Chapel Ryan isn’t crazy. At least, that’s what she’s been trying to convince herself of for most of her life. But after being hallucination-free for three years, Chapel finds herself facedown on her English classroom’s gritty linoleum floor. When she looks up, everyone around her is suspended in animation. Mouths hang open mid-yawn, feet hover mid-cross, Ms. Freeman’s arm flexes mid-sentence diagram. It’s another hallucination. Or, is it?
Chapel prepares to tear herself back to reality when something happens. Something that has never happened before in any of her hallucinations–someone moves. And not just any someone—it’s the new guy with a scar over his lip and a reputation as black as his perfectly styled hair. And all of the sudden Chapel’s white-knuckle grip on her life has slipped, and with it, her assurance that what she’s experiencing isn’t real.
I accidently became an author.
I started writing when I was 10 years old. My first short story was about a girl named Kelsey (because that was the coolest name ever) whose babysitter was killed by a man named the Peanut Butter and Jelly Murderer. Every time he claimed another victim, he would eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at their house, then leave.
So, yeah. I was a weird kid.
But I wasn’t one who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went through phases: the astronaut phase, the actress phase, the longer-than-you’d-think grocery store checkout girl phase (the scanning always looked so glamorous).
In high school, I was mostly in the keep-my-head-above-the-social-waters phase and the boy phase. There wasn’t a lot of strategizing career-wise.
Then, in college, I switched my major three times. I went from Theatre (too dark) to Real Estate (too serious) to English (ah, just right). Borders on psychosis, though, no?
My point is that I never had this moment where I sat down and said, I want to be an author when I grow up. My writing was always with me, something I loved doing, something that came so naturally to me that I didn’t even realize it was my passion.
My junior year in college I wrote a book called Our Story that will never see the light of day. That first book was a cathartic experience, and I learned more about myself through it than the craft of authorship. But when I finished it, something clicked into place inside of me. I knew I would never stop writing books.
My second, third, and forth manuscripts followed. Most of it was complete garbage. I mean terrible, terrible stuff. And at first it was all in good fun. And I know people read this and think—I’d rather carve my eyeballs from my head with a rusty coat hanger than write for fun—but that’s just how it was, and how it still is for me.
Three years ago I started writing Tempus. I loved my job and had a full life, so writing served no other purpose for me than a hobby I was passionate about. Then, when I finished Tempus, I shared it with a few people. I was literally (genuinely, seriously) blown away when they expressed how much they enjoyed reading it.
That’s the moment my writing went from being about me, to being about a reader. It was an addictive feeling—writing something that made people think and feel.
So I decided to edit Tempus and query it—just to see what happened. Simultaneously, I started writing more for my actual job, so it took me a while to get around to sending Tempus out.
I was in bed the night my publisher reached out to me about representing Tempus. It didn’t really seem real, so I didn’t tell many people. I was crazy busy with my job, my family, my friends—plus, I’m a I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it kind of girl—the most optimistic skeptic you’ll ever meet. I shared the news with a few, but mostly focused on the season I was currently in.
Through a series of life events, it become evident to my family that I needed to step away from my day job to allow more margin in our schedules. It just so happened that the month after I quit, Tempus was published.
So I never set out to be an author, and yet, here I am. It’s very humbling, surreal, unexpected, and wonderful. I believe so fully in God’s sovereignty, and these circumstances only serve to confirm that.
What’s next for me? Well, I can promise you more writing. For one, I have a contract to finish the Tempus series. I also have another idea for a series that I’m just squirming to get started on. (Yup. I’m that big of a nerd.)
I don’t want to limit my life to just one narrow career path. That’s not for me. I want to give myself permission to pursue my dreams, however random or unexpected or challenging they might be.
And who knows? I could wake up tomorrow and hate writing. If that happens, I may be the lady scanning your groceries on your next outing.
Hey. Anything can happen, right?
Hi Chapel, I’m so excited to be here with you today! I’ve been trying to prepare for this interview for a few days and, let me tell you, it has not been easy. I could just sit here and gossip about your incredibly attractive neighbors over there, but I guess I have a job to do, so let’s get right to it!
I know that you enjoy reading, can you tell me who you favorite character from literature is, and why?
Just one? Hmm…
I think Julie from Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies is one of the toughest heroines out there. She’s confident and funny, but brave and thinks for herself. Plus, there was something about her that made R hesitate long enough to not eat her. As far as zombie-love goes, that’s tops!
And how about your favorite villain?
I don’t know about the best villain, but the scariest villain of all time has to be Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Can you think of a scarier name? Much less the man with the name. Sheesh! Timmy made me watch every movie with him in a marathon one weekend. I had nightmares for a month.
Even though you’re a cheerleader, you don’t seem to fall into a “clique”. Why (and knowing the pressures of high school, how) is that?
