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When I began writing these novels (there are seven total!), I never intended for them to get so involved. My students were freaking out over their favorite boyband going on hiatus; I actually had one seventh grader burst into tears when I told her what “hiatus” meant! We burned countless hours talking about these boys, why they needed a break, how long they’d be gone, and what we (yes, I love these guys, too :o) were going to do for the duration. I tried to tell them that a lot of the strain that was showing in the real-life boys’ relationships with each other might be able to heal if they had some time off.
This didn’t make my students feel better.
In this age of instant accessibility and social media, everyone wants to know everything immediately. So I decided to write something fun for us to read, to get us through. And this is how Living in the Shallows was born.
I took a couple of weeks, during which I asked each of my classes, every day (I’m a substitute teacher, so I had all grades), what they’d like to see in my story, and I made a detailed list. And I worked off this list when writing, trying to tick all the boxes. The funny thing is that, once my characters got on paper, they really did come to life; I no longer had complete control of what they said or did, and the more I wrote, the more obvious this became. I eventually had to make the characters older (they were originally in their teens), more mature. And I had to replace my younger beta readers with older ones lol.
The things that happen in the later books (three of the seven are out as of my writing this) are pretty dark and awful, and certainly weren’t on anyone’s wish list; like I said, the story kind of took on a life of its own. So what started as a fun project for me and the young adults I knew kind of morphed into a huge odyssey for me and maybe some “new adults”, or even older, mom-aged people :o)
I have tried, within the implausibility of the world I’ve created, namely a world in which a shy, poor music student could come into contact with a world-famous boyband, to keep things as real as possible. The way they talk, including all the swearing, is real, I can attest to the veracity of this from my experience in the high school classroom. And their physical interaction is pretty real, too; the love scene at the end of Living in the Shallows is pretty explicit, and there’s a lot of that in the following six books, too, because, when a relationship is new, people tend to get busy!
Above all, my students wanted a love story between a boy and a girl, a normal girl, of a normal height and weight, who wasn’t “supermodel beautiful but unaware of it”. Do the boys think she’s pretty? Of course, she’s lovely. But she’d never be on the cover of a magazine. And that’s not what they love about her, anyway. They love that she’s kind and smart and talented and classy. But even there, I tried to make her realistic. Her many talents have come at a price; she basically has no friends, and has no idea how to interact with people. And as she comes to have more confidence in herself as a woman, she has to learn how to interact with young men, as well, which is difficult for her. I wanted my readers, especially the younger ones, to understand that a woman who isn’t “model skinny” with a thigh-gap (odious phrase) can be considered absolutely enchanting by anyone who’s willing to look properly, which these boys were.
The result of getting so much input from potential readers about my characters has possibly created personalities who are too perfect. But a little perfection in a teen fiction romance novel isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you know?
Aileen is a bilingual music student with a chronic case of poverty. She gets a dream job as an interpreter for a boy band making a movie in Japan. Having spent her life as a sheltered, shy only child in the rarefied world of classical piano, she is utterly unprepared for this new world, these boys and their frank physicality and openness. Theo, especially, the known playboy and unrepentant flirt of the group, makes her uncomfortable in a way she’s never felt before, and ultimately Aileen, or Tinker Bell, as she’s known to the boys, has to decide if she’s ready to leave the sidelines and become a participant in her own life.
Enjoy an Excerpt:
The laughter and talking had stopped as soon as they entered the room and saw me. They stood, as if unsure what to do. The boy with the long brown hair recovered his composure first and held out his hand.
“Hello, I’m Theo,” he said in a deep voice that didn’t quite match his young boy look. He had a British accent, too, though it was different from Betsey’s. He added a smile as we shook hands, and I saw gray eyes and dimples to go with the perfect teeth.
The blond boy, whose eyes were a dark, rich brown, held out his hand next. “I’m Ronan, nice to meet you.” For a moment, my jet-lagged brain refused to process the words because his accent was so thick. I desperately flipped back through all the movies I’d seen, trying to place it. Irish. This boy was Irish. Just as I was wrapping my mind around that, the redhead stepped forward.
“Hi, I’m Gethin, pleasure to meet you.” He, too, had a lovely smile, but his eyes were green. And his accent was different, kind of British, but more sing-song, with elongated vowels, like English on a graceful roller coaster.
Was there something in my coffee besides coffee?
The curly haired boy stepped forward to introduce himself. I stared at him warily. He had stunning dark blue eyes, which contrasted with his brown skin, and the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen on a boy. Given what had come out of the other boys’ mouths when they’d spoken, if he started speaking Icelandic or produced yet another English accent, I was going to jump right out the window.
He held out his hand, and as I reached for it, he said, “My name is Matthew, and I’m very happy to meet you.” I nearly yanked my hand back. This boy was Scottish, sounded just like Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter, and looked like he should be breaking hearts on the Nigerian soccer team.
About the Author:My name is Tani Hanes, and I am a 51 year old substitute teacher. I’m from central California and am a recent transplant to New York City. The most important things to know about me are that I’m punctual, I love grammar and sushi, and I’m very intolerant of intolerance. The least important things to know about me are that I like to knit and I couldn’t spell “acoustic” for 40 years. I’ve wanted to write since I was ten, and I finally did it. If you want to write, don’t wait as long as I did, it’s pointless, and very frustrating!
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