(This article originally ran in the September 2017 issue of Lake Norman CURRENTS.)
When Sherrill’s Ford resident Jenna Patrick first got the idea for her debut novel, “The Rules of Half,” she was juggling the demands of a career in engineering and the schedules of her two daughters, who are both competitive gymnasts. She says it took her about a year to finish the first draft of the book, which centers around a family dealing with mental illness set in small-town America. While Patrick’s path to publication was different than she first imagined it, she couldn’t be happier with the reception of her novel.
She says she first got the idea for the story after reading a newspaper article about an accidental death in a family, and wondering if she would be able to live with herself personally if something similar happened to her. She has also struggled with depression in the past and has had family members also deal with mental illness. After finishing the novel, hiring an independent editor sending out queries to agents and publishing houses, she learned about SparkPress, an independent publishing company (and imprint of Ingram Publisher Services) that specializes in merging the traditional publishing model with new and innovative strategies.
Redbook has listed “The Rules of Half” as one of “10 Books You Have to Read this Summer” and she has also received reviews from Kirkus, Buzzfeed, “Working Mother,” Popsugar and SheKnows. In addition, while promoting the novel, she published essays with “Harper’s Bazaar” and “First For Women.”
Patrick says she always loved writing but wasn’t sure she would be able to sustain a good career taking the English major route.
“As time went on I missed it so much,” she says. “For me, it’s a great release. If I’m stressed, I write. It soothes me. A page became a chapter, and a chapter became a book. It helps me. It’s complex and there are a lot of different things going on at once and my engineering background helps.” She likes to work on outlining and plotting using the software program Scrivener and Excel spreadsheets.
Patrick is working on her next novel, while continuing to work as an engineer three days a week and drive her daughters to their practices and competitions, many of which are out of town. She always credits her husband for making sure she has time to write when she needs it.
To learn more about Jenna Patrick, visit jennapatricknovels.com.
Will was his Bipolar Disorder.
But it was easier not to argue over a technicality, so instead Will thought of happier times. He thought of swimming in Half Moon Creek and picnics afterword at the dam. He thought of his mother’s homemade, blueberry pie and his father’s old transistor radio crackling in the background. He thought of a time when he was just little Will Fletcher–future wide receiver for the Half Moon Howlers. Not crazy Will Fletcher–the example parents cite to their children when explaining the meaning of stranger danger.
I was working on this assignment when my family took our annual beach vacation this year, and was fortunate to have an advance copy of the novel with me. I was hooked in no time. The cast of characters in the fictional town of Half Moon Hollow are written with depth, and Patrick expertly peels away the layers to prove to the readers that things aren’t always what they seem. Fifteen-year-old Regan Whitmer is escaping the controlling eye of her step-father, mourning the loss of her mother, and seeking out the biological father she has never known. Unbeknownst to her, that father, Will Fletcher, has lost his way and fights a daily battle with bipolar disorder, made worse after a tragedy in his family. He is not exactly in proper frame of mind to meet the daughter he never knew existed, especially one who is requesting to live with him and Janey, the sister determined to keep him healthy.
As the story unfolds, you learn more about Regan’s relationship with her mother, the guilt she is harboring, the secret Janey is keeping, and the past that Will isn’t sure he remembers clearly. Patrick does a great job pacing the story, and making the reader feel both frustrated and exhilarated while trying to unlock the mystery that remains at the core of the story. I was very impressed by the quality of this novel, as well as the uniqueness of the story and give kudos to the author and her decision to work with SparkPress. I look forward to checking out more of their titles in the future.
A few months ago, I was watching something on TV when this PSA came on. It stopped me in my tracks, mostly because it brought some old memories to the surface. I’ve been thinking about writing about the topic of emotional abuse for a while, but wasn’t sure how to do it. I have one YA manuscript with a male character who is both physically and emotionally abusive to his girlfriend, but sometimes people don’t even realize they’re in a damaging relationship because they’ve never been hit, punched, slapped or kicked.
At least, that’s why I didn’t realize I was in such a relationship when I was 17 years old. I thought because my boyfriend was older, in college, and took me to nice places that I could overlook the tiny things he did that made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I came to understand he was emotionally abusive. I finally sat down and decided to put some ideas down on paper, and the next thing I knew, I had a short story that featured a lot of my own personal experience through the eyes of a fictional character. It’s still a work in progress, but I hope it will be something teenagers can read and learn from one day so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.
There were so many red flags I should have noticed. Like the way he didn’t want me talking to any other guys, period. I thought it was normal jealous boyfriend stuff. Then he didn’t really want me hanging out with my friends, either, because he was afraid other guys would be around. If I mentioned another guy—a friend, classmate, or whatever, he would let out a string of very unflattering names for that person, even if he had never met them. It made me uncomfortable, but I let it go because he was smart, attentive, bought me nice things, and seemed to genuinely like me. Wrong, I know. After a few months, he started calling me names and acting like I wanted to leave him for any other guy within a 10-foot-vicinity. It seems melodramatic, but that’s about how ridiculous his jealousy was. Thank goodness there were no cell phones back then. He would become furious if I couldn’t/didn’t want to spend time with him. I started to feel smothered after about six months, because I was a senior in high school and felt like I couldn’t be a teenager anymore.
When I was accepted into a college other than the one he went to, he was so angry he almost couldn’t see straight. He told me we should go ahead and break up then and there because he knew if I went to another school I would cheat on him. Immediately. Nice, huh? Once I made the decision to go to the same college as him, he wanted to know where I was at all times. He memorized my class schedule and if I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, he would interrogate me when he found me. (“You weren’t in the building where your class was, or the dining hall, library, or any of the parking lots. Where the hell have you been and who were you with?”) As you can imagine, all his controlling behavior drove me away. I became interested in another classmate, and broke up with my boyfriend because I was still young and wanted to be able to date other people. From there, the ex-boyfriend left threatening notes on my car, egged my house, sent his friends into my place of employment to call me names, etc.)
Even though I saw his behavior escalate, for some reason in a moment of weakness a few months later I reconciled with him briefly. But after the behavior started up again I called it off. I knew I couldn’t continue to live like that. I had been called so many names (including the title of this blog post and my short story) that I had very little self-esteem left. I knew he made me feel terrible and that his behavior couldn’t be considered normal, but because he had never laid a hand on me I didn’t think it was abuse.
I know now I was wrong. I have a teenage daughter, and I’ve shared my story with her in the hopes that she never finds herself in a similar situation. And if she does, I want her to know it’s not her fault, and she should not be afraid to tell someone. I was lucky—he finally left me alone a few months after I broke things off the second time. And I’m fortunate to have been married to a wonderful man for 17 years now, but the scars from this experience are still there. I guess they always will be. #ThatsNotLove