Bri Martin likes her skirts too short, her heels too tall, and trouble close at hand.
When my editor emailed me the rough draft blurb for Wild Ones, I immediately broke out in a grin, because hot damn, first sentence and that was my Bri. She’s a spitfire. A wild card. She’s that girl with her skirt hiked up a little too high to be proper, her heels just a little too tall to be lady-like, and the first one to jump into trouble when it presents itself. Hell, sometimes it didn’t even need to present itself. Sometimes Bri creates trouble, just because. She’s young, she’s free, and she has no use for even the idea of tame. She grew up in sin, it was her constant companion, what she knew, and even though she ran from a broken home full of it, she settled into her new life alongside of it, because that’s what she knew. Bri would never be content with the saints, never be okay walking the straight and narrow. She wanted better than what she had, but she also wanted that better to come on a razor-sharp edge for her to walk. Because that’s where Bri would always feel comfortable. Walking a thin line.
But Bri wasn’t always the wild, scrappy twenty-two year old she is in those pages. She didn’t always come from a dark, broken childhood. In the beginning, when she first started speaking up as a tiny voice in the back of my head, she was younger. Not as intense or scarred. When Bri Martin came to me, she was a seventeen year old girl who thought she might be in love with her best friend.
Wild Ones was once Young Adult.
Every character you meet throughout the course of the story you can buy today was in that original outline I started feverishly drafting one night, my notPod blaring a mix of twang and Top 100. I saw bricked high schools and secrets. A boy in love with his car and a girl who might be in love with him. I saw a new guy coming into their established game and shaking things up and I saw Bri right there in the middle, laughing a little too loud and hiding something from the rest of the kids around her at parties they were all too young to be having. In the end, I saw a scene straight out of an 80s movie, and these two best friends who realized they were more riding off toward their future. It looked great on paper. Edgy enough to stand out in a genre full to bursting, but relatable to those that picked it up. This was it. This was The One and my God I was gonna write it. I was gonna write the hell out of it.
But try as I might, I could not get that story out.
It just wouldn’t work. All those things that I saw so clearly, that had made perfect sense going in, were pushing back at me when I tried to fit them together. I spent hours trying to jam the pieces in place, pushing sweaty hair out of my eyes as I growled at these characters who refused to cooperate. Bri went from being a small voice, just a whisper, really, to being loud and insistent, and so very determined that she was not the girl I was attempting to put on paper. I kept trying to shove her away, kick her back, because I already knew who she was. She was sitting in a folder on my desk. She had a hard-working daddy, a mama who ran off on them, and a brother gone to college. She was in love with her best friend and she was gonna find out because troubled Luke Turner came storming into town with his brothers, causing a stir. But Bri, she wouldn’t shut up. She wouldn’t be quieted. I had it all wrong and she wouldn’t stop telling me that until I listened.
It took me awhile, but I finally listened.
And what I saw clicked in ways that first attempt hadn’t. Of course Bri wasn’t seventeen. Of course she wasn’t in love with her best friend. What had I been thinking?
So I cut her loose. I ripped up that character file and burnt the shreds and Bri danced in the ashes laughing. She went to work in a Speakeasy on a street full of bars and there across the smoky room, she met her boy with the scarred knuckles who wasn’t afraid to growl right back at her. They kissed and they cussed and they tore the Lane up with the force of their messy intensity, their wildness, the push and pull of them. They set fires to watch them burn, cackling when they got too close to the flames because they liked the heat. They didn’t stop, those two. They didn’t slow down. I no longer had to try to fit their pieces together. I just had to keep up.
But I’ll be damned if she didn’t look back over her shoulder at me at least once and give me a wink.
Here’s to you, Bri-baby. You’re loud and you’re a mess and a hell of a girl. Thanks for never shutting up.
Now go set fires, kid.
Wild Ones is officially on sale wherever ebooks are sold.
I’ve always wanted to say that.