The high school play is in two months and senior Wren Barlow just became director. Wren still isn’t over the fact that she got stiffed as a stagehand instead of the lead role that she totally deserved. Now she is in charge of rehearsals, costumes, navigating around cast member hookups and managing the real life drama at home.
The principal counts on her to succeed because tickets have been sold and the money has been spent. But when he drops a gorgeous bad boy on her and wants him to help the play for extra credit, she falls hard for someone she knows she can’t date.
With everything spinning out of control, the mysterious and secretive detention king named Derek has a few tricks up his sleeve and wants to help—too bad Wren is scared to give him a chance to prove himself.
~ Bewitching BT
” It’s two forty-five on the dot and my stomach is nestled firmly in my throat. Ms. Barlow sits in her director’s chair at the back of the theater arts classroom. She tells me to stand on the zebra print x made of tape in front of the white board, in the place she usually stands while she’s teaching class. Today is the first day I’ve seen the zebra print x. I wonder if that’s the same zebra print tape she took away from a freshman last week.
The classroom is abnormally dark with a single spotlight shining directly on my face. I wish I’d worn makeup. My nose is too oily, I just know it. Three stapled-together pages of Ms. Barlow’s original script shake in my hands as I stand, waiting for her signal to start.
She has a peacock feather tucked behind her ear and a pen in her hand as she scribbles something on her clipboard. Her bright orange hair is gray in the dark. I clear my throat.
“Yes Wren,” she says without taking her eyes off her clipboard. “You were auditioning for a minor role, but then you switched for the role of Gretchen? Am I reading your chicken scratch handwriting correctly?”
“Yes ma’am,” I say, wondering if I should tell her I signed up for auditions while writing on someone’s back in the hallway before class and that’s why my handwriting resembles chicken scratch. I wasn’t going to audition at all until Mom pointed out the requirements in The Art Institute of Lawson catalog places a strong emphasis on extracurricular activities. And if I’m going to be in a school play for the sole purpose of winning the affections of my dream college, I might as well do it right. Even if my best friend is also auditioning for the lead role.
Ms. Barlow stares at me over the rim of her purple teardrop glasses, appraising me as if she doesn’t see me in class every day.
“You do know Gretchen’s role includes a lot of kissing with the male costar?”
I didn’t know that, but I nod anyway. It’s too late to back out now. Plus I like kissing. I can handle kissing.
Ms. Barlow laces her fingers together and rests them in her lap on top of her clipboard. “You may begin.”
I swallow. The words on my paper blur into a mess of jumbled letters that form nonexistent words. Good thing I have it memorized. I crumple the papers and hold them in my clenched fist.
“Jeremy? Is that you?” I squint my eyes, which comes naturally with the blinding spotlight on me and take a step forward. “Jeremy, get down! What the hell are you thinkin’? Are you crazy?”
“Stop.” Ms. Barlow’s hand flies out. She tilts her head to glare at me over the rim of her glasses. “Why do you sound like a melodramatic southern belle?”
“Because my character lives in Alabama?”
She shakes her head. “No. Do it again.”
My heart pounds so hard it turns my chest into goo. “Jeremy! Get down! What the hell are you thinking—are you crazy?”
Ms. Barlow lowers her voice and assumes Jeremy’s lines. “What do you care?” she says with a snarl.
“Of course I care.” I clench my chest. “Jeremy, you can’t jump.”
“Give me three good reasons why I shouldn’t jump off this bridge and end my worthless life right now. Actually, just give me one.”
I heave a sigh, a big dramatic one like I’ve practiced in front of my mirror for the last two days. Unfortunately it comes out like I’m choking on my own spit. I ignore the teacher’s disappointed nod. “How about this one?” I say, tossing my hands up in surrender as I stare at the empty desk in front of me, pretending it’s Jeremy. “I’m in love with you.”
“You’re too fat,” Ms. Barlow says.
“Huh?” That isn’t the script.
She marks something on her clipboard and flips to the next page. “I’m sorry Wren. Despite your…attempted…acting, you know I’d love to give you the lead role but you’re just too fat.”
“I’m not fat,” I say confidently, because I know I’m not fat. Is she even allowed to say that to a teenage girl? Sure, I gained a few pounds over the summer but that hardly makes me fat. Plus, I’m on day twenty-six of the 20 Minute Abs DVD, and if I tighten my core I totally have a six pack under the inch or so of flab.
“Gretchen is five feet ten inches and a hundred and five pounds. She’s an aspiring model.”
“It doesn’t say that in the script.” I wag my papers at her.
Ms. Barlow’s short hair flies around her face as she whips her glasses to the top of her head. “That’s irrelevant. It says that in my mind and I am the writer and the director.”
I wish the lights were on so I could glare at her, and not just at the darkish blob I can see. I don’t stomp my foot on the floor, but I want to. “I’m telling Mom.”
She waves away my threat with a flourish of her hand. “Good. And while you’re at it, tell her to stop filling the house with ding-dongs and Twinkies. It’ll do you both a favor.”
