*****Undocumented Youth in the US*****
I get to write about whatever I want. Or at least, I think I do. So I’m going to take a leap of faith here and hope I don’t piss anyone off with my topic: undocumented youth in the United States. You thought you were going to get some fluffy romance piece? Me too!!
I started out writing one book, Steel & Ice. By the end of the book, I knew there was going to be a sequel. There was just so much that still needed to happen and I didn’t want a 750 page book.
Bu that wasn’t the only unplanned aspect of the L&J series. Again, I started out writing one smutty novel with a little bit of Motorcycle Club romance thrown in. So how did undocumented youth, an incredibly sensitive immigration topic sneak into my smut? In order to answer this, I need to take us back a bit.
Picture it, Sicilly, 1947….
OK, it was, like, 2003 in the Midwest, and I was studying Spanish in college. I saw a sign looking for volunteers at a Latino Youth Center and decided to give it a shot. I wanted to improve my Spanish and thought it would be a good opportunity to do so. While in college, I was working a cook at Applebee’s. (Yep, just like my heroine, Elle, in the L&J series.) Like Elle, I began by cooking dinner for the kids each night. Unlike Elle, I eventually was hired on as staff and began teaching my own after school youth program twice a week. It would become my life for the next five years, and the kids would become my world.
I can’t tell you the exact moment I realized most of my kids were undocumented. All I know is that by the time I put the pieces together, I’d become not only their confidant, but they’d become my cubs. It was after the first year that the stories started to emerge.
Like the typical American, I didn’t know exactly how people crossed the Mexican/American border other than wading through the river. The kids taught me most people found other ways to cross, many of them dangerous. Mothers were determined to offer their kids a life their hometown south of the border couldn’t provide. It was heartbreaking when one of my students came to class beaming with pride as she showed me her report card with straight A+s. Not straight A’s. Nope. A+s. Realizing she would never be able to go to college in America and use that amazing brain of hers to find the cure for AIDS just about killed me.
My youth group kids didn’t make the choice to come to the United States. They were brought to the country by well intending parents who thought they were doing what was best for their children, a sentiment that transcends culture. It is my opinion, that every mother who is not on drugs wants the best for her children, and will go to great lengths to provide the life she believes will achieve this.
One of my kids was brought to the United States as a baby and had few ties to his home country. He’d never visited the town he was born in, his Spanish was shotty, and being the intelligent teen he was, he realized his options were limited. Having a sixteen year old boy tell you, the adult, that he has no options besides selling drugs is a sobering experience. Being the fixer I am, I wracked my brain trying to come up with a less dangerous and illegal option.
I couldn’t come up with one.
My kids are adults now, and I’m finding new gray hairs everyday. As they age, so do I. Unlike them, my options as an American citizen are limitless. Some of my kids have returned to their home country, some are doing their best to build a decent life for themselves by working in a variety of manners. Some are paying into a social security system they will never see a dime of. Others are in the wind, leading me to pray to the universe each night that they are safe and alive.
Do I have the great immigration solution? No.
Regardless, my kids are not “undocumented youth” to me, but people just like you and me trying to make a life and find happiness. We get so caught up in the rhetoric of the political situation surrounding immigration that I believe we forget we are dealing with real people, not numbers or statistics on a bill presented to the Senate or the House.
When I wrote Steel & Ice and realized how much of my life I was pouring into it, the kids had to be a part of the story. They are a part of my story and how I found a better life for myself than selling drugs and cooking riblets. (Though the cooks in American restaurants hustle harder than you could ever imagine.) At some point, the L&J series became pure fiction, but the stories you’ll read involving the Elle’s youth group kids are all true. Some I lived through and others are stories my families or other immigrants I’ve met in my life told me.
The L&J series was an opportunity for me to share stories that usually go unheard about kids you pass by everyday, yet have no idea what life is like for them. It was a chance for me to tell my story as well as theirs, and it was an honor to do so.
Thank you to all the youth and families who have changed my life. I couldn’t be the person I am today if the universe hadn’t put these people into my life, and shown me that there is a whole world out there I know nothing about. I’m me because I was affording the great pleasure of seeing and experiencing what life is like for someone who is not a white, American woman. And for that, I will always be grateful from the bottom of my heart.
In reading this, I hope you too can look at undocumented youth not as merely a political situation, but as a group of young people trying to make the best out of a situation they had no say in.
And by the way, go read my books!
Here are the links to Steel & Ice, the first book in the L&J series, on all platforms where it’s available. It is 99 cents and will stay at that price until the end of the year.
