Welcome Cheryl and Rene . I know that this is a collaboration. How did this story come about?
Cheryl: I was the “forever single” girl who had to wait too long to get married. (Just ask Rene how I was when I penned the screenplay for Never the Bride before we did our novel. Haha. I was that girl.) But now that I’ve been married almost five years, I’ve been inspired by the idea of doing stories that encourage people to work on their marriages, to make it a priority, and to even realize that marriage is a good thing. Not a ball and chain. I wanted to write the screenplay version of Love’s a Stage as I dug into what makes marriage work and how people can keep their vows. Then Rene and I decided to do this as a novel.
Did you find it easy to work together on it?
Rene: It’s always easy to work with Cheryl. She is a super generous artist. She trusts me with what I feel like I need to do to make the script work as a novel. She’s fun, too. She loves seeing how it all works out in novel form! I love, love, love working together on novelizations.
How did collaborating with this team impact you?
Cheryl: It always makes me want to do it again. And we did, right after with another script to novel collaboration O Little Town of Bethany. I love to see Rene’s craft bring the inner thoughts of my characters to life. I always seem to get to know my characters better through her work.
What is the hardest thing about writing as a team?
Rene: I think the hardest thing for me is hoping that my teammate likes the end product. I never want to disappoint Cheryl. I want her to see her original vision and then be amazed by watching it transform into a novel. If I fall short of that, it crushes me!
What are you reading right now?
Rene: The Long Awakening: A Memoir by Lindsey O’Connor. It’s amazing!
Cheryl: I’ve started the Life Journal to reread the Bible in full, in order. And I’ve been reading our other novella collaborators works in The Boy Next Door, the collection O Little Town of Bethany was published in.
How did you choose your characters’ names?
Cheryl: I chose the Brewster family based on the fact that my mom’s side of the family literally descends from William Brewster who came over on the Mayflower. (And that family history is worked into the story.) Most of the time when I’m naming characters, I can’t start writing until I like their name of my lead(s). Aly Brewster just felt right for her.
Would you want to work on another book together?
Rene: Yes! Cheryl and I are always looking for the right project to work on together. We’ve now done four novelizations together.
What do you want to tell us about the book?
Cheryl: We really hope it will encourage people to keep their vows, or strengthen their marriages in ways they need strengthening. But we also hope people will laugh and be patient with our very flawed lead character. She makes some bad choices along her journey, even if her heart is in the right place. She is flawed. But if she wasn’t, there wouldn’t be ways for her to grow.
Please give us the first page of the book.
On the first bitterly cold day of the fall, on a deck that hadn't seen a human soul in months, Dave and Marilee Brewster sat at their patio table, warmed by coats and coffee. The coffee had been tasted and adjusted for years to both their liking. A hint of vanilla laced the half-caff variety, since Dave's blood pressure was high these days. They sat for a long while staring at the impassive trees and the withered grass and the gray sky that seemed not to know there was a sun up there somewhere. Marilee stared at the ashy, warped wood below her feet, untreated for years now, though she'd asked that it be done every spring.
Beyond the grass and the old dock was the water, lapping quietly this morning, and then, set quietly in fog, was
Vineyard just within view. This very view was the biggest reason
they stretched their budget twenty years ago to buy this house. Living in Hyannis was a dream come
true. So many dreams had come true here, so why this? Why now?
Dave wondered why he wasn't feeling sadder than he should. And why were they sitting outside instead of in? Maybe Marilee didn't want the walls to hear this. Those walls had been witness to so much over the years. What would they think of this dismal ending?
Dave was the first to speak and his remarks were soft and slow, hard to get off the tongue but alarmingly to the point. "I guess we both know it is over."
Marilee nodded vaguely. "I suppose it is."
"We've done all we can."
They paused to see if the other would disagree, but there was no sound except the creaking of the branches high in their backyard tree.
"When should we tell her?" Marilee asked.
"We'll call her tonight."
"Call her? We can't do this over the phone."
"What's the difference?"
For thirty more minutes, they sat on that deck, arguing about when to break the news to their only child. Each angry word would've melted snow had it been winter, but it was only fall. The ice in the air, chilled by heartless, loveless words, was brought only by them, not nature.
Suddenly, Marilee pushed her chair backward, jumped to her feet and marched to the back patio door, flinging it open and slamming it afterward. She left her coffee mug, Dave noticed. The steam dissipated. The cream rose in deformed circles. The warmth was gone.
"Act married, you two!" Jaden hollered from the perch of the small platform on which he stood, camera to his face.
By all accounts, this setting in which Aly now stood seemed to indicate a happily ever after. The furnishings alone, she thought, were enough to scream "happy and showing it!" She always believed, though she couldn't scientifically prove it, that a well-ordered living room and snappy, coordinated décor were good indications that there was a solid relationship living and dwelling in its quarters. Not that the cover always revealed the book, and of course everyone had their secrets behind closed doors, but happy couples, she knew, had happy homes. And happy homes liked to brag a little, be it by ocean-scented candles, cleanly matted black and white photography, or a flokati rug you'd hate to even step on. There was something about a home that reflected the intimate life of those who dwelled inside. Unhappy couples had telltale signs, if you looked hard enough. Aly had even written a paper on it, though it got quite a bit of scrutiny at the time. Still, her Marriage and Family Therapy professor thought she was onto something and asked her to explore the idea a little more.
But for now she was on to other grad work projects, which included a video series she was shooting. Currently. As in right at this moment.
She stood ready on the Founder's University theater stage, which was already set up to look like a living room for an upcoming play. So it was essentially a fake living room. The irony wasn't lost on her, but it was perfect for the background of her project poster, and she tried to not let the discrepancy bother her. Her idea to shoot it here was a good one.
Otherwise, all she needed were two people to play the fake couple. She would be one of the actors, since she didn't trust anybody else to play a highly complex, romantically unreasonable, conjugally challenged newlywed who had just vowed herself into a lifelong relationship with a man she had now determined was all wrong for her.
This was nothing she'd ever tried to tackle in her undergraduate work, but she felt more confident these days to dig a little deeper, to help even the most troubled couples find the kind of bliss she knew was achievable, namely seen in the thirty-year marriage of her parents. Her grandparents had been married even longer, sixty-four years! She came from a long line of people who made the commitment and stuck with it.
It was the premise of her entire project for Dr. Downey's class, but first she had to get the poster made, and who better to help her than all her friends in the theater department? Well, her best friend Nick, and all of his close friends, who had become her friends despite the fact that she was innately suspicious of all actors. So basically she was an honorary thespian, even though she considered herself much more planted in reality than the rest of them.
Nick was kind enough to volunteer to play the husband. He had a high range of acting skills. They'd been friends since they were freshmen, and he had the right look, a boyish, southern charm that made him seem incapable of doing wrong. His hair was a messy brown mop of loose waves, cut short enough to feel appropriate and gentlemanly, but long enough to drive home the point that there was an artist dwelling in there somewhere. He had a playful personality, but she'd seen him play darker characters. He possessed a broad assortment of emotions, exactly what she needed for this project.
Very interesting. Where can our readers find you on the Internet?
www.renegutteridge.com (Rene)www.purplepenworks.com (Cheryl)
Thank you, Cheryl and Rene, for sharing this book with us today. I'm eager to read it as soon as my copy arrives.
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Love's a Stage (Hometown Romance)
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