Jen: Today we welcome Avery Woods to Romancing the Book. Avery, will you share a short bio with us?
Avery: Avery Woods lives in beautiful, but sometimes rainy Vancouver, BC, Canada. In addition to writing, Avery Woods works as a full time Registered Nurse. When she’s not writing or working as a nurse you can find her consuming books by the minute. Trust is her first book.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Avery: I work full time as a Registered Nurse. As a nurse, I work with individuals who deal with chronic illnesses such as HIV. It’s interesting to see how chronic illnesses not only impact individuals, but how it impact families and significant others.
During my third year of nursing school, a presenter came to talk to my class about HIV. I was fascinated learning how much research there was on HIV. I was astounded to discover how far the medications (if taken properly and correctly) have come to limit the incidences of passing HIV on from person to person. Learning this new information changed my perception on HIV.
Unfortunately, I believe there is still a negative stigma on HIV, especially because it is a preventable illness. I couldn’t imagine the amount of trust needed for an HIV positive individual to feel safe enough to disclose their status. Learning this information and wanting to end the negative stigma surrounding HIV inspired me to write Trust.
I wrote Trust, which is about a college-aged student named Hayden, who unexpectedly gets diagnosed with HIV. It’s been two years and Hayden has not told her family and friends about her HIV. Since an ex-boyfriend did not take the news of her HIV status well, Hayden’s been afraid to tell others about her status. Hayden meets Travis, a guy she develops feelings for. Before furthering their relationship, Hayden knows she must tell Travis about her HIV, but is nervous to do so. In addition, Hayden deals with the guilt she faces on the decision that lead to her contracting HIV.
Hayden tries to learn that a person is more than their illness. An illness is a part of an individual, but not solely who they are. Hayden struggles with this concept throughout the book, as she understands it logically, but has difficulty accepting it.
“The medications are anti-retroviral medications. They are used to treat HIV.”
Cori gasps, completely shocked. Cori looks at me, but I turn my head. I can’t look at her. “Do you have HIV?” She asks.
I stand up to clear my plate. I’ve lost my appetite. What am I supposed to say?
“Those aren’t mine.”
Brennley stands up. “Hayden, I saw your name on them.”
I get defensive. This is my worst case scenario. I wanted to be the one to tell them on my own accord, so Brennley finding out this way? It’s awful.
“Maybe I took them out under my name for someone else, did you ever think of that? Maybe someone who’s ashamed of having to go to the pharmacy to buy them, worried they will be judged? Did you ever think of that?” Okay, that was a horrible lie, but I’m feeling cornered.
Brennley blows out a breath, and scratches her head. “No, I didn’t. I wasn’t accusing you of anything. I was just stating what I saw.”
I’m angry, but only because they found out like this. “Well, don’t jump to conclusions.”
I look over at Cori and I can see tears forming in her blue eyes. “Hayden, just be honest with us. Whose medications are those?”
I squeeze my eyes shut. I will not cry. “No one’s!” I shout.
I look over and see tears now forming in Brennley’s eyes. I can’t do this. There are too many emotions floating throughout this room. I’m sad, hurt, angry, devastated, frustrated, and feeling very, very guilty.
“They aren’t mine,” I sob. My shoulders begin to shake. Cori comes over and lifts my hands away from my face and wraps me in a hug.
“Hayden, it’s okay if they are yours, just be honest with us. We don’t care if they are yours.”
You know the feeling you get when you are about to cry and someone asks you if you are alright, and it’s them saying that, that makes you ultimately cry? That’s what I’m feeling right now. I release Cori’s grip on me and gently push her away. I turn and walk to the other side of the kitchen. I turn to face them. I wipe the tears that have spilled down my cheeks. I shake out my hands. My heart is hammering in my chest. My chest feels tight, like an elephant is sitting on it. I feel a bit dizzy, like the room is moving and I’m having trouble seeing straight. I take a deep breath until both of them come back into focus.
I decide it’s time for the truth to come out. Although when I tell them I can’t look at them. I’m scared to see their reaction.