While I’m not like, a social outcast, I’m not the most popular girl in school, either. (Who would want that kind of pressure?) Cliques always seemed kind of like conforming, and conforming like giving up control … and I think we all know how I feel about control.
As for cheering in high school, I basically tried out just to get Erica to shut up about it. It also gave me a chance to keep my tumbling sharp, and I got to hang out with her, Timmy, and Logan on Friday nights.
How are you and your ex, Logan, doing as of today?
Logan has a new girlfriend who lives a few towns up. Erica and I bumped in to them at the mall last week, and Erica tried to trip her. So … (Presses lips together.) Yeah. That’s that.
How about you and Zay?
(Giggles.) Gosh, I’m lame, right? We’re really good. (Giggles again.) Please ignore me and ask the next question.
If you could repeat one moment in your life, what would it be?
My first date with Zay.
Can you tell us one of your biggest regrets?
Not spending more time with my sisters when we lived in the same house. Now I don’t think we’ll ever live together again.
You seem like such a brave girl, do you have a phobia?
Commitments, closets, dependency, diets, the future … Sorry. Did you say just one?
What song in your playlist is on repeat?
(Blushes.) Um, Zay put a song on my iPod. It’s kind of old. It’s called ‘Green Eyes’ by Coldplay.
Sum up your style in a two words.
Okay, Chapel, my next set of questions are fill in the blank.
My type of guy is: quick-witted
I’m addicted to: reading – or I was, until Erica made me hide my books in the basement …
The best way to move past a break up is: Pretend it never happened? Just kidding. Do as I say, not as I do! The best way to move forward from a break up is to not to figure out what went wrong, but to celebrate what went right, and be brave enough to try again the next time around.
My idea of the perfect date is: Did you hear about my first date with Zay? Hot dogs, dancing in fountains, and a kiss? I’m not sure it gets better than that!
I feel the most confident when I’m wearing: My cowboy boots!
A good friend is: Gosh, I’m afraid if I put them in any certain order they’ll argue over who got to be mentioned first … To keep it fair, I’ll list them in alphabetical order: Erica, Timmy, and Zay. All three of these people allow me to be me, while also pushing me to be the best version of me. That’s true friendship right there, friends.
I’m happiest when: Zay + Snack + Soft Surface + Book = Heaven
Chapel, I’ve had such an amazing time getting to know you better. There’s just one last thing before I stop the tape, do you have any special plans tonight?
After we train, Zay is taking me to see the new X-Men movie. He said maybe we can learn a few things from it … I still can’t figure out if he’s joking or not.
Here they are ladybug!
“Hello Isaiah, or may I call you Zay? I have to say I’m a bit nervous. The chance to actually get to interview you is a rarity and I’m sure you never would have agreed had Chapel not persuaded you. I do hope I don’t ask any overly private questions, but if I do feel free to decline to answer.”
Only my closest friends call me Zay … but … I’ll make an exception. I did that with Chapel, and you see how that worked out … (Winks.)
The interviewer fidgets around with a sheaf of papers in her hand, her eyes darting from one sheet to the next. It’s obvious she’s extremely nervous and can barely keep herself contained. Her hands shake and she drops an index card on the floor. She leans over quickly, almost too quickly nearly toppling out of her chair as she snatches it up afraid he’ll see the little stars and hearts she’s drawn around his name.
“Ahem… sorry about that.” Glancing back up at him she smiles shakily and begins with her first question.
“So, Zay, how about those Yankee’s?”
I don’t do baseball anymore. (Points to scar over his lip.) Remember?
She can see that her attempt at a joke fails miserably but quickly bounces back with a small smile. “But seriously, what your fans would like to know is… how exactly did you feel when you saw Chapel for the first time?”
The first time I saw Chapel was almost a year ago. It was mid-March, and I was sitting in the car waiting on Jackson and his realtor to look at—yet another—house.
There was a break in the trees that divide our yards, and there was just room enough between two of them for me to see her. She had her music blaring when she pulled up—that’s what got my attention. She was playing an angry song–one of my favorite songs.
And I look over expecting to see some angsty dude, and instead there’s this short blonde girl in heels and a blouse slamming her car door. Usually I’m not into short girls, but I couldn’t look away from her. Because while she was small, she took up all the spaces in my vision.
Turn around, turn around, I found myself thinking. I wanted to see her face. When I did, I let my feet slip from the dash into the floorboard as I leaned forward. She was beautiful. Beautiful, and sad.
My first thought was, I want to take that away from her. I want to make her not sad. My second thought was, Don’t be such a freaking pansy, Zay. That girl is hot. You have to find a way to make out with her in between missions. So I went inside and told Jackson that was the house for us.
Somewhat heartbroken she moves on. If only there’d been the slightest chance she could have turned his head. Oh well, she’ll just have to dream on. “What kind of music do you like?”
