Today, C Jane Elliott stopped by to tell us about her first novel-length work, “Serpentine Walls”.
Hello all, I’m CJane Elliott and my novel Serpentine Walls was released by Dreamspinner Press this past October. I’ve published three novellas through Dreamspinner but this is my first novel-length work and I’m excited to share it with everyone.
Reeling from the news that his parents are divorcing, Pete Morgan starts his junior year at college cynical about love and commitment. Although his new openness to one-night stands does wonders for his sex life, fighting his romantic nature proves harder than he’d anticipated. He soon finds himself pining for a glamorous senior, Aidan, who doesn’t mind taking Pete to bed but shows no interest in commitment—at least not with Pete. And Pete’s attempt at a “friends-with-benefits” relationship with sophomore Jed leaves Pete feeling empty.
One bright spot in Pete’s year is Matthew, an easygoing graduate student who assists Pete in making his first film. Matthew has some baggage too, and has sworn off relationships and sex altogether, so Pete feels safe to enjoy their friendship. But he falls for Matthew anyway, not able to fight his growing conviction that Matthew is the perfect guy for him. Even if Pete can accept that he made a mistake when he turned his back on relationships, that doesn’t mean Matthew will feel the same. With a few life lessons under his belt, Pete’s ready to take a chance on love. As he finds the courage to bare his heart to Matthew, he can only hope that Matthew will take a chance with him.
I am a psychotherapist by training and I enjoy exploring the human psyche and what makes people do the things they do. In matters of romance and relationships, sometimes people don’t realize what’s getting in the way. My characters sure don’t. For a long time in this story, Pete is clueless about what’s really driving his behavior regarding relationships. He’s angry at his parents for splitting up and cynical about love. His roommate, Angie, has a premonition that they’re both going to find “The One” this year, but Pete wants no part of it.
I had fun inventing a character who embodies some of my psychotherapist side – John, Pete’s best friend since childhood. John is a psychology major and sees through much of Pete’s defenses. He gives Pete wise counsel as Pete goes through his sexual adventures and misadventures. But it takes Pete months to understand what John is pointing to.
This excerpt is a scene between Pete and John where John is pointing to what’s underneath Pete getting hung up on glamorous but unavailable Aidan. Although he doesn’t get it at first, Pete comes to understand himself much better by the end of the novel.
* * *
“I don’t know. I get mixed signals, but why should I care?”
Pete slumped on the futon in John and Cleo’s living room and brooded, having jogged straight there from his unsatisfying tryst with Aidan.
“You knew he was a player from the get-go,” said John, sprawled out next to him. “Don’t let Cleo hear you moaning or you’ll get a big, fat ‘I told you so.’”
“Good she’s asleep.” Pete eyed the closed bedroom door. “But—well, okay, he’s a player. He even said so himself. But neither of us are into commitment, so what’s wrong with some uncommitted sex? What’s the big deal?” He made a frustrated sound.
“Don’t be a moron. You’re already hung up on the guy, and you’ve only had sex with him two times.”
“Three? Oh, right, the time he groped you in the closet and—”
“Do you hear yourself? Jesus, Pete. If you keep having sex with him, it’ll turn into a big deal pretty fucking fast. For you, not for him. And Aidan knows it. That’s what he’s trying to tell you.”
“It wouldn’t be a big deal! It’s just hooking up.” He flounced onto his stomach and mumbled, “Why will no one believe me?”
John gave him a look that was part amusement, part exasperation. “Pete, you dimwit. Methinks thou doth protest too much.”
“Fuck you, and Shakespeare too.”
He wanted to punch John, who was laughing into a pillow on the futon, but it would’ve taken too much energy.
“So you wanna crash here tonight?” John asked, once he’d stopped laughing.
“Maybe I should go home and check on Angie. Did you talk to her?”
“I called but didn’t get anything out of her. She said she was fine and she wished everyone would stop worrying about her. What’s bugging her?”
“The creep she’s dating.”
“Angie’s dating someone? You mean Brian?”
“Ha, I wish. No. Someone she’s been seeing for the last few months, but she won’t tell me who, and now she’s all upset.”
“Huh. I have no idea. I wonder if Cleo knows. Bummer that she’s upset, though.”
“Yeah. I guess I’ll go home.” Pete rolled off the futon and was at the door when John spoke again.
“Back to Aidan. You think maybe there’s something you’re getting out of this situation?”
Don’t start with the psych babble, Pete thought darkly. “What d’you mean?”
John propped himself up on his elbows. “Just that it’s pretty fucking safe to be hung up on a guy who’s unavailable.”
“Safe?” Pete had no idea what John was talking about. “And I’m not hung up on him.”
“Whatever you say. Think about it.” John lay back down with a yawn. “Later, dude.”
Pete walked down Rugby Road in a funk. Safe. What the fuck? What does wanting to hook up with Aidan have to do with being safe?
This pattern of Pete’s to fall for people who are unavailable (and to not be interested in people who are) is one I know well, because I did the same thing throughout my twenties after my parents got divorced. I finally realized that I was more interested in protecting myself from getting hurt than I was in having a relationship. And once I had that realization, I was able to get beyond my fear and let a great guy into my life. I’ve been married to him for 24 years.
Any of you see yourselves in Pete? What are some of the roadblocks that you see yourself or other people putting in the way of love?
To get the book with the full adventures of Pete and friends, go here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4336
My author page has my three novellas as well: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_375
Thanks so much for stopping by Jane. Your novel is definitely on my list of “to read”s.
Everyone please check out past Monday Meet’s and sign up for your very own guest spot at: