Inspired by True Events
Hannah Richards isn't your typical 16 year-old at Wichita Falls High. Fashions, trends, cosmetics and style are unimportant to her. An avid reader, guitar player, classic movie and television buff, Hannah marches to the beat of her own drum. Visible only to her Father the town Sheriff, and her two best friends. Hannah lives a simple, un-pampered life as an "Eastie."
After coming to the aide of Taylor Monroe, a popular member of the ultra snobby "Stilettos" at school, Hannah's life beings spiraling out of control. As she starts spending more time with Taylor, her best friends abandon her, after a series of misunderstandings, causing Hannah to re-invent herself.
Hannah quickly gets caught up in a life much different than the one she knows, where status, glamour, makeup, appearance and acceptance become her masters. And what of the dark secret that haunts the streets of Wichita Falls?
Can Hannah survive the lies, deceit, jealousy and rage that are now waiting for her behind every corner? Will she succumb to the pressures of popularity? Or will she be crushed under the heels of the "Stilettos"?
~High school is hard enough just being yourself, let alone being someone you're not~
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What prompted you to write Forever Me?
I was just about to leave the house one morning when I caught a segment on morning television about a group of teen girls at a Texas high school who had organized a group called, “Redefining Beautiful.” They were trying to encourage fellow female students to go one day a week without makeup. They were stressing that you don’t need makeup to be beautiful. I was so amazed by their bravery and confidence to go against type, especially in high school and at an age where girls feel the most awkward with themselves. A close friend of mine who is a film producer had been asking me if I had anything I was working on I could share with him. By time the segment was over, I had the basic plot in my head and before I left the house, I already knew the ending of the story. I phoned my producer friend and told him I had something, we met that afternoon and I pitched the idea to him as a film. He loved the concept and told me he was interested. Could I write the screenplay? I went to work right away. But about 50 pages in, I found these characters were so lifelike, I felt it needed to be a book, it could always be a film later. I called my friend back, said, I have to write this as a novel. With his blessing and two years later. Forever ME was published.
What advice would you give to teens struggling in high school?
High school is either a misery or an amazing four years in your life. It's a time when teens sometimes feel their most lonely and misunderstood. I think sometimes it's even harder for girls. Bullying is such a plagueon high school campuses, teens are always reminded to tell someone if you're being bullied, but it's not as simple as that. Because the teacher, parent or people who would protect you can't be there all the time. There's always the worry of what happens to me when I'm alone? It's even worse if you're being bullied by a pack of teens. You don't want to be known as a snitch but you have to tell someone in charge. IF they won't listen, go over their head. We live in a time now, where people have to be held accountable. Bring in the news media if you have to. The only power someone has over you is the power you allow them to have. The other issue about looks, weight, social status, everyone wants to be special, important, but acting the way you think others want you to act does nothing for you. Have your own voice, your own look, your real friends will stay by you and not judge you. Ask yourself, why do I want to impress this person? Teens sometimes feel like they can't talk to their parents, and in some cases it's true they can't. If this is the case, a teacher, counselor or friend's parent may be the adult who will truly listen to you.
Do you outline before you write or just wing it?
Usually I just wing it. I mean I normally have a basic idea of what I'm going to write. This was different, I had the whole story pretty much together from the beginning. That was a huge relief. I didn't expect the book to be nearly 500 pages. But the story just kept pouring out on the pages. Some times things happened I did not expect to happen. When a subplot began to sneak its way into the story, I tried to fight it. I said, no I don't want to write that...but it persisted and I'm glad I listened to my writing voice because it actually tied the entire story together.
What was your favorite part about writing Forever Me?
I loved it when characters would make me laugh, and surprised when one character that originally I planned to be pretty thin...became a huge character in the story. The other thing I loved was there was a part while writing that made me cry. I cried the entire time I wrote the scene. That had never happened to me before as an author. I've loved hearing from parents and grandparents who have read the book and said it made them cry and they loved the message but the biggest joy and vindication is when teens tell me, how they relate to Hannah, or how much the story affected them. That for me is the payoff, when a teen praises the writing, because that's who I wrote it for.
The alarm buzzed and Hannah rolled over on her back in bed and stretched. She tried to get her eyes to focus on her cell phone to see what time it was. The digital numbers told her it was 4:15 a.m. She stopped the noise and reached an arm behind her to shake Taylor awake, but the bed was empty. Surprised, she rolled over and found she had the bed all to herself. She hoped she hadn’t forced Taylor out. She had been known to be a bed hog, especially with the covers. She propped herself up on her elbows when the bedroom light flipped on. Like a vampire recoiling from the sunlight, Hannah’s hand quickly went to shield her eyes.
“Morning sunshine,” called Taylor in a chipper voice.
Hannah slowly lowered her hand and saw Taylor standing in the doorway, still wearing her father’s t-shirt but with a gator clip in her hair to hold it up.
“I thought I set my alarm for six.”
“You did, but I changed it. Hot Girl Rule Number 1: Rise early and get your face on. Only homely girls sleep in.”
Hannah let her head fall back on the pillow. “Ohhhh, let me be homely, just for an another hour.”
“Oh no you don’t,” called Taylor as she reached under the blanket, grabbed Hannah by the wrist and tugged her up into a sitting position. “Let’s get those feet on the floor, I already picked out your outfit, got the flatiron hot and made coffee.”
“I swear, if I didn’t love men, I’d probably marry you, just for the fact you made me coffee,” Hannah said rubbing her face trying to wake up.
“Yeah, don’t get ahead of yourself there, doll. You’re pretty cute, but not my type. By the way I made the coffee for me. I’m just sharing it with you. Now let’s get going, the sun will be showing up in an hour,” Taylor teased.
“Okay, Sarge,” Hannah said with a half salute. Her feet touched the floor and she recoiled. She started to climb back under the covers but then saw the look on Taylor’s face. “Okay, okay.” Hannah stood up and winced once more from the cold floor on her feet. She stumbled from her bedroom to the bathroom across the hall. Taylor had everything laid out like a display in a showroom. She was truly organized when it came to preparing for the day. Hannah examined her face in the mirror. She was prepared for the worst. She was afraid she was going to wear the after effects of Lauren’s punches for the next week, but surprisingly, there was only a small amount of bruising on the corner of her chin and up next to her right eye. Even the swelling in her lip had pretty much disappeared.
Taylor returned to the bathroom with a cup of coffee for Hannah. Hannah turned and took the cup with a grateful expression. She took a sip and instantly felt the perfectly made drink intoxicate all of her senses. She sat the cup on the vanity and wrapped her arms around Taylor and hugged her. “I love you,” she whispered.
Taylor stood being a prisoner of Hannah’s clinch. Her eyes darted from side to side. Her expression of feeling awkward reflected in the mirror. “Um—love you too, but it’s just coffee, Hannah.”
Hannah shook her head. “No, that is a cup filled with love,” she said with sleep-crusted eyes.
“Okay—are you like this every morning?”
“I just need a moment,” Hannah teased as she hugged her once more. Taylor gave the patented pity hand pat on Hannah’s back that meant, Okay, I love you too but I’m beyond comfortable now.
“How did you sleep?” Hannah asked as she took a healthy drink of coffee.
Taylor took Hannah’s hair into her hands and ran the flatiron across it. “Pretty good, but you are a cover hog.”
“I know, but in my defense you’re the first person I’ve ever slept with.”
“Yeah—let’s not share that information,” Taylor said teasing.