I’m into hip-hop, mostly. Jay Z, Eminem. Anything I run or slam a punching bag to. (Leans forward and whispers) I’ve been known to download the odd Katie Perry song. But let’s keep that between us, hm?
She’s becoming a bit more comfortable now and finally settles into routine. “If you had to name a hero, someone that’s not related to you or someone you don’t really know, that you would like to hang out with for a week, who would it be and why?”
Superman. He has x-ray vision …
“Where do you shop for clothes and what’s your color preference?”
I actually enjoy shopping—which guys think is weird until they see the fruits of my labor. Girls love dudes who put a little thought into what they wear. I travel so much that I don’t have time to go into malls. I shop online. As for colors … (Looks down at all black outfit.) Do you gotta ask?
“Favorite ice cream? Or do you even like ice cream?”
Jackson would make me run a dozen sprints just for using the word ice cream.
“If you could dye your hair any color, what would it be and why?”
Have you seen my hair? (Points to perfectly-coifed locks.) Nu uh.
Feeling that her questions are a little more feminine than he’d like, she finally tosses the papers on the table and goes for the nitty gritty stuff.
“Alright, so…” Leaning forward she smiles wickedly. “What do you really think is going on with Chapel’s dad and the fact that he’s still alive after all?”
I have a few theories in the works, actually. (Runs a hand down the side of his jaw.) Let’s just say I’m hoping they all turn out to be bogus.
“Do you have any jealousy toward Valentine? I mean let’s face it, he’s pretty close to Chapel and well… even though he’s ‘technically’ with Erika…?” Leaving the question open ended she waits for him to answer, hoping she can get some serious dirt here.
I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not really a jealous guy. I’m happy Chapel had a good friend growing up. He’s a really good dude, to be honest. Smart and funny. (Pauses.) Okay, now that I think about it, maybe I am a little jealous. But have you seen his hair? (Shakes his head.) I feel good about my chances.
“How did it feel to be able to rough Carter up a bit? I bet you wanted to get a few more good licks in huh?”
(Smirks.) Now we’re talking. I’ve wanted to punch Carter in his pretty boy face ever since I saw him standing close to Chapel in his classroom last fall. If Chapel hadn’t been there to stop me, I’d be having this interview from a jail cell.
“So tell me about Rush, does he have anyone he’s interested in?” Realizing she’s fishing again she leans back and holds up her hands. “Sorry… never mind you really don’t have to answer that.” Even though she hopes he will.
You’re not the first girl to fish for information about my boy. (Chuckles softly.) I think Rush has his eye on someone. But you’ll have to stay tuned to figure out who …
“Say you and Chapel didn’t work out, and you had the chance to go out with any girl you wanted, even a celebrity, who would it be?”
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m not really a relationship kind of guy. This thing with Chapel scares the sh—uh (Catches himself.), it’s outside of my comfort zone, so to speak. I have no idea how I’ll react if it doesn’t work out, because I’ve never done this before.
“When you have time to watch television, are there any shows you really enjoy?”
Television? Is that still a thing?
She’s pretty good at this back and forth, light and intense thing and really feeling at ease now she goes for another serious question. “Tell us about your mom, Zay, where is she? Who was she really?”
(Coughs into his fist.) Next question.
“Just one last question and I guess we’ll be done. I’m sure all the fan girls out there will want to know. Is there ever a chance that you might become… you know… the ‘old’ Zay again?” There’s a hint of hopefulness in her eyes, even just one night with this handsome rogue would be enough to last her a lifetime… let’s face it she’s not had much action lately.
The old Zay? The old Zay was a lot to handle. (Lifts up one corner of his mouth.) But he had some good times, too. Wait … are you okay? You’re breathing kind of funny …
“Alright, well…” she stands and gathers her papers accidentally leaving the index card behind she’d dropped earlier. Holding out her free hand she smiles. “Thank you Zay for the wonderful interview, I really hope we can do it again sometime.” Leaning in a bit just for one moment of closeness she winks. “Anytime… you have my number… call me.” Releasing his hand after a moment she turns to walk toward the door trying to sashay a bit, though the execution is poor and she trips on the rug in the foyer. Catching herself against the wall she makes sure not to look back, sure he’s laughing at her and exits the house.
Holly was born and raised in a small town in North Georgia. The third of four children, Holly grew up telling stories to get herself out of—and her siblings into—trouble. When she was eight years old, she penned her first publication: a newspaper called Sunny Dayz News. While she didn’t sell any actual copies, her sympathetic grandmother did peruse through the edition at least once.
When Holly isn’t dreaming up new plotlines for her next book, she enjoys breakfasting at Picnic Café in Dahlonega, Georgia with her (handsome) husband and their two (adorable) daughters.