Riley Bell starts fires she can’t control. Milo Reed controls fires he can’t start.

The world has never been kind to deviants – the mysterious and often powerful creatures who walk amongst regulars – as teen runaway Riley has learned the hard way. When Riley meets Milo, the boy in the woods whose abilities complement her own, he offers her sanctuary and stability. But can she overcome her toxic relationships, control her dangerous abilities, and escape the demons of her past?

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t already read Flame, get out of here and go read it!

This one’s a good bit darker than the first, and the first was already pretty damn dark. It’s longer, too, and there are significantly more chapters. (Did you enjoy the chapter titles? I’m particularly proud of I’m Not in Love With You and I Never Will Be and We Need to Talk About Dom.)

Quinn was a strong and fierce female protagonist, and in some ways she was every bit as much of a victim as Riley, but Riley’s fears, insecurities, demons, and panic attacks make for a softer and more fragile character that I fell in love with writing in a whole, new way.

People respond to trauma and abuse in all kinds of different ways, and both of these characters gave me a chance to explore that. Quinn’s response to such things was simple: she hardened herself, refused to become emotional, and refused to trust. Riley, on the other hand, is highly emotional and eager to love and trust.

A large part of this is due to Joey and Jason – and, to that end, the whole slew of friends who Riley meets at the Academy.

Quinn was alone. Sure, she had Kurt for a while, but she’d had people before him, too, and they were all ripped away from her. By the time Quinn reached Siloh, she had no plans of ever loving or trusting anyone again.

But Riley? Riley lives for Joey and Jason. She loves them with every inch of her heart, and everything she does is to protect them. When she meets Milo, Alice, Gemma, Lacey, Roscoe, and countless others, she grows fond of them, too. Riley wants to make friends; she even wants to fall in love, though she knows it won’t be easy.

(Not easy, but totally worth it, right? Milo is too friggin’ good to be true.)

Riley can’t fall in love, though – at least, not as easily as she’d like. When things heat up with Milo, her body goes into a panic. When she tells him the truth about Dom and Trainor, her nails dig into her skin. These heartbreaking patterns she has a hard time escaping are real problems that victims of domestic violence and abuse go through on a daily basis, and my goal with Riley was to do justice to those problems, while still reminding such victims and survivors that they, like Riley, can and will eventually find happiness.

But what about Jason? you might be asking me. You’re right – I can’t write a post about Flame without tackling the sad and complicated boy that is Jason Levi. Have you forgiven him yet for what he almost did to Riley? If your answer was no, well, me neither. But there’s a soft spot in my heart for him, even still.

Jason is human. He fell deeply and desperately in love with his best friend, who doesn’t and will never love him back. Many of us have been there. Yeah, but I didn’t try to rape them, you might be saying. And you’re right – there is no excuse, even the superhuman kind, for such behavior.

Jason’s not-excuse – the superhuman kind – serves as a metaphor that I think we should all keep in mind. Sometimes, we lose ourselves in the moment. Whether it’s fury, lust, depression, or elation, we find ourselves making decisions we wouldn’t otherwise make. And we’ll have to live with those decisions – and the cost they have on the people around us – forever.

So, no – don’t forgive him. Learn from him.

Who was your favorite character in this story? Was Milo as ridiculously perfect to you as he was to me? (Listen, y’all, sometimes you just have to write your dream guy.) Was it Alice, the silver-eyed sidekick we’re sure to see more of? Did Quinn, Dash, or Rory carry over as your favorite from then to now?

I would love to hear your thoughts on Flame, and whether you’d like to see more from Riley – okay, and Milo and Alice and the gang.

In the meantime, keep your eyes out for another update about what’s next in the world of deviants. We’ve got a couple different possibilities, and I can’t wait to dive in!

Pretty Monster

Ten years have passed since the mysterious event that occurred in New York City, turning hundreds of civilians into deviants – a strange and powerful new breed of humanity. Most of these creatures have been rounded up and sent to the deviant prison known as Devil’s Island. Quinn Harper – known to those who both fear and idolize her as The Siren – is one of the last free deviants.

When she faces a choice – surrender and go willingly to Devil’s Island, or watch her best friend die – she makes the only one she can. But she will soon learn that Devil’s Island is not the prison the world believes it to be. Will she be able to cast aside eighteen years’ worth of distrust and embrace this enigmatic new community? Or will she just keep running?

