Author Interview: Ashley Heckman, author of The Last Three Words

 

The Last Three Words - Ashley Heckman - Banner

Title: The Last Three Words

Genre: Young Adult

Release date: November 15th 2013

Publisher: Evernight Teen 

Goodreads link

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Christian Marx never belonged anywhere but with his best friend Maye. Life with her beats the hell out of the dingy apartment he shares with his neglectful mother. Mom may be blood, but Maye and her little sister Rowe are family. Life would be perfect if only Maye loved him the way he loved her.

Last night, she did. Today, she’s dead—a tragic accident no one could have predicted.

With Maye gone, it’s up to those she left behind to figure out how to move on. Only one person can drag Christian away from the ledge. Only one person can save Maye’s little sister from making a huge mistake.

Sometimes the only way to un-break yourself is to fix someone else.

 

An interview with author Ashley Heckman:

Ashley, I’m so glad you could be with us today! Tell us more about your book—take us beyond the official “book blurb”.

The Last Three Words really began as Maye’s story. The original plan was for it to be about the experience of transitioning from life to death, the confusion, the peace, and the idea of watching the people you left behind go through this trauma, but just feeling okay about it for whatever reason. It wasn’t until I really got into the characters of Maye’s BFF Christian and her younger sister Rowe that I realized that the real story was the two of them and how they handled it. Maye is still in there, but in a much more diminished capacity than I’d started writing her with. She’s an observer, but also a reminder of the fact that you never know when it will be too late to say what you feel, and to reach out to those who need it.

Funny how the story and characters sometimes take over, isn’t it? Then you know you’re going in the right direction!

 

Give us more info about your main characters—who are they?

I must admit that the Miller sisters are somewhat of a Mary Sue split into two characters. I wrote them as if I were their mother, and imagined them as the two distinct sides of my own personality.

Maye is my quieter, introspective, solitary side. She’s socially awkward and thrives on a close relationship with one person, rather than a group of more loosely knit friends. Rowe is loud and outspoken, with a noticeable lack of any sort of brain/mouth filter. Where Maye is more likely to step back and think, Rowe is apt to act first and ask questions later. The one thing they have in common? They each think they know themselves, until life throws them both for a loop.

Christian is the boy we all should have said yes to back in high school. He’s not the mysterious, hot drama club guy, or the jock in good with the popular crowd. He’s the guy who isn’t ashamed to be seen shivering as he wraps his jacket around you. The one who hangs with the rougher types, but doesn’t need to behave that way for them to accept him. He climbs in through the window you leave unlocked for him in your bedroom, happy as hell to sleep on the floor beside your bed, because it means he gets to be near you. He is perfect.

Sigh…he sounds it!

 

What scene in your book was the most fun to write, and why?

I really enjoyed Rowe defending her classmate Ronnie from the popular kids. That scene showcases everything I love about her character. She’s kind to those who deserve it, and isn’t hesitant at all to go out on a social limb for them, and genuinely believes in the bold actions she makes out of pure instinct.

She sounds like quite a character!

 

How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?

I’m sure it’s a cliched answer, but I don’t really remember when I started. I’ve just always written in some for or another, be it [really bad] poetry, essays, or journalistic stuff, but I have just recently begun to dip my toes into fiction here in the past two years or so.

Everything inspires me. Song lyrics, news, satire, novels…inspiration is everywhere!

It is! It’s just a matter of recognizing it…

 

What do you like best about being a writer?

I like that it draws out things I didn’t know I had in me. The characters seem to float into my mind, and from there it’s like getting to know someone you feel like you’ve known in a past life. Everything about them is somehow new and intriguing, yet vaguely familiar. You know them before you know them. And then, they just tell you their story and it’s magic.

Excellent!

 

What is the most challenging part of being a writer?

For me, it’s been striking a good balance. I love description and tend to go overboard with flowery prose. If I don’t keep myself in check, I can go on forever without really saying anything of value or moving the plot along at all.

I know what you mean…so tempting to just keep writing all the pretty words!  Plot? What’s that? 😉

 

What are you working on right now? What can readers look for from you in the next year?

I’m almost finished with the first draft of my next manuscript, a novel about sixteen-year-old Grace, who falls in love with the super romantic spirit Noel. Things are peachy until he asks her to commit suicide to be with him. What could be worse for an already difficult relationship? Finding out your ghost boyfriend has done this to you three times before in your past lives.

Wow–just that short description gave me goose bumps!

 

What authors and/or books have inspired you?

My heart will always belong to Anne Rice, whose Mayfair Witches trilogy is an amazing example of multi-POV storytelling. Those and her Vampire Chronicles  will always hold a very special place on my bookshelf and in my heart.

