Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Martin Brown Publishers
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Crossover
Page Count: 270
The attractive man sleeping on her couch was never like a father to her. That would’ve been much easier…
Outspoken seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn Fowler loses her mother, gets taken in by a gorgeous family friend, and discovers her mysterious biological father has always known she existed. All within a few months.
At twenty-three, Jackson Wall lives without a single obligation. That is, until the daughter of his late public relations manager and dear friend is threatened with foster care. Shocking even himself, the rising playwright volunteers to become her guardian. Eloquent and incredibly talented, Kaitlyn comes to mean more to Jackson than he ever imagined. Or wanted.
Jackson struggles with their friendship as it develops into something much more complex. While Kaitlyn can’t deny her feelings, she knows what will happen if she pushes him too far. As they search for Kaitlyn’s unknown father, she wonders if Jackson will reject her, too, or if she can convince him that something wrong to begin with can become right over time.
I’m not getting out of bed. I refuse. I don’t often indulge this way in self-pity. In fact, I almost never do. But today, goddamn it, today I’m giving myself the whole day to stay in bed, eat shitty food and feel sorry for myself.
The reviews were brutal.
Where Has Jackson Wall Gone?
That’s how the first one began…
Panned. Panned by every critic in New York City. I read them all. More than once. Every review said the same thing. They used words I never thought would refer to me. Lackluster, trite, boring, hackneyed. They asked if I was washed up, if I’d peaked at an early age and needed to retire.
I sleep most of the morning and around one, I indulge in a few beers.
Around 5:00, there’s a knock at my door. It must be Cole. He texted me earlier after he read one of the reviews. I ignore the knock and turn on the TV. Another knock, louder this time. I storm over to the door and swing it open. “I told you I’m not going out!”
“I figured that,” Kaitlyn says calmly. “That’s why I brought dinner in.” She walks past me, take-out bags in her arms.
I sigh. Part of me can’t believe she’s here, but the other part doesn’t even want to see her. Or anyone else. Pity on their faces. But I can never be mad at Kaitlyn.
“I got ribs and mashed potatoes. They always feel like comfort food to me.” She pays no attention to the fact that I haven’t gotten dressed today, or that I smell like a fucking brewery and it’s only 5:00.
She doesn’t mention that she walked out of my life.
I stare at her. At her huge blue eyes that sparkle like stars when she’s happy. Right now they look cloudy and ominous. She’s worried about me. Her words may not tell me but her eyes do.
“It sucked,” I say flatly.
“Then why did you do it?”
I lock my hands on my head and stare up at the ceiling. I let out what I mean to be a deep breath, but it comes out as more of a tortured groan. “I needed to write something. I needed to get past…” You, the emptiness I feel because of you, the way I’m tormented all the time now because I can’t be with you. “My writer’s block. I thought if I just pushed something out, everything would be okay.”
She stares at me for a minute. Then she scoots off her stool and walks behind me. She puts her arms around me and clasps her hands together at my chest. She rests her forehead between my shoulder blades and sighs, “I’m sorry.”
I breathe deeply but she doesn’t let go. Her arms remain tightly folded around my rising and falling chest. I close my eyes as she holds me and think even with all the terrible reviews and critiques, this might be the thing that breaks me.
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How did the idea of writing At This Stage come about?
I’m usually inspired by conversations I have with people. Thought-provoking questions without any right or wrong answers have always interested me. The topic of conversation one day was impossible relationships. Long after the conversation was over, I found myself wondering what would happen if two people were thrust into a situation where it was inappropriate for them to be together. And could something happen over time that would change their circumstance and make the relationship okay after all? Thus, the inspiration for At This Stage.
When did you decide that writing a novel was something you wanted to accomplish?
I’ve always loved to write and have been creating stories in some form or other since I was a kid. So it was always something I wanted to do, even when life took me on other paths. This past year was the first time I had the opportunity to write a novel from beginning to end, and the process was wonderful.
Sitting down and writing a novel cannot always be easy, so what are your three biggest distractions while you are writing?
Well, I write at home, so my biggest distraction, or I should say my two biggest distractions, are my children when they’re home from school. They really are good about it though, and let me work when I need to. I also find it hard to ignore texts when they come through. Sometimes when I’m in a groove, I have to hide my phone so I won’t hear it go off if someone’s trying to contact me. One other distraction is focus. Most of the time, I’m good about concentrating on what I’m working on. But other times, I’ll get an idea for a completely different project. I’ll need to quickly jot down the idea somewhere, because if I don’t I’m afraid I’ll lose it and won’t be able to concentrate on the job at hand.
What scene or part of the book did you have the most fun writing and why?
I found the scenes where Jackson and Kaitlyn were being playful with each other a lot of fun. Like, when Jackson was teasing Kaitlyn about her lack of skiing ability, or when they were wrestling over Kaitlyn’s wax. I think small moments like that add a lot to real life, and I enjoy including them in what I write.
Writing the perfect ending to a novel can be quite a challenge. Did you find it challenging or did it just come naturally?
I didn’t have that hard of a time with the ending, because I had an idea of how I wanted it to go from the start. I actually found writing the scenes about Jackson’s brother, Danny, a lot harder. I wanted to make sure I depicted him the way I imagined him. Warm, loving, and as Jackson says, “awesome”. I also wanted to show how Jackson’s devotion to his brother influenced Jackson’s decisions. It was part of why he took Kaitlyn in to begin with and a big part of his writing. I even felt like Jackson was sort of testing Kaitlyn to see how she reacted to Danny. Luckily, she passed with flying colors.
Are there any writers who really inspire you?
I find so many authors inspirational. I admire writers who can intertwine characters and storylines seamlessly, like J.K. Rowling and Ayn Rand. I love all things dystopian society, so authors like Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins always inspire me. But I also love authors like Jessica Sorensen, who just make your heart bleed for their characters as you fall in love with them.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what 3 books would you bring with you?
I can only have three?? I think my answer would change with my mood. But today, I’d have to say Atlas Shrugged, Ten Tiny Breaths (one of my newly-discovered favorites) and anything by C.M. Stunich because I love everything she writes.
If you could spend the day with one literary character from one of your favorite books, who would you choose?
Anna Karenina. I’d love to pick that woman’s brain.
What is one thing you would like your readers to get out of reading your book?
I loved writing about Jackson and Kaitlyn at each stage of their relationship – from awkward roommates, to incredibly close friends to much more. I guess I would hope readers enjoy watching them go through this transformation, and fall in love with them a little bit along the way.
Griffin is a character I didn’t initially intend to be in the book. The more I wrote about him, though, the more I connected with him. I became very curious about what made him tick. So now I’m writing Griffin’s story. Knowing his back story, about his family, what got him into sculpting to begin with and why he’s so brooding, makes me love him even more. I’m also working on a young adult novel that is not connected to At This Stage, which is centered around family dynamics
Thank you so much K.K Weil for sharing answering all these questions for us. I'm sure your next project with Griffin will turn out great!
K.K. Weil grew up in Queens, a subway ride from New York’s theater district, which had her hooked early on a mix of major musicals and low-budget one-man shows. Weil, a graduate of N.Y.U. and former teacher, now enjoys writing her own dramas. She lives near the beach in New Jersey, where she is at work on her second novel.