For some reason I wasn’t aware book 2 was out and the crazy thing is, it was out first!

Am I right in thinking this book was originally published as a standalone, and was your first indie book?

Yes! The Ugly Truth started as a stand alone and was my first indie book. The problem was, I was never happy with the ending. It felt trite and over-simplified and I couldn’t seem to figure out how to fix it. It wasn’t until two years later that I decided to finish the series and I started on Swimming Sideways. When that book was finished, I realized I’d written them out of order and they were connected. It allowed me to go back to The Ugly Truth and write the ending which finally worked.

I notice there is a theme of truth and lies in your series, was this intentional?

I don’t know that I made a conscious decision to explore truth and lies initially, but one of the big character flaws of Seth was that he was hiding his truth in lies. Abby faces the same thing. Gabe isn’t lying so much as just hiding. So perhaps the broader theme is how we hide our true selves and the means we do that because we’re afraid or insecure or whatever reason creates that need to hide.

Which character do you relate to most?

Each of them, I think, in some ways. Abby’s “good girl” position; Seth’s need to project he’s got it all together when he doesn’t; Gabe’s sensitivity. I think the one I aspire to be like is the secondary character Dale in Gabe’s, The Bones of Who We Are. I think our stories reflect lots of pieces of us.

Tell me about the main character Seth?

Seth is a “it” guy at his high school, but he knows he doesn’t deserve it. He’s done some awful things to people including his once best friend, Gabe, by instigating “the Freak Challenge” even if he didn’t know it would blow up like it did. Worse yet, he doesn’t come forward to fix it because he’s too afraid. And that’s always been his problem: he’s afraid. At home, where no one knows, his family faces the rage of an alcoholic father, and Seth often bears the brunt of that anger. This story, however, is told through Seth’s memories, because he’s woken up as a spirit outside of his body which is lying in a coma in a hospital bed, and he doesn’t remember how he got there.

Where did the idea for this novel come from.

When I first started writing this story 15 plus years ago, it was a paranormal story. Abby and Seth were Earth guardians and Gabe was a Fallen Angel. It was initially inspired by Twilight because I was so upset with how Meyers had treated the characters. About the time I finished the first installment and began the query process, the book Fallen by Lauren Kate came out and then Hush Hush and suddenly the market was saturated. At the end of that first book, I’d ended it with Seth being dragged into a hell-like place by a demon named Amaros but I’d put the series away because I couldn’t find an agent, but Seth kept talking to me. “You’ve left me down here,” he’d say. “You’ve left me in hell.” So in 2015 I decided to approach his book as a stand alone and changed it to a YA Contemporary with speculative fiction elements. But as I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get that ending to work! 

How did you come up with your publishing name – Mixed Plate Press?

In Hawaiʻi, where I live and write, a mixed plate (also called a plate lunch) is a little bit of everything —meat, rice, salad—and all of it represents the “local flavor” of the islands. When I came up with the name for my independent imprint business, I wanted to go for that idea of a Mixed Plate Press title being representative of “many flavors” and something for everyone. That more than just the mainstream voices could be represented as a part of the publishing platform even if they’re niche.

Can you share a snippet of the book?

Definitely!

Here’s the first chapter of The Ugly Truth:

The Truth of Being Alive… Well, Kind of…

When I become conscious of myself, the way I am now, it isn’t like the idea of waking. I’m stretched thin, not exactly in the physical world or in the spiritual one, but somehow in between. My physical body is locked, but my spirit, what I guess I am now, moves beyond the confines of my bone, muscle and skin. I hover like a breeze in the flutter of a curtain. I dart back and forth between people and follow them while my physical body remains where it is, a shell that once housed me. I don’t know how I got here.

Time doesn’t function like it once did. This in-between layer seems to have collapsed into the slow motion of time lapse. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but the longer I am, bits and pieces flash like images spliced together and sound bites in vignettes.

Darkness.

The wail of the siren.

Words: “Stay with us, Seth.”

