but write. Until then, she can probably be found in a caffeine-induced haze either behind her computer or in the kitchen.