The question I get asked the most about my book The Before Now and After Then is “what is it about?” which I actually think is kind of a difficult question. Many people think it is a story of grief or a story of bullying, or even a story a just being a gay teenager, but that wasn’t what I planned when I started. For me, writing is like borrowing someone’s life for a while and entering their world, making observations of your own and trying to stay out of the way as the story unfolds. All I ever really wanted to write was a simple love story between two teenage boys, Danny and Rusty, but they just weren’t willing to have it be that way.
Blurb: Danny Goldstein has always lived in the shadow of his identical, twin brother Sam. But when a hurricane of events forces him into the spotlight, he starts to realize that the only thing he’s truly afraid of is himself. With the help of his costume changing friend Cher, a famous gay uncle with a mysterious past of his own, two aging punk rocker parents and Rusty, the boy who will become his something to live for, Danny begins to realize that the music of the heart is truly the soundtrack for living.
I’ve always been extremely visual and see books and stories in my head like movies. When I created Danny, the main character, it happened much in the same way. But over time, as I struggled with those first few chapters, I would find myself getting in my car late at night and really trying to get to know him. I never planned on making him an identical twin. I never planned on their love having struggles or that the world around them would put constraints on their relationship, but over time, I realized, almost as if Danny were whispering in my ear, that I wasn’t being true to the story. I wasn’t being true to Danny.
So I let him tell his own story and I tried to stand out of the way. This may sound crazy and maybe I am, but there were many nights while writing The Before Now and After Then, especially at the end, that I really felt like Danny was laying on my couch next to me saying, “No, No, you got it wrong” or “Actually, what he said was…”, leading me through the story. Danny became very real to me, almost so much that it was difficult to give him up when the story was over. He became somewhat like a kid brother, something I had never had, who let me in on the secrets of his life.
He told me about mixed tapes that Rusty made for him, including only songs that reminded him of Danny. He shared with me the hidden menu Starbucks drinks that they would drink while they drove around, holding hands and singing in the car. He told me what it was like to kiss Rusty for the first time and what it was like to finally have those butterflies he had heard about for so many years from his brother Sam. He laughed as he told me about his best friend Cher and her crazy antics and constantly changing clothes and hair. He told me about his bully Pat and how badly he wanted to kick his ass. But mostly he told me about Rusty; the pouty purse of his lips, the thick feel of his wavy black hair and how he smelled like the Ocean and Christmas.
Over time, I realized that even though the story was about grief and divorce, bullying and tragedy, laughter and chaos, that love was the common denominator that wove its way through the lives of all of the characters. So after all, I had written exactly what I had intended all along; a simple love story.
Peter Monn Bio: I’m obsessed with Ferris wheels, night swimming under a full moon, carnival lights at the end of a dusty road, fireflies and Bluegrass bands, dance music and cool white cotton sheets. I’m a dreamer, a romantic and most importantly, a storyteller. My debut novel, The Before Now and After Then, was released by Pen Name Publishing in July 2014. My next novel, Surrender to Technicolor, is set for release May 2015. It follows the lives of three teenagers who escape from a drug treatment center and go on the wildest road trip of their lives in search of finding home, all to the backdrop of The Wizard of Oz. I live in Indiana with my husband Alex and our three dogs. When not writing, I can be found perched under my John Deere trucker hat, a cup of dark coffee in one hand and a vintage, pulp mystery novel in the other.
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