Oh My Shelves welcomes to the blog, Zane Riley author of With or Without You, the follow up to his debut novel, Go Your Own Way.
OMS: Hi Zane, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
ZR: Hi! I’m Zane, and I’m a queer transgender writer from northern Virginia. Currently, I’m in the process of packing up to move to Washington state, so I’m pretty busy at the moment, but also very excited. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, although I didn’t get truly serious about it until college when I switched my major to Creative Writing.
With or Without You is my second novel and a sequel to my first. It continues Will and Lennox’s story as they finish up their senior year of high school. As they begin to learn how to navigate their growing relationship, Will plans for his future in college while Lennox struggles to accept that his future is more than surviving until the next day. They each begin to forge their own paths only to realize that the futures they each want may lead them away from each other.
OMS: What is the most satisfying thing about being a writer?
ZR: Watching your characters go out into the world, both their world and our own. It’s so wonderful to get a message from someone who loves this character or relates to that character. Getting to see the impact these characters can have on real people is very rewarding. I know how much characters in my favorite books have impacted my personal life or my view of the world, and to be able to do that for someone else is a wonderful gift.
OMS: Do your characters ever take over your writing and make the story go somewhere you hadn’t originally planned?
ZR: Did you mean Lennox? Because this question embodies my entire writer-character relationship with Lennox McAvoy. I’ve usually go two or three options set out before him, but until I get to that moment where he decides his path, I honestly don’t know what he’ll choose. This character has been with me for six years now, so I’ve definitely grown to trust him and his uncertainties, but it can be hard to let him fully take the reins sometimes. With Lennox, you have to. You, as the writer, have to let go of your outlines and expectations, and let him guide his story. In order to know what he’ll do, you have to take the journey with him.
OMS: How did you celebrate the release of your book?
ZR: With my first book, Go Your Own Way, I spent all day working and then went out to dinner for my mother’s birthday. Her birthday was a few days before that book release. This time around I’m packing up the last of my belonging to move out to the west coast. I’m pretty excited, both for this book and the move, but I’ll be super glad when all of my stuff isn’t in boxes anymore!
OMS: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
ZR: This is a question I’m notoriously bad at answering, in part because I never really have an epiphany with my Go Your Own Way series. A lot of my stories take time to build up on their own. Story ideas are like building houses to me. You start from the ground up, and take a lot of time and hard work before you’re ready to drywall or move in furniture and the like. Story ideas are like that. Go Your Own Way started with me considering what it truly meant to be a bad boy and how to humanize such a character.
OMS: Have you ever written naked?
ZR: I can honestly say I haven’t, or at least if I have I was too drunk to remember it. Since I’ve only been drunk twice in my life so far, I’m going to say I haven’t since I remember most of those nights. Personally, I don’t think I ever could write naked unless I was intoxicated. I’d be too worried about someone barging in on me.
* * * * * *
The band room was empty when he pushed the door open, but the piano was set up like it was almost every afternoon these days. Only Mr. Robinette and a music stand littered with sheet music was absent.
The silence struck Lennox as odd, but as he sat down he also realized how strange it was to announce himself. So much had changed since the first time he’d snuck in here to play on his own. Now he was auditioning for some college he still couldn’t fathom.
To make Will happy. And maybe a little bit for himself.
“Ah, I wondered if you were going to show up.”
Mr. Robinette was behind him, the door to his office now wide open. He’d taken off his tie and undone a few buttons on his shirt like he did most afternoons when they practiced.
Lennox took a seat at the piano, but didn’t both opening his bag. He’d memorized the piece he was playing by Valentine’s Day and now, almost two weeks later, he could write it out measure for measure on blank sheet music. But playing it was becoming repetitive. For two hours, three times a week, almost nonstop with the same four pages and nothing else.
“I’d rather try something new. That piece is getting a little old.”
Mr. Robinette smiled and pulled a chair up beside him. “I had a nightmare the other night and it was the theme song while I ran around a haunted house Scooby Doo style.”
“You didn’t catch a ride in the Mystery Machine, did you? I’ve always wanted that van.”
“I’ve got a lunch box version of it. It doesn’t fit much though because it’s too narrow. Anyway, play what you want. I’ll be here until about four-thirty, so it’s all yours.”
As Mr. Robinette returned to his office, Lennox pulled what had become his music notebook out of his bag and opened it to the latest page. He’d taken to composing during class when he should have been taking notes, especially calculus where he had no reason to pay attention anyway.
The latest page was a tune he’d come up with while the other kids had been tapping their pencils and erasing answers. Every moment of his life carried a rhythm, a melody, and an emotion he could create with, and his notebook was becoming a testament to that. He played through everything he’d jotted down over the past few days, but after several rounds he kept coming back to one. It was a piano version he’d tried—and mostly failed—to create of one of the songs Will had played on a loop a few weeks ago.
“I’m getting ready to lock up!”
Mr. Robinette’s voice carried out of the office and into the band room. A few minutes and several jingles of Mr. Robinette’s keys later, the office door was shut and Lennox was closing the cover on the keys.
“That last piece you were playing, was it a cover?”
Lennox shrugged as they headed for the door.
“It was supposed to be. Didn’t sound much like the song.”
“Well, the others did. They were all really good, even the ones that weren’t covers.”
Lennox watched him at the door to the parking lot for a moment. He’d been a great help over the last month—all year if Lennox was honest. Mr. Robinette had believed in him in his own way since school had begun, and thanks to him he had a decent shot at this audition.
Mr. Robinette gave him a genuine smile and patted him on the shoulder.
“You’re very welcome. Let me know how it goes when you get back, okay? I’m rooting for you. Got all of my fingers and limbs crossed. You deserve the chance. Don’t doubt that or yourself.”
It was funny to have so many people believing in him after so long. Happiness was a strange feeling as well. Until he’d let Will into his life he couldn’t remember how to capture such a feeling in his chest and keep it there.
With or Without You by Zane Riley
Release Date: July 21, 2016
Pages: 348 • Cover Artist: Colleen M. Good
Published By: Interlude Press
Interlude • Amazon • ARe • Smashwords • iTunes • Indiebound • B&N
Sequel to ‘Go Your Own Way’
In the much-anticipated sequel to Go Your Own Way, high school seniors Lennox McAvoy and Will Osborne pick up right where they left off—navigating the tumultuous waters of a new relationship and dealing with Will’s disapproving father.
When a violent incident forces Lennox to give up his independent ways, he must come to terms with his past just as Will is grappling with his future. As Will’s college plans become reality, will Lennox have the courage to go after the opportunities he doesn’t think he deserves?