Warning… spoilers ahead. Then again, if you haven’t already read Pretty Monster… well, stop wasting your time here and go read it!

I know what you’re thinking: what kind of dark and disturbed mind comes up with a female lead as dark and angry as Quinn Harper? Is there anyone or anything she doesn’t hate?

Okay – hopefully that’s not really what you’re thinking. But Quinn is certainly angry at the world, and for good reason; they’ve been trying to hunt her down and imprison her for most of her life, and they killed her best friend right before her eyes.

For the record, I myself am not nearly as dark and angry as Quinn. I’ve always liked a strong female lead, though, and the idea of the last free deviant in the world intrigued me. After all, we’ve seen plenty of superhero and magic stories, but one where they’ve all been imprisoned on an island, save for one?

(If it’s been done before, do me a favor and just spare me. I don’t want to know.)

The love story, of course, was crucial. I’m a happily married woman, but my sweet, hardworking, dependable husband isn’t what you’d call an extreme romantic – and, even if he was, I still doubt we’d ever happen upon a beautiful, temperate river in the middle of the woods in which we would play the underwater version of drinking games to learn each other’s secrets. I mean, anything’s possible, but it’s certainly unlikely.

Plus, I mean, it’s Dash. Even his name is hot. Did Quinn ever stand a chance of resisting his charms? I certainly didn’t.

Rory was important to me, too. I have always found the innocence of youngsters to be poetic, and even made a short film about the friendship between a male and female kid in college (Playgrounds, it was called. I think it’s still somewhere on Vimeo… maybe). I liked the idea that Rory was almost as powerful as Quinn, but not yet corrupted by her. We know from Quinn’s relationship with Kurt that she has a soft, protective side buried deep, and I enjoyed having that side gradually open up again the more she got to know Rory.

As for the politics of the story, well, I’ll do my best to spare you from my own, personal politics, though they were probably clear in the novel. Suffice it to say that I believe in freedom and equality, and that no one should be treated differently because of their race, religion, orientation, or, well… magical powers.

If you’ve read Flame, too, then you know there’s a big chunk between the two stories that leaves plenty of room for another. That story would be follow Quinn again, and I’ll leave it at that for now, but be sure to check out my upcoming blog post, What’s Next?, to get some more details on what it would entail.

Further Introductions

In case my About Me page didn’t delve deep enough for some of you into the mind of the woman behind the world of deviants, here’s a little more about me.

I’ve always loved writing. I’m telling you, before I even read Harry Potter, I was already writing my first novel – a story about a girl who meets a unicorn that takes her into a magical world full of more unicorns. Ten-year-old Jill for the win, y’all.

I took my first creative writing class in high school, where I wrote a book called The Glass Bluebird about a group of teenagers who accidentally kill their crazy stalker. Cool premise, but not something I’d still put my name on today and hit “publish.” Still, it taught me a valuable lesson: how great it feels to write something original from start to finish.

I took some TV/Broadcasting classes in high school, too, and developed a love of filmmaking. I ended up going to college (FSU Film School, and proud of it!) for film production with the intention of becoming a screenwriter. In the end, I learned that I prefer prose to screenwriting. But don’t worry, Mom – the college degree was still worth it! I’m now a Director’s Guild of America assistant director working on film sets in Atlanta.

I love my job, but it doesn’t fully satisfy my creative side the way writing does. A few years into my career, I decided to give writing another go.

Superpowers, angry female leads with dark backstories, and futuristic timelines are not topics I would have envisioned for myself. In fact, when I started Pretty Monster, it was really just an outlet to get some raging feminism and X-Men appreciation out of my system. But when you work twelve to fifteen hours a day and come home with an exhausted brain, the only writing you have time for is the kind that, in my opinion, everyone should aim for: the fun kind. And of all the novels I’d started and dropped, Pretty Monster was the one that kept me going.

It took me a few more years, and a worldwide pandemic, to finish the next novel, Flame, but I’m even more proud of it than of my first. To learn more about the motivations and backstories behind both of these stories, be sure to check out my next two blogs, which will be specific to both of them.

In the meantime, enjoy my site, and if you haven’t already read my stories… well, what are you waiting for? Go, go, go!