My entry for the YA category of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition is entitled Hollowstone.
Life for Noah Scott changes drastically when he is accepted to Hollowstone Academy, one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country set in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Within the hallowed halls of the illustrious school, Noah soon discovers that the world of the privileged is rife with social hierarchies, politics, depravity and corruption. It is also there that Noah meets his roommate and best friend, the charming and enigmatic Caleb Warner. Tragedy soon strikes when Cal is brutally murdered in a hold-up. But when Noah is haunted by Cal's ghost, he soon discovers that the random act of violence was in fact a premeditated one. Determined to uncover the truth and find Cal's killer, Noah soon finds that the school and its patrons have more than their share of secrets. Secrets they are willing to preserve at any cost. Noah also quickly learns that greater supernatural forces are at play. In a race against time, Noah must solve Cal's murder before he's the killer's next victim.
When I set out to write Hollowstone, I didn’t consciously set out to write a YA novel, it just naturally manifested. While I love speculative fiction, I never try to limit myself to a particular genre. I just let the story lead me. That’s one of the beautiful things about writing. The journey takes the author to unexpected places. Often the story is just as much a surprise to the storyteller as it is to the reader. I was toying with the idea of Hollowstone during my final quarter of college. I was taking a film noir class at the time and I had completely fallen in love with the genre. Not surprising, many noir elements permeate throughout the novel.
And ever since high school, I always wanted to write a story that was at least in part an homage/modern day retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The high school I graduated from was a prestigious private school, and being from a working class background, I could relate to Nick Carraway entering this strange new world of the elite and the privileged. However for the novel, I decided to base Noah (the Carraway of this piece) on three of my buddies from high school. I was also captivated by the social commentary Fitzgerald ingrained in the tale.
Between the film noir class, the idea for the Gatsby homage/retelling, the social commentary, one thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hollowstone was actually written during my first year of National Novel Writing Month, which I’m proud to say I was victorious. I’m usually a stickler for outlines but for some reason, I decided to write this novel on the fly. I will never do that again. I came close to having an aneurism far too many times. The novel was certainly a labor of love. It was frustrating, exhausting, dark, exciting, occasionally fun, in short a rollercoaster ride.
But it’s all been well worth it. Especially now, getting to talk to people about the novel, I’ve fallen in love with the story all over again.
Because this is my first year participating in ABNA, I have no way to gauge how well Hollowstone will fare. Part of me is still stunned that it’s been this successful. On the other hand, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and I think the novel has much going for it.
It’s a multilayered story that blends together elements of paranormal, urban fantasy, suspense, noir and southern gothic. And although it’s a YA novel, by no means is it child’s play. It doesn’t insult the intelligence of younger readers in my opinion, and as such, I think it will appeal to adult audiences as well.
I’m especially proud of the fact that Hollowstone features a diverse cast which I think will appeal to a wide demographic. One of the lead protagonists happens to be a person of color while another is an LGBTQ. It was nothing premeditated, it just naturally manifested. I’m a staunch believer in the idea that everyone has a story and that said diversity should be celebrated.
My buddy Pauline Trent, a phenomenal writer and a good personal friend, was gracious enough to critique an earlier version of the manuscript. It was she who referred me to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition last year. Unfortunately the manuscript was still in the revision stages so I decided to hold off submitting until this year.
The experience so far has been…….wow……surreal doesn’t even begin to cover it. I wasn’t expecting to make it past the preliminary rounds and I’m a quarterfinalist. Not only that but the ABNA expert reviews have both been glowing and most encouraging.
I’ve also enjoyed the excellent discussion on the boards. I haven’t commented as much as I would like because of time constraints, but when I get the chance to read the forums, I’ve found them informative and often entertaining. We’ve got some funny characters on the site. LOL!!!
I strongly encourage everyone to check out theHollowstone excerpt and by all means post a review and let me know what you think. I think it’s an extraordinary story with engaging characters and a riveting plot that will readers will no doubt appreciate.
Of course I could be just a little biased.
Maybe….just a little.