The wail of a woman (I think she is my mother).

Bright lights.

Beeps and blips of equipment speaking.

Drip.

“Swelling.”

“Induced coma.”

Doctors.

Whir.

Now.

I don’t think it has been very long. If I use the emotion of the woman I think is my mother’s gusts of grief as a measure, this seems recent.

A man appears in the doorway of the room. A haze of familiarity lingers in my consciousness. I think he is my father. Clues: he isn’t dressed like a doctor or a nurse and instead is in worn jeans and a button-up flannel over a white t-shirt. Add to that his hesitation at the door when he sees my body. His face is drawn, pale and heavy with the burden of emotion. I watch him take in the scene from the doorway and imagine how he might see the space from my corner of the room.

It’s a plain room, clean and sterile, a blanket the color of the sky over my physical body. My dark hair looks strange against the pillow, a stark contrast to the whiteness of the bed. The paleness of my face that seems to blend into everything else aside from the beautiful blue and purple bruises, blooming flowers, on my face and the dark cuts that crisscross my forehead. A tube protrudes from my mouth, tubes from my arms, and the loud click and whir of the machine causes my chest to rise and fall with a regular rhythm like a ticking clock.

The woman, her back to the man, holds my hand. “Seth. Honey. Momma’s here,” she says through tears.

That’s a first.

This is a thought which shocks me, a reflexive one that is as natural as breathing but like a punch to the gut. Bitterness tastes like something old and stale, and I want to rinse my mouth, wash the bitterness that dispels fermented hostility like the color of putrid yellow-green staining the atmosphere.

The man walks into the room from the doorway, the sound of his footsteps announcing his arrival. As he crosses the room, I shrink away from him. My mother’s back straightens, rigid while the essence of me tightens up and folds in on itself until it’s so small it can’t be folded anymore. It’s a reaction I don’t understand. I retreat into the upper corner of the room as far I can without passing through the wall. Again, I’m struck with this visceral response that isn’t connecting. I don’t remember. This inexplicable feeling is confounding. Add it to the confusion of being disconnected from my body and fear has planted several seeds.

The man puts his hand on my mom’s shoulder. She shrugs away from his touch as though burned. “Kate?” He asks, and this exchange solidifies he is my father. His voice sounds different than what my unreliable memory insists is characteristic of him: it’s too shallow and lacks thunder.

The man puts his hand on my mom’s shoulder. She shrugs away from his touch as though burned. “Kate?” He asks, and this exchange solidifies he is my father. His voice sounds different than what my unreliable memory insists is characteristic of him: it’s too shallow and lacks thunder.

Something in my psyche reacts to this interaction though I can’t quite name what it is I feel. I know it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like putting on a new shoe that isn’t formed to the foot yet. Her minuscule rebellion and his muted tone are unfamiliar. I search for what seems more familiar and imagine her acquiescence in his unrelenting storm.

“I won’t speak in anger in front of Seth,” she says. It’s more of a whisper really. “He can hear. The doctor thinks so.”

“I understand you’re angry. I’m angry too.”

She swivels in her chair with acute force and levels a stare that makes him step backward. “You’re angry?” she asks through clenched teeth, the sound more like a hiss.

I stretch in my corner of the hospital room, toward them, revelation like an electric shock moves through me. My father has seen something in my mother’s look that stays him. His face says it all, the stupefaction, the denial, and then the pain. He turns away, unable to hold himself up under her gaze and leaves the room.

I follow him, curious. There is something different about this man – it’s foreign, frightening and strangely freeing. He’s shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and shuffles down the hallway. This father isn’t recognizable but is broken like a car that needs a new spark plug.

He enters a waiting room filled with people. Emotion rushes at me in a variety of colors: blue, red, orange, green, yellow, purple, brown, black and shades in between. Each person in the room exudes color, some with multiple hues. I don’t know what the shades mean, but I sift through the spectrum to find where the feelings emanate. As I scan the room, I freeze on one face. I know this one: Abby. She is surrounded by an aura of light-blue tinged with darker flecks of blue and gold.