More recently, I really enjoyed Leah Raeder’s style in her debut Unteachable, and am learning a lot about first person present tense from Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.

Mini Moe#2 is currently reading the Divergent series too–it’s on my TBR as well. First person present tense can be tricky–maybe I’ll have to get to it sooner rather than later!

 

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Insurgent a few days ago, and am going to catch up with some Anne Rice by reading The Wolf Gift, and then The Wolves of Midwinter (I was given the amazing gift of a signed copy!

Excellent! I love signed author copies 🙂

 

Please share a favorite scene from your books with our readers.

I don’t remember hiking to my car, but we ended up in the backseat.

My hands moved over her skin, and she had goose bumps from the breeze outside. She was soft in the right places, like I imagined Maye. I gasped a little at the thought, almost feeling the rest of my blood rush from my head downward, but was brought back by Cass’s sharp hipbone on my leg.

She’d stopped kissing me. We’d been kissing. She tasted like a beer can someone had used as an ashtray. I felt her small weight on top of me, her hips moving against my thigh, one hand moving down. It was on me, through my clothes, and it felt so good.

“Why are you still wearing these?” Her words were each emphasized by a tug at the waist of my jeans, which were still wet from the river. Her hand was cold as her fingers slid against my skin, fumbling with the button and zipper.

I closed my eyes again as she moved herself and the rest of my clothing down my body and off the ends of my feet. The car door at her back was open and I could feel the cold air. We were about a quarter mile from the cabin and the fire. No one would interrupt us here.

Maye. What am I doing? Am I doing this? It was supposed to be Maye.

I’d waited so long for her, and my brain was using the fatigue of it against me. Everything was confusing, spinning around and throwing me off balance. What if she’s not the one? What if she is but never realizes? Why should I wait anymore?

Cass let out a giggly squeak as I grabbed her under the arms and yanked her back up to my chest. Her skin was warm on mine, and I didn’t mind the taste in her mouth so much anymore. I just kissed her and kissed her as hard as I could, and she kissed back. I never thought I’d ever get kissed back.

And then she stopped.

Her face looked wrong. She giggled under her breath, grinning like she was plotting something evil. I could feel all of her sharp edges now, her right hand gripping me, and it was all wrong.

She was crawling down my body, holding my eyes with hers. It wasn’t until she opened her mouth to speak that I understood what I was doing, what was about to happen, “I bet your little Maye would never do this, huh?”

Maye. It’s supposed to be Maye.

Thanks, Ashley!

Want more? The Last Three Words is available now at the following e-tailers:

Amazon      Evernight Teen

Author Bio:

Ashley is a thirty-something perpetual teenager. She (slowly) writes young adult fiction that pulls no punches and rarely conforms to the unspoken rules. Home is upstate South Carolina, where Ashley lives with her daughter, working for a living and striving to better herself and her craft.

Author Links:

Website

Twitter

How about another excerpt, just to whet your appetite?

“Yeah, 387 Greer Highway,” my voice was flat over the sound of sobbing, begging, in the background. “Overdose…barely…bourbon and something prescription, I’m not sure.”

The dispatcher pledged to stay on the line until the ambulance arrived, but I abandoned her first, setting the receiver on the kitchen counter and grabbing the car keys before walking out the front door, unnoticed. What was one more unforgivable act? Besides, I’d done my part. The rest would have to be on the two of them. I stood in the driveway looking back at for a few moments at this place that used to feel like home, and continued on my way to anywhere but here.

I don’t remember the three point turn, or creeping under the canopy of trees that shaded the long gravel drive from the house to the road. Time was lost and instinct took over steering, the gas pedal, and the brake, though I had no need for it. There was no traffic this time of night, when morning hung only a couple of hours over the horizon. I just drove, the lazy speed of the car moving through the dark echoing the numbness I’d succumbed to after struggling against it for so long. It felt almost nice.

I watched, lost in thought, as the darkened houses and pastures passed. I’d considered the existence of fate many times in my life, but only for the past few weeks with any real seriousness. The mistakes made tonight were no accident, no coincidence. Had any of it ever been?

Without realizing, I pulled the car off to the shoulder and into the grass, at that place on Greer Highway that had haunted me for what seemed like a lifetime. It felt like another life, when we’d been happy. I stared out the windshield, willing myself to see something real, something to anchor me in reality, but there was nothing.

I needed to feel it, this road I’d been avoiding in the weeks since. To touch it, know if there was anything left there. It felt like the natural place to make peace with all that had happened, apologize. There had been a purpose to all of it. Maybe she could forgive me. But would I ever forgive myself?

 

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