Let the touring begin…
Rachel Davidson Leigh
Release date: October 20, 2016
Hi! Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m Rachel, and my hobbies include overanalyzing television shows and pairing readers with their perfect books. My debut novel, Hold, is a story about grief, identity, and transformation. After his sister’s death, Lucas Aday can hardly drag himself back to school. He couldn’t possibly prepare himself to stop time or to fall for the only other boy who doesn’t stop moving.
Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience or something else?
Yes, in a sense. I also lost a sibling around the same age as Luke and under similar circumstances, so there are elements of his story that are also my own. There are moments in Luke’s life that are drawn almost verbatim from my own experience, and yet it reads nothing like a memoir. Luke walks through some of the same places I remember, but he transforms them into something entirely new. His perspective is so separate from mine and his parents are so, radically, different from my own, that I often forgot how many parts of his story we share. Where I would have gone right, he goes left, and this time I get to follow in his wake.
What skills do you think a writer needs?
A writer needs sheer, stubborn determination. That doesn’t mean writers always need to believe in themselves. We’re a neurotic, insecure lot, so that would be an impossible ask, but we do need to work through the insecurity and keep making words. We have to be comfortable with a hard rough draft, and a hard second draft, and a hard fifth draft, until it all starts to slot into place, and through all of that we have to be respectful when other folks— non-writers— can’t understand what’s so hard about putting a bunch of words on a page.
A writer needs to get comfortable with criticism. That doesn’t mean we need to be happy about it. We can rant and send long emails to our best friends about stupid readers who wouldn’t know a character arc from a hole in the ground, but then we have to get up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work.
What for you is the perfect book hero?
I like heroes who are smart, but earnest, who love completely and who are willing to go to stupid, unreasonable lengths for the things and the people that they love. I like heroes that are a mess and are a little bit proud of their messy, irrational selves. I like heroes that get mad and rage at a world of injustice, but most of all, I like heroes that keep fighting, even though they’re terrified and would rather be eating ice cream in bed.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Oh yes. There’s a sports scene in Hold and it took forever to write. I’m not very good at writing action in the best of circumstances, and there are very few sports I know well enough to write without a lot of research. Two Hold characters play lacrosse and that is not one of the sports I knew well before writing this book. Even after a lot of research time spent reading rule manuals for high school teams and watching field footage, my go-to sports reader spent a solid ten minutes laughing at me before she jumped into the critique. To be fair, she was right. It’s a much better scene when everyone is on the correct parts of the field.
Tell us about your favorite childhood book.
I read everything when I was a kid, but I have to talk about Matilda. Roald Dahl was my idol for years, but that one had a special place, and not just because she was also a voracious reader. Dahl has a keen understanding of the powerlessness of childhood and, like so many readers, I loved the fantasy of reclaiming control through magic. Of course, like Hold, Matilda is also a story where some pretty intense trauma— in Matilda’s case, abuse and neglect—is made a little easier to understand through a power the main character doesn’t understand.
Luke Aday knew that his sister’s death was imminent—she had been under hospice care for months—but that didn’t make her death any easier on him or their family. He returns to school three days after the funeral to a changed world; his best friends welcome him back with open arms, but it isn’t the same. When a charismatic new student, Eddie Sankawulo, tries to welcome Luke to his own school, something life-changing happens: In a moment of frustration, Luke runs into an empty classroom, hurls his backpack against the wall—and the backpack never lands. Luke Aday has just discovered that he can stop time.
Categories: LGBT Fiction, YA, Romance, Magical Realism
69,500 words – 270 pgs
Publisher: Duet Books, an imprint of Interlude Press
Cover Artist: CB Messer
As he entered the junior commons, Luke almost stepped on a pair of shoes. The girl wearing them found her way around him and scowled under her breath as Luke leaned against the nearest wall. He was going to look teary-eyed and breakable no matter what. Along the edges he couldn’t do more damage, and that’s where he caught the flash of blue. It was on the wall next to the boy’s bathroom.
The poster, held up by Scotch tape, announced the theater department’s Spring Review in the same color and font they’d used when Luke was nine. Ten years from now they would probably still perform Shakespearian tragedies and Oklahoma. This year, they were doing 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but he didn’t care about that. He cared about the names of the tech crew written across the bottom of the poster. That was their spot, his and Marcos Aldama’s and Dee’s. For a year and a half, since they’d been trusted to not to electrocute themselves, they’d run tech for every production this school had bothered to stage. Dee was supposed to be the stage manager, Marcos was supposed to be on sound and he was supposed to be on sets.
But he wasn’t there.
He found Dee’s and Marcos’s names right where they were supposed to be, and then there was a third name. He’d been replaced by Neil Vargassi. Vargassi? Luke had last heard that name when he’d found out that “that Vargassi kid” had fallen off the stage during warm ups and had had to be sent to the emergency room.
Luke read the poster three times with his hand pressed against the wall beside it. The wall wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t sure about anything else.
They wouldn’t—He read it again. But of course, they would. He’d been gone a month at the beginning of the spring semester with no explanation. Of course they would have found someone to take his place, and he’d had the easiest tech job in the world. He wasn’t irreplaceable, but he’d never thought—
He turned away from the poster and made himself move, as the sickness slid into his gut. It pooled in a sludge below his navel, like a toxic spill, and his body wanted it gone, but there were people going in and out of the bathroom. There were people everywhere.
Luke clasped his hand over his mouth. On his right, the door to a dark classroom sat ajar. He threw himself inside, grabbed the trashcan by the door and gagged until his eyes watered. Nothing came up. He couldn’t even make himself puke. He couldn’t do anything but make people feel sorry for him.
Luke crouched at the closed door with his back flat against the metal kick plate, and pressed his fingers against his temples until pain blossomed under his skin. His stomach turned.
I can’t make it stop, because I shouldn’t be here anymore.
He closed his eyes against the empty classroom, the dirty book jackets and the kick marks on the legs of the chairs.
I should be gone. It should have been me.
Luke pushed himself to his feet and tasted tears. His phone rang in his backpack again and again. He had to answer it because it could have been his mom, but his hands couldn’t remember how. He pulled at the zipper on the front of his bag, but it wouldn’t give. He couldn’t make it move. He tried again and, before he knew what he was doing, he hit it. He hit the bag over and over again until it crunched under his fists. He punched grooves into the plastic lining and ripped holes in the straps.
The holes were real. He made them. The fabric tore under his hands. He made that happen. But the phone wouldn’t stop ringing—four, five, six—and, as he gasped for air, he lifted the backpack and heaved it across the room like a grenade.
Luke turned away, closed his eyes and waited for it to smash against the far wall. He waited and listened for the crunch and the snap, but it never came. His bag never hit the floor.
Beyond the trees, the road stood frozen, and, above his head, the leaves were still, but on the ground, Luke vibrated with life.
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It’s all about the author…
Rachel Davidson Leigh is a teacher, a writer and an avid fan of young adult LGBTQ fiction. Her hobbies include overanalyzing television shows and playing matchmaker with book recommendations. Currently, she lives in Wisconsin with her family and two neurotic little dogs. Hold is her debut novel. Her short story “Beautiful Monsters” was featured in Summer Love, a collection of short stories published by Duet Books, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press.
…and stalking them :)
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