My form is filled with warmth and then chased by regret. I remember her smile and her laugh. I remember the way she made me feel: safe. I reach for a memory that causes the cooling grief, but there is only blackness. “Abby. I have to tell you something,” I say but my memory stalls not able to grasp what I thought I needed to tell her. She doesn’t indicate she’s heard me. “Abby,” I try again anyway.

“She can’t hear you,” a voice from an invisible entity says.

I whirl around the room. The origin remains hidden and the voice silent, so I return to Abby.

I’m in front of her, hovering as though standing on my own two feet. I study her, free to do so. Her brown eyes are rimmed red. She’s been crying and her brown face is pale, her inner-light diminished. She’s crossed her arms over herself as though holding something in. “Abby?” I try again, but she doesn’t hear me.

An awareness I don’t want to recognize dances on the peripheral of my being. I want to turn away from it, but I can’t. It’s like an angry jester dancing within me flashing a terrible smile. Looking at Abby, anguish wraps its arms around me and panic infiltrates my life force. I know I don’t want to be like this – in between. “Abby! Help me!” I yell.

She shivers as if she is affected by my cries but looks right through me.

Someone next to her – a young man – puts his arms around her. When I’m able to focus on him through the soft light reaching toward me, I recognize him: Gabe. A flare of anger rushes through me, fire and hot, that angry jester taunting me with his awful dance again – instinctual. When I focus on my former friend, I see he’s been crying, his eyes defined by sadness. I notice the bruising on his face and my spirit cracks open. A cool-blue washes me and the red steams away. My own perception of things isn’t ringing true, a little flat, like the note needs adjustment. I’m missing something.

“You!” The word is like a shot startling me. It sounds like a curse.

Abby looks up.

I swivel around.

My father exudes black and red. I remember this man. One of his dragons appears ready to burn his intended victim with its internal fire. He’s pointing at me, but I realize he can’t see me. He sees Abby. “This is all your fault,” he yells and takes three menacing steps toward me – her. “You changed him!” He stalks through me approaching Abby with purpose.

A man I don’t remember but seems familiar moves in front of Abby. “Hey now,” he says. At the same time another man dressed in a black suit and a cleric collar appears at my father’s elbow.

“Jack,” one of them says. I don’t know which. “You’re hurting.”

The words break a dam. My father folds in on himself, shrinks as though the impending storm is cut up by a downdraft. The other two men help him to a seat near the window.

Shaken by what I’ve witnessed, I return to my body.

My mother is still there, holding my hand and humming a quiet lullaby through her tears:

When the traveler in the dark…

Thanks you for your tiny spark…

The world around me begins to spin, as though someone has swiped at a table-top globe. The room rotates on an axis and the colors rush together in a blur. I’m compressed and suffocating and though I work to focus on my mother’s song, I can’t find a focal point. This place where I’m in between isn’t freedom. It’s a trap, a prison, and I’m stuck.

Wake up! Wake up! I think. I squeeze myself shut attempting to disappear in order to reappear in the awake world. But nothing happens. The spinning slows. The space around me coming back into focus. I still hover in the room listening to the quiet hum of my mother’s voice who’s accompanied by the percussion of the life support.

Drip.

He could not see which way to go.

Drip.

If you did not twinkle so.

Whir.

Twinkle, twinkle little star.

Whir.

How I wonder what you are.

Chapter 1 – The Ugly Truth by C L Watersx

Where can we go to discover more about you and your books?

If you aren’t interested in my website, www.clwalters.net then I’m active on Instagram @cl.walters

If you enjoyed this, you will like:

Behind the Book: Swimming Sideways by C. L. Waters

Book Review: And The Stars Were Burning Brightly

Behind the Book: Stuck on Vacation with Ryan Rupert by P A Malcolm

Behind the Book: 2020 Collection

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