Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels (so far), including traditional Regency romance, time travel romance, historical romance, and humorous mystery. She is as excited about her new young adult science fiction STARSTRUCK series as she's ever been about any of her books. In addition to writing, Brenda is passionate about embracing life to the fullest, to include scuba diving, Taekwondo, hiking, traveling, and reading, of course! For the past dozen years, Brenda has collected data on writers' earnings, which she shares at her website, http://brendahiatt.com.
Welcome to Book Blather, Brenda. Ready...Set...Blather!
Welcome to Book Blather, Brenda. Ready...Set...Blather!
Let me just say upfront that I LOVE young adult books! Not only as a reader but as a writer, because after 15+ books for adults (mostly historical romance) I was pretty burned out—and starting a YA series I’d had in the back of my mind TOTALLY rejuvenated my joy in writing! This month I’m excited because I’ve just released Starbound, the third book in my new Starstruck series. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ve decided to offer the first book, Starstruck, for just 99 cents for the whole month of June!
To give you an idea of how strongly I identify with my nerdy heroine, Marsha (M to her tiny handful of friends), I thought I’d share a story about my own teen years…
Do you remember your first real “crush”? How about your first huge embarrassing moment? Were the two linked in any way? Mine were! I was 13 years old, a freshman in high school, and totally infatuated by the cutest guy in the whole world (to my 13-year-old sensibilities, anyway). I mean, I obsessed about this boy! He had these dreamy blue eyes and wavy blond hair… I was sure the Carpenters’ song “Close To You” was written just about him! I went as stalker as a girl without a driver’s license could go, even convincing my mom to drive past his house once or twice (since he didn’t live within biking distance). When I discovered that he went to the gym to shoot hoops near the end of his lunch period most days, I started sneaking down that hallway every day and peeking through the window in the gym door to watch him play…in a sleeveless shirt! Oh! Be still my newly-awakened heart! I wove so many fantasies about the two of us, fantasies about how he would suddenly realize I was the one he’d been waiting for all his life. How all the other girls would be jealous when they saw us holding hands. How we’d happily start planning our future together. Okay, maybe he didn’t actually know my name yet, but I was sure it was just a matter of time before he woke up to the fact that we were Destined to be Soul Mates.
One day after lunch I made my customary stop by the gym to spy on him playing basketball…but he wasn’t there. I stood outside the door, disappointed and undecided. I peeked, then peeked again, hoping he might make an appearance after all. Finally, despondent, I gave up and turned away—only to see him coming down the hall toward me! Someone cool would have just nodded, smiled and walked on her way, pretending she had somewhere much more important to be. Alas, I was not even the teensiest bit cool. Instantly assuming he knew exactly why I was there, I was beyond mortified. So mortified that, instead of trying to pass it off as no big deal, I turned away, pressed my face into the corner and quite literally tried to melt into the wall. Yes, really. He walked past me into the gym without a word and I hurried away, never to spy on him again. He never did learn my name, to the best of my knowledge, and none of those wonderful fantasies ever came true, but to this day I still remember my first crush and the horrible embarrassing incident that pretty much ended it. And sometimes I wonder if he even remembers that weird girl who acted so strangely outside the gym that day. I guess I’ll never know! And maybe that’s just as well…
My best friend Bri was in my Honors English next period. So was Rigel. Bri made a beeline for him—not hard to guess why—but I intercepted her.
"C'mon, let's sit by the window."
"But—" Bri looked over her shoulder toward Rigel with intense interest.
"We'll be further from the teacher there," I improvised. Without waiting for her reply, I headed to the opposite side of the room and she reluctantly followed me.
As I sat down, I involuntarily glanced Rigel's way only to find him frowning in my direction. Frantically, I went back over what I'd just said but I was sure I hadn't used his name. Unless he could read my mind, I was safe.
I risked another peek and was relieved to see he had turned away, and was now talking to Trina and Nicole Adams, another cheerleader. He was still frowning slightly, but it obviously had nothing to do with me.
"So, what do you think of our hot new quarterback?" were Bri's predictable next words. "He was in Spanish last period but that humongous flirt, Trina, barely let him look at anyone else—just like now."
It took a surprising amount of effort, but I managed not to look at him again. "Is that all you and Deb can talk about today?"
Bri shrugged, then grinned. "Can you think of anything more interesting?"
I absolutely couldn't, but I wasn't going to admit that. “It's not like any of us have a shot, with Trina all over him."
"Yeah, well, a girl can dream." Bri gave me a sly grin and waggled her eyebrows. "You used to be really good at that."
"Shh!" I glanced around to make sure no one had heard her. I kept my flights of fancy to myself these days, but I did not want anyone reminded of the ridiculous stuff I'd made up back in elementary school.
Other kids might have had imaginary friends, but I'd invented a whole imaginary life. I'd told everyone in second grade that I was really a Martian princess whose parents would one day fly me back to their beautiful palace in the stars. No doubt it was my way of dealing with the fact I was adopted and knew nothing about my birth parents. I'd told other outlandish stories, too, but that one had been my favorite—and I got teased mercilessly for it.
