New beginnings. As in starting over. New job, new school, new relationship, new home or  new town…no matter what type of new beginning you’re about to experience, the change can feel both overwhelming and exciting. On one hand, you’re back at the ground level and have to rebuild. And on the other hand, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself, choose a new path, or make a change based on what you’ve learned in past experiences.

This is exactly what Isabel Jenkins, the main character in my New Adult debut novel Third Degree, does. Izzy is a former child prodigy, went to college at twelve years old, medical school at sixteen and is on her way to being a surgeon. That is until she gets hit with some very bad news—she’s flunked the emotional readiness test to get into residency programs. Apparently she lacks social skills and normal life experience. The solution? Re-enroll as a college freshman, but this time her major is something much more simple than pre-med: Being eighteen.

Maybe it’s a bit of poetic justice that the leading lady in my first novel outside of the YA genre is experiencing a new beginning alongside my own? I can’t say I planned that, but looking back on it now, I can clearly see the similarities in the ups and downs that Izzy and I both experienced. When Izzy decides to hide her former child prodigy self and adopt this new role as an average college freshman, I don’t think she truly believes the experience will change her. I think she goes into it thinking it will please her boss at the hospital, it will impress the psychologist who refused to pass her on the intern exam.

I went into writing NA thinking that it was selling well, people were buying it like crazy and I’d already written a nineteen year old main character in my YA trilogy, so why not try NA? At first it was a costume that I was going to wear for a short time. But as I began creating and shaping Izzy, and then enter Marshall Collins, Izzy’s superhot and super amazing Resident Advisor, and suddenly I became this person who writes college set coming-of-age love stories. And Izzy became this person who is vulnerable, unsure, and very much in love. In order to do that, the costume eventually has to fall off and our new beginning becomes a combination of our past self and the person we want to be.

There are so many sayings like, you can’t run from your past. You can’t escape the past. The past will come back to haunt you. I think the real reason for those dark and somewhat depressing warnings is that people can’t truly start a new path until they allow their previous experiences to surface. Anyone in a new relationship won’t be able to solidify it until they have that talk about their exes. Bringing forth my experience with writing YA characters and then adding this extra deeper layer to create NA is what helped me really take off with writing this story. There is a line Third Degree, a while after Marshall has been enlisted to help Izzy fit in in the new college surroundings in exchange for Anatomy tutoring. He says this to Izzy: “I don’t think you need to change; I’ve never thought that. You just need to let people in.”

Marsh might not be a genius like Izzy, in fact he’s failing Anatomy class, but he’s able to offer up words of wisdom that help Izzy get to a place where she can both accept herself and enjoy trying something new—like fooling around with your hot RA while alone in the dorms for an entire weekend. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say, readers may come out of it with a new appreciation for hands-on tutoring.

What new beginnings have you experienced? And how has your past affected the new start? Do you enjoy romance stories where a character is thrown into a brand new situation and completely unprepared?

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