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Steel-Ice-L-Emily-Eck-ebook/dp/B00I33VP1Y/
Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/Steel-Ice-L-Emily-Eck-ebook/dp/B00I33VP1Y/
Amazon AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/Steel-Ice-L-Emily-Eck-ebook/dp/B00I33VP1Y/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/steel-ice-emily-eck/1118427898?ean=2940045613064
*****About Emily Eck*****
Emily is a Midwestern Gal hailing from the United States, but could be anywhere as you read this. Currently residing in Mexico, adventure feeds her soul, and offers great writing material. She loves kids and working with kids, but can only handle caring for four-legged furry friends. A crazy dog and laid back cat have trained her to be their partner in life. After coming from a snowy climate, Emily and the animals are loving the sun Mexico has to offer each and every day. Vices include Swedish Fish, ignoring chores in favor of reading, and caring too much for people in her life.
She chose to write this bio in third person as she is an Aries, and found writing in first person ended up with her writing an excessively long life story. Aries like to talk about themselves. It is something Emily is working on being more mindful of. You can contact her on any of the social media platforms below and she will respond, as her mom gave her the gift of gab.
*****Emily’s Links****Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Emily-Eck/1448076818747715 Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReadEmilyEck Blog: http://reademilyeck.blogspot.com/ Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7768338.Emily_Eck Instagram: http://instagram.com/reademilyeck
*****Q&A with Emily*****
Q. When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?
I received a journal for my 8th birthday, so I suppose I started writing then. I hold a bachelor’s in Anthropology, a discipline that is writing heavy. With regards to writing fiction, smutty romance at that, I began working on my first book, Steel & Ice, in 2013. I’d been reading a lot of indie romance and found myself drawn to the grittier side of the genre. After a handful of mafia, cartel, and MC romances, I had a “what if” idea. What if this woman, who was a product of the streets herself, was trying to get her life in order and this too-good-to-be-true man walked in, disrupting the stability she had managed to create? What would that look like? How would he manage to break down her walls? From that what-if that lingered in my head for weeks was born Steel & Ice, and the rest of the L&J series.
Q. What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
J. Chambers was my Sensei when it came to the actual process of writing. She helped me with soooo many of the finer details of publishing. I am pretty sure I asked her at least one question a day for a year, all of which she graciously answered.
I don’t think I can pinpoint any one author who has influenced my writing. I think there are authors out there that I admire and aspire to reach their level of writing: CD Reiss, Kristen Ashley (of course), Tijan, Amy Harmon, Andrea Randall, Lili St. Germain, Charles Sheehan Miles, Karina Halle, to name just a few.
Q. Tell us about your characters and how they came to be? Have they been in your head for a long time?
My heroine, Elle, is me at 23. The kids she works with are a mash up of kids I’ve worked with over the last decade (shit, did I just give away my age?), and Chris and Aaron are based on real people. All the characters started similar to someone, but quickly took on a life of their own. Elle is the only character that remains most like her true representative. (Me, of course!) The series starts off based in the reality of my past. At some point though, we move into pure fiction. Even then, when Elle needs to make a decision or I needed to decide how she would react to something, I asked myself how I would react and wrote as such.
Chris is based on a woman I used to know who was hella hardcore. Aaron is also based on a real person, though the two never actually intersected in my life. They come from two different time periods and never met one another. Writing the scenes with the three of them was a blast as they have such great banter between the three of them. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure it was authentic. Some people didn’t like the way Elle and Chris talked and thought it was fake. I laugh because when I go to my hometown and get with my girls, that’s exactly how we talk. There is a diverse cast of characters from a variety of cultural backgrounds in the book. This is reflected in my circle of friends in real life, and therefore the dialogue reflects this as well.
Fernie is based on two young men I worked with in my past. They both had a profound influence on me and my life. There is a scene at County Lock-Up in which a conversation takes place between Elle and Fernie. The conversation didn’t happen in jail, but it did happen. It was a frustrating conversation that would forever change my life. Getting to write it for the world to read was an honor as it offered me the opportunity to share with readers the lives of people they probably know nothing about. Fernie’s story may be fiction, but the things he goes through in the book are not. His story is reality for many youth in America.
Q. What motivates you to write?
Sleep. I need sleep! I see scenes in my head and they keep me up at night.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing?
Most indie authors have lives outside writing. The have jobs, kids, husbands, and other regular life obligations. For me, finding time to put all that aside and get in the zone can be challenging. If I am worried about paying the electric bill, I can’t write. If I am hung-over (god forbid), I can’t write. So carving out time and finding peace of mind can be a challenge for me. I don’t have kids, and all those women who are doing the mommy thing AND writing impress the hell out of me. Hats off to them!
Another challenge is writing sex scenes when I’m feeling not-so-sexy. You know, you’re on your period, you haven’t been on a date in ages, and you’ve sorta forgotten what sex is like. Those times! I have to dig deep and possibly beg my friends with men in their lives for some good material. Thankfully, they usually oblige.
Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I cuss a lot!! My mom read the books and asked if I REALLY needed to use the F word so much. I work at a professional job where I speak properly each day, but when I’m with my friends—whew, I have a sailor’s mouth. I think it’s from my seven years working in the kitchen with all men where the F word was used every other sentence—or sometimes every sentence.
I also learned that you can’t please everyone. Those first few weeks, I scoured Amazon and Goodreads everyday looking at reviews. A bad review or low star rating would crush me, and I’d spend my whole day wallowing. I finally had to stop looking at reviews. You’d think the good reviews and five star ratings would cancel out the bad ones—nope! I had more positive reviews than negative, yet that one negative comment would be like a knife in my side. I’d start to reevaluate if I should be writing at all, and think “maybe I just suck and should give this up.” Now that the whole series is out, I’m less stressed by reviews. I don’t look at them too much, maybe once a month, and I find this offers me the opportunity to keep writing without the haters deterring me.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
I’m writing a new book titled Fighting Words. It is still based on my life, but unlike the L&J series that was very much me, Fighting Words is based on a very small facet of my life. I have other books in my head, one of which I have the first three chapters written, and all draw from my life and personality. In Fighting Words, the heroine shares an obstacle with me. (No, I’m not telling you what it is!) It is something I deal with everyday and had to learn to manage, as does the heroine. It could be debilitating, but I refuse to allow it to be. The heroine, Sara, has not yet reached the point where she is ready to fight. During the book, we see her highs and lows as we follow her on a journey to overcome this obstacle. (Is it driving you crazy that you don’t know what it is??!!) Of course, there’s sex and a nice tall hottie for ya’ll. It wouldn’t be romance without that, right?
For Fighting Words, I had to create a new hero, and I knew I couldn’t recreate J from the L&J series. J is my dream man, so naturally I wanted to make him all over again. I was mindful of this and had to think about what other qualities I could put into a man that would make him different from J, but still hot enough that I could write good sex scenes, because if I’m not in love with my hero I can’t write good sex that readers will connect with. How can they connect if I can’t? So I drew on my love of the outdoors and outdoor activities to create Gio, Sara’s hero.
In the other book I started, Him and Her, the hero is based on a real person so it is easier to craft his character. The book is based on a relationship I had in Milwaukee. It was an “interracial” relationship, but we both hated that label. We were just two people in love. The focus of the book is about two foster kids, who despite their different skin colors, are more similar than different. Unfortunately, it’s the outside world that can’t seem to see past their different skin colors. I used to hear “Aw look, Emily has jungle fever.” For him and me, we were just two people trying to make a relationship work, but the rest of the world was focused on the fact that he’s black and I’m white.
What am I trying to say after all this rambling? All my books have some of me or my life. I write what I know. Yes, I do research to add parts that are not similar to me, but you will find a piece of my life in every book I write. As well, I’m an aggressive, Aries woman who takes risks and lives life like everyday is her last. I don’t take the road less traveled; I pave my road where there was once a cornfield. I don’t think I could write a weak, virginal heroine. All of my leading ladies will have a piece of me, even if it is just one small piece like Sara in Fighting Words.
Q. What does your family think of your writing?
Ha! My mom read all my books, but told my dad not to. Fighting Words is less gritty than the L&J series and my mom asked me, “So I’ll be able to let my friends read it?” For the most part, they are supportive, but really it’s my mom who matters most. I know reading the L&J series was hard for her because she was never sure what was real and what was made up. As well, Elle’s mom is a real bitch. I made the mom in Fighting Words a great mom, so hopefully my own mom will enjoy that more.
Q. What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Fuck the haters. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t write, but be ready for those one star reviews. Thick skin is necessary unless you are Kristen Ashley and everything you write is golden! As well, find a Sensei, another author who is willing to help you along. You will have numerous questions about writing, publishing, promotion, and other things that just pop up. Find someone or a tool to help you navigate the waters of indie publishing. At the same time, be cautious for scammers. Unfortunately, there are many out there.
Q. What book are you reading now?
I just finished Two Roads by Lili St. Germain. I’m so deep into the Gypsy Brothers series it’s not even funny. I’m like a little kid kicking my feet on the ground because I want the last book NOW!! Before that I read the Songs of Perdition and Corruption series by CD Reiss. I already read Songs of Submission. That woman truly has a gift for crafting a sentence. It’s like musical notes reading from one word to the next. I’m in awe.
Next up is Fallen Fourth Down by Tijan. I rarely read YA romance, but Tijan writes YA romance unlike anyone else I’ve come across. Her high school characters party like rock stars, plus there is just something about Mason that makes me all cougar-ed out. :)
I anxiously awaiting the next book in the Fae Chronicles by Amelia Hutchins.
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