I did wise up enough to stop talking about it by third grade, but the teasing went on for years. "Marsha the Martian" was a nickname I never wanted to hear again. In fact, it was the main reason I tried to make people call me M instead of Marsha. Bri and Deb cooperated, but nobody else did.
"Okay," Bri said. "But you've obviously noticed him if you want me to shut up so bad."
"Of course I've noticed him," I whispered. "He sat right in front of me in homeroom. But Trina sat in front of him—Squires, Stuart—so he never even saw me. So I don't see any point in torturing myself over him."
Bri looked over at him again and I gave into temptation and risked a brief glance. He wasn't talking to Trina now. He seemed to be slowly scanning the room, like he was looking for something—or someone. I looked away before he could catch me staring.
I purposely got to my next class late enough that everyone, including Rigel, was seated—only to discover the only empty spot left was at the table in front of him. Trying not to panic, I scanned the room hoping another seat might magically appear, but the class was full. Steeling myself against any kind of reaction, I moved to the empty chair as nonchalantly as I could.
"Hey, Marsh," Will Chesterton said as I sat next to him. He was shorter than me, and nerdy, but not a bad guy. His main fault was thinking he was way cooler than he actually was.
"Hi, Will. Have a good summer?" I tried hard not to be too obsessed by the fact that Rigel was only three feet from my right elbow. There was no way I actually felt a tingling in that elbow! That was just silly.
"Yeah, we went to Indiana Dunes a couple times and spent a week in Saugatuck," Will said, and I had to focus to remember why he was telling me this. "How about you?"
I could hear Rigel murmuring something to Trina, but I couldn't make out the words. "What? Oh, um, we were going to go to Florida for a week, but Uncle Louie couldn't get off work long enough so we just went to the lake for three days instead."
Rigel's voice stopped so abruptly, I wondered if Trina had poked him or something.
Will dragged my attention back from behind me by saying, "Hey, I'm glad you're gonna be sitting here. You can help me out when we get to the space stuff next semester."
"Oh, yeah, sure, no problem," I agreed absently.
Behind me, I heard Trina start to say something, then it sounded like Rigel shushed her. I glanced at the teacher, but he wasn't looking our way. Huh. I wondered what that was about—and how Trina liked being shushed. It was all I could do not to turn around to see her expression.
I was still trying to think of some totally legit reason to look behind me when Mr. Ferguson started calling the roll. None of the other teachers had bothered. They knew everyone by name already, but this was only Mr. Ferguson's second year at Jewel. I started doodling in my notebook, since I'd be one of the last people called.
As he made his way through the alphabet, sketches of constellations appeared under my pencil, inspired by Will's reminder and the star charts above the whiteboard.
Mr. Ferguson was almost done with the roll. "Trina Squires?"
"Here," she responded.
I braced myself for Rigel's voice.
It was one word. One word and it still went through me like a rush of adrenaline. What in the world was wrong with me? Even Jimmy Franklin had never affected me like this.
"Marsha Truitt? Are you here?" Mr. Ferguson sounded impatient and I realized I'd missed my own name.
"Oh, um here!" I answered, feeling my cheeks burn.
Then I looked down at my doodling and they burned even hotter. Not only had I drawn the constellation Orion, I'd been drawing circles around Orion's left foot—the star Rigel. I slammed my notebook shut, hoping no one had noticed.
I peeked sideways at Will, but he was watching the teacher, who had finished roll and was writing on the whiteboard. Slightly reassured, I forced myself to do the same.
It was an intense relief when the bell finally rang for lunch. No matter how I tried, I hadn't been able to ignore my awareness of Rigel behind me. If anything, it had increased as the class wore on. I was out of my seat before the bell stopped, eager to get away from his disturbing influence. But as I reached the door, I felt my feet slowing, like I wanted him to catch up.
Disgusted at my weakness, I sped up, practically jogging to the cafeteria. Not till I'd gone through the lunch line did I glance back and sure enough, there was Rigel. Trina was right behind him, wearing a smug smile, clearly hoping everyone was noticing who she was with.
With a snort aimed as much at myself as at Trina, I went to an empty table near the windows and deliberately sat with my back to the room. I was opening my juice box when Bri slipped into the seat across from me. "Hey! You're into window seats today, aren't you?"
I shrugged. "Sunshine is good for my mood."
"Can I have your banana?" she asked as Deb joined us with her tray.
"Sure. That's why I got one." I never ate bananas, as my friends well knew.
"So, how was—" Bri began, when she was interrupted by a hiss from Deb, who was staring over my shoulder.
I nearly turned, but stopped myself. "What?"
"Don't look now," Deb whispered, "but Rigel Stuart is headed Right. Toward. Us." Beside her, Bri nodded, wide-eyed.
"Stop staring!" I held perfectly still, trying to be inconspicuous.
But then it didn't matter because he was standing right next to me, his nearness zinging through me again like an electrical current. I swallowed once, convulsively, and looked up past his lean, muscled chest to find him regarding me with those amazing greenish eyes in that impossibly perfect face.
"Marsha, isn't it?" he said.
Unable to form words, I nodded.
"Hi. I'm Rigel Stuart."