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Friday, March 14, 2014

New Adult Month Guest Post: Welcome to the Real World by E.J. Fechenda

What I find so appealing about writing New Adult is that the characters are out of the high school bubble and they’re getting a taste of real life experiences for the first time. On one side, this is liberating and exciting: curfews don’t exist, rules about boyfriends or girlfriends spending the night don’t apply and experimenting with substances doesn’t result in being grounded. On the other side: realization sets in that everything costs money, a minimum wage paycheck doesn’t stretch very far and sometimes parental supervision is a good thing, especially when someone doesn’t manage themself well.

In my debut novel, “The Beautiful People - Book One of The New Mafia Trilogy”, the main character, Natalie Ross, struggles with making ends meet while putting herself through college. She also struggles with self-esteem issues, which she tends to mask by using alcohol and occasionally marijuana.

For Natalie, alcohol helps her to become less inhibited and she relies on this when surrounded by people she considers more attractive than herself. Here in lies the slippery slope that many college-age adults find themselves on: increased access to booze and drugs, using these as a mask to conceal insecurities or cope with harsher realities and ultimately opening the door to a slew of issues if not properly managed.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Shows like MTV’s “Real World” feature college students getting hammered night after night and making poor decisions. Women especially make themselves more vulnerable when under the influence. In Natalie’s situation, the party lifestyle is expected and being surrounded by enablers makes it harder for her to right herself when she starts to list like the Titanic. After a brutal assault, Natalie uses alcohol as her coping mechanism, essentially trying to use a band aid to staunch an arterial bleed.

Why did I incorporate substance abuse into “The Beautiful People”? A lot of it has to do with the adage: write what you know. While Natalie is a fictitious character, there are bits and pieces of me in her. At one point in my life, I was the insecure college student who hid behind a veil of alcohol, thinking it was the only way to get any play. In hindsight, I realize how self-destructive this behavior was, but also how easy it was to succumb to. Along with this behavior came poor decision making and, at the time, regrets.

But, it’s more than just what I know and I wasn’t alone in my experience. Alcohol abuse and the behaviors that go with it are legitimate issues the New Adult age bracket faces. According to statistics on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s website, approximately 4 out of 5 college students consume alcohol and about half of these college students who drink, are known to binge drink. Additionally, over 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

It’s important to write with the audience in mind. In order for a story to be engaging, the characters need to deal with the same issues so readers can identify with them. Sometimes the characters overcome their problems and emerge on the other side stronger and healthier and sometimes they aren’t as successful. A lot of personal discovery happens after high school and it’s really fun to explore this period through writing New Adult fiction.

E.J. Fechenda has lived in Philadelphia, Phoenix and now calls Portland, Maine home where she is a wife, stepmom, and pet parent - all while working full time. Crazy is how she likes it.

She has a degree in Journalism from Temple University and her short stories have been published in Suspense Magazine, the 2010 and 2011 Aspiring Writers Anthologies, and in the Indies Unlimited 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology. E.J. is the author of The Beautiful People (Book One of The New Mafia Trilogy), a number one bestseller for Women’s Crime Fiction on Amazon. She is currently working on the second book for this trilogy as well as another Trilogy.

E.J. is a member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance and co-founder of the fiction reading series, “Lit: Readings & Libations”, which is held quarterly in Portland.

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