Okay. This is about to blow up to epic-Barlow-like proportions if I don’t do something to scale it back. I smooth my hands over my shirt and stand straight. “You’re right, Aunt Barlow, I’m sorry. But I really want this part so if there’s anything I can do to make myself perfect for the role, please let me know.”
“I’m Ms. Barlow while in school. I’m not your aunt right now, I’m your director.”
“Yes,” I say, humbling myself to her greatness, something she laps up like starved puppy. Ms. Barlow starred in Broadway plays in her younger years, before age and three divorces and heaps of melodrama took its toll and made her resemble a haggard man.
“Why do you even want this role? You watched me slave over this script all summer and you never cared.”
“I care,” I say. But she’s right. I don’t care about this stupid school play.
So even though I have no interest in a school play, probably because my mom, the failed actress, and my aunt, the failed Broadway star-turned-theater arts teacher shoved acting down my throat since I was in infancy, I am going to get this role. And then my picture will be put in the yearbook and The Art Institute of Lawson will be impressed and they will accept me and I’ll get an awesome job as an interior decorator.
That all starts with Wren Barlow playing the lead role in the Lawson High School play.
Ms. Barlow taps her foot on the footrest in her tall chair. She scribbles something on her clipboard that makes her nose crunch up like she’s smelled something bad. “Thanks for auditioning, Wren. Will you send in the next student?” ”
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
My own experiences in high school theater arts inspired Understudy. Only there weren’t any cute guys when I was in theater. 😉
3. Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it?
I always have something to write about so I’m never ‘blocked’ really. Most of my blocks in writing come from not finding enough time to write as long as I’d like to. But when I do get stuck on a scene, I always jump to the next scene and keep writing. Eventually the problem will work itself out in your mind and you can go back and fix it.
4. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
I’m currently finishing a book that I started back in 2011, which is definitely the longest it’s taken me on a project. It’s gone through many plot changes and a few revisions but now it will finally be published in May.
5. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?
I work full time in engineering and it is truly a career that will suck your soul out. Luckily, I write books in the evenings and that helps bring my soul back.
6. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
The second and third book in the Powered Trilogy will be released soon and I have a New Adult contemporary romance that will be released in August. Then I’ll work on a sequel to Motocross Me. After that, my manuscript idea’s pile is pretty huge, so who knows what I’ll write next!
7. What made you decide to go the self-pub way?
I’ve always been an entrepreneurial person and I enjoy the idea of letting my internal control freak take over. But the main thing that swayed me to self-publish was the time lines…I can publish quality books way faster than traditional publishing.
8. What would you say was the toughest part?
Putting your book out there is incredibly difficult, but the worst part is trying to get noticed. We’re competing in a sea of hundreds of thousands of books, so each time a reader takes a chance on my book, I’m extremely grateful.
9. Did you hire professionals for editing, cover design, formatting?
I hire professionals for editing and formatting. My covers are about 25% professional and 75% me with Photoshop. (Understudy’s cover was done by James at goonwrite.com)
10. How did you decide who to hire, if you worked with pros?
I’ve spent years lurking around the interwebs, browsing portfolios and making friends online. Because of this, I have a collection of awesome professionals who always do an excellent job. Definitely do your research- never hire the first person you stumble across.
11. How long did the production part take, from the moment you began working on the manuscript to self-pub to when you hit ‘Publish’?
It varies for every book but I’d say on average it takes me 6 months to write & edit a book and then another 2 months to have it professionally edited and formatted.
12. If you could turn back in time and do things differently, would you? What would you change?
This is a tough question! I’ve learned a lot of things along the way, so of course I’d have improved them if I could. But pretty much the only thing I regret about my journey was that it took me so long to just dive in and do it. I had been writing books for five years before I even thought about publishing.
1. If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for?
Perfect health for my family and myself. Can’t go wrong with that one.
2. Name your favorite fruit.
3. Coffee or tea?
COFFEE! I’m pretty sure my blood is about 50% coffee by now.
4. Favorite season?
I’m all about summer. I’m a depressed whiny weirdo any other time of year.
5. Were you a boyscout/girlscout?
I was a girl scout for about two years. The main thing I remember was a camping trip that had outdoor toilets that completely creeped me out.
6. Favorite food for breakfast?
I love hashbrowns and pecan waffles from the Waffle House. And a side or five of coffee
7. Latest book you’ve bought and read?
I’ve been reading the Cape High series by RJ Ross. Cute super hero and villains? What’s not to love?
8. Do you collect things, like stamps, or key chains, or shoes?
I collect nail polish. My dream house would have a closet just for my nail polish.
9. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us!
Is sparkle a color? Because that’s my favorite.
10. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing?
Chinese takeout and the glow of the television.
About the Author & Links:
Cheyanne is a native Texan with a fear of cold weather and a coffee addiction that probably needs an intervention. She loves books, sarcasm, nail polish and paid holidays. She lives near the beach with her family, one spoiled rotten puppy and a cat who is most likely plotting to take over the world.
She also writes under the pen name Amy Sparling.