“Alright, I give up. Those pills are mine.” I cry. “Because I am, in fact, HIV positive.”
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Avery: As a writer, I am a pantser. It’s funny because in every other aspect of my life, I’m a plotter. I like to make plans and stick to a schedule. I’m the type of person who makes my lunch the night before I work. My nursing colleagues make fun of me because I show up forty minutes early for my shift to research my patients and plan out my day.
On the other hand, when I write a book, I don’t have much planned out. For Trust, all I knew before I started writing was that my main character was going to unexpectedly get diagnosed for HIV. I don’t even plan out my character’s names! It’s nerve racking, yet exciting to sit down at my computer and not have anything planned out. For me, it takes off a lot of pressure. I sit down and let the creative side of my brain take over, and before I know it, I have a whole chapter complete. Additionally, I find it easy to write internal dialogue and relate to my characters, because like them, I don’t necessarily know what is going to happen next.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Avery: As stated before, I don’t plan out much before I start writing. However, when I get a brief idea, or a line that I want to add to my book, ninety-eight percent of the time it comes to me right before I fall asleep. The timing is quite unfortunate because the last thing I want to do is get out of my bed, but I know if I don’t, the idea might not come back to me. I end up having to get out of bed, restart my laptop, and write my line or idea on a blank Microsoft word document. Having the idea or line saved on my computer helps, because I can always go back to it, next time I write.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Avery: For me, the most challenging aspect of writing is the self-doubt. I’ll write a scene, and the next day I’ll be preoccupied on the scene. I’ll think about the scene and think, “Is the scene not good, and should I re-write it?” Or, “Maybe the readers won’t think the scene is funny. I only think the scene is funny because I wrote it. ” Writing is subjective, so at times I think it makes it difficult to assess our own writing.
For me, the easiest part of writing is sitting down to write. I thoroughly enjoy writing, so at times it doesn’t feel like a job. Sometimes I’ll go a couple days without writing, and I know I miss it because all I can think about is the next time I’ll be able to write.
The most rewarding part of writing is finishing a project. Writing a book takes time, dedication, and perseverance. It can be easy to start a project, but sometimes finishing a project can be challenging due to a number of obstacles. That moment when you finish the last word of a project and hit ‘save’ is a great feeling.
Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Avery: Every writer from every great book I’ve read has influenced me to be a writer. I’m a reader myself, and I try to read as much as I can. I love and hate the feeling when you finish a good book. I hate the fact that the book is over, but I love the fact that I can re-read the book again and again because I enjoyed it so much. During difficult times in my life, reading was always there to help lift my emotions, or keep my mind off a difficult day at work or school.
The ability of an author to portray emotions and tell a story that they’ve created in their head is amazing. I remember each book that has impacted me (made me cry, made me laugh, etc) or stuck with me throughout the years, and that has inspired me to want to do the same for others. Starting with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series when I was younger; to know how much of an impact those stories had on me, and others is remarkable. It inspired me to want to create my own universe, with my own characters, in hopes that it gives others the same feelings, or it simply allows for a great escape from a difficult day.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Avery: Working full time as a registered nurse, and writing on my days off does not give me much free time. However, I hope to go back to school for both nursing and writing. I’d love to upgrade and specialize in nursing. After that, I’d love to take more creative writing courses.
However, when I’m not working, I love to read, bake, and catch up with friends. I take my kindle everywhere. Even if I am a few minutes early to a dentist appointment, I whip my kindle out to read in the lobby for as long as I can before I get called in. I love to bake. I come from a big family, so I’m used to baking cookies, cakes, banana bread, and other treats for parties and holidays. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and the landscape and views here are beautiful. There are a ton of hikes and trails, so my friends and I love to grab coffee and go on hikes.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Avery: I have ideas that I am working on which include continuing the series. The protagonist in Trust, has two best friends. I have plotted out storylines for the protagonist’s two best friends. Each of them will be dealing with their own issues. I hope that each can be read as a standalone, but the characters will be able to make appearances in all the books.