06 May 2013

Author Spotlight #6 + Giveaway: S.Walden

Going Under
by S. Walden
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Published: March 14th 2013 by Penny Press
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Brooke Wright has only two goals her senior year at Charity Run High School: stay out of trouble and learn to forgive herself for the past. Forgiveness proves elusive, and trouble finds her anyway when she discovers a secret club at school connected to the death of her best friend. She learns that swim team members participate in a “Fantasy Slut League,” scoring points for their sexual acts with unsuspecting girls.

Brooke, wracked with guilt over her friend’s death, decides to infiltrate the league by becoming one of the “unsuspecting girls,” and exact revenge on the boys who stole away her best friend. An unexpected romance complicates her plans, and her dogged pursuit of justice turns her reckless as she underestimates just how far the boys will go to keep their sex club a secret.

(This is a New Adult fiction book with mature themes. It contains graphic sex and language and a description of sexual violence.)

Hello, Summer! Welcome to Sab The Book Eater! You’re my first guest this month of May! *throws confetti* and you know what else? MAY is SUMMER in the Philippines. Coincidence? I think not! *throws more confetti*

LOL okay sorry. I’m just super stoked that you’re here. :D

First question (not much of a question): tell us something about yourself in 20 words or less.

I took piano lessons for ten years and couldn’t locate middle “C” on the keyboard. So sad.

What were your earlier experiences in writing like?

Overly dramatic. I’m not even kidding. When I first started seriously writing at fourteen years old, I kept a songbook. I wrote all sorts of songs and the beginnings of stories that I never finished. They always had the same themes of heartbreak and “no one understands me” running throughout. (I really can’t believe I’m revealing this!) It was intense and dramatic and over-the-top emotion filled. But I mean, come on. I was fourteen. What else would you expect? I actually ripped out the salvageable material a few years back and trashed the book. This was during a moment of panic where I thought, I cannot let someone find this if I’m dead! That’s how embarrassing that book was.

Do you have a routine or a specific place you go to when you write or you just “wing it?”

Okay, so this is what’s really bizarre about my personality. I’m task-oriented. You give me a list and that junk is getting done. And with a quickness! But when it comes to my actual writing routine and process, I’m all over the place. I call it the Chaotic Method. I write wherever. I write however. Sometimes I’ll stay in bed in my PJs all day. Sometimes I need to feel like a normal human being and actually get dressed and put some make-up on before I write. The point is that there aren’t lists. There aren’t any rules like in the world outside of my fiction world. I don’t outline. Well, usually. I did outline one series because it involves a lot of history and the plot is way complicated. Still, the outline looks like three long stream-of-consciousness paragraphs. If someone read them, they’d have no idea it was an outline. They’d think it was an excerpt from The Sound and the Fury. I write best when I’m writing a scene that’s important to me at that moment. I don’t write linearly, so it’s whatever pops into my head. The first scene I wrote for Going Under was actually the flashback with Finn and Brooke in Beth’s bedroom.

So far you have written three books, all with varying plotlines. I’ve read Honeysuckle Love and Going Under and they’re both different from other books I’ve read. What would you say is your overall theme or style?

Well, I think I’m fast becoming recognized as the writer who pens controversial stories. Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. But I do admit that I like pushing the envelope. I don’t do it for shock value, though. I do it to reflect real life because my stories are exactly that: real life. You may hate them. You may choose to believe that teens don’t really act or talk that way, but they do. And if I’m going to write a story grounded in reality, then I’m going to reflect that reality as it is, not how we wish it could be. I also spend an obscene amount of time developing the characters in my stories because character-driven books are so much more fascinating to me. Yeah, I’ve got plot going on, but it’s really the dialogue between two individuals that makes me heady. I hope that hard work is reflected in my books.

I’ll be the first to admit that my books are weird in that they don’t really “fit” into the New Adult formula. I’ve got no problem with that formula, but it isn’t for me. My agent brought to my attention a theme in my writing that I didn’t even recognize: so far all of my books center on themes that deal with high school social issues. Once I sat down and really looked at my work, I realized she was absolutely right! Hoodie? Interracial relationship. Honeysuckle Love? Bullying and poverty. Going Under? Rape and suicide. Good? Student/teacher relationship. And I’m not talking professor/college student, mild BDSM, “I’m trying to heal your soul” relationship story. I’m talking straight-up she’s-a-high-school-senior-engaging-in-a-romantic-and-sexual-relationship-with-her-math-teacher story. (Yeah, that’s a teaser for you.) So, apparently I like to write about these topics that aren’t touched on too often. And I think I’m going to keep doing that because my fans seem to really love it. :)

When I got an invite to participate in the Going Under blog tour, I saw that it was classified as “taboo” and I felt a bit hesitant to join to be honest. But I’m glad I did because I absolutely loved it. I think it was really bold of you to write about rape and the Fantasy Slut League. What made you decide to write about it?

I decided to write Going Under after reading a news article last year. The administration at a high school in California discovered a Fantasy Slut League. It was run by boys from various varsity sports teams and was set up much like Fantasy Football. The boys “drafted” girls and scored them on their sexual acts. After I read the article, I was so intrigued and disgusted that I researched to see if more of these leagues existed. And whoa. That’s all I can say. They’re everywhere in US high schools and colleges. So I thought, Okay, there’s a story here. And it’s gonna piss a lot of people off, but I believe it needs to be told. So I told it. I developed Brooke’s story of guilt and revenge around the league.

I got really emotional reading the pivotal scene that I paused from time to time and put down my ereader for a bit. It was so heavy! What was it like writing that?

Hard. Sounds so pompous to say that I cried at my own writing, but I did. That was actually one of the last scenes I wrote for the book. I kept putting it off and putting it off until finally one morning I said to myself, “You’ve gotta get it over with.” So I started, and took a break. Started, and took a break. You’ll notice these breaks. The baseball game. Fade out. The closet. Fade out. The bed. Fade out. Each scene break equals an emotional break for me. It was hard, but I knew I had to write it the way I did if I was going to have any kind of credibility as a writer. The entire story was raw, real, and in your face. I couldn’t gloss over that pivotal scene. I had to give it the same attention, the same respect as the rest of the book. Does that make sense? I owed it to my readers and to myself. Plus, the ugly truth is that this stuff is real. It is happening. It’s pervasive in the news right now. I just felt like it was high time to show the brutal reality of it on paper. And I didn’t expect anything out of it. I just wanted to tell the story in a transparent way. If it sparks conversations or helps someone heal or urges social change, then that’s the added bonus.

Now let’s talk about something I’ve been dying to know more about: Ryan and Brooke. Why did you decide to incorporate a love story in Going Under?

Because no one would read it otherwise. :) Hey, I know the ladies expect their romances! And I’m no exception to that rule. But if I’m being totally serious, I really incorporated a love story for the following reasons: 1) Brooke needed a distraction and complication to her plan, 2) Ryan needed someone who would force him out of his solitude, and 3) readers needed some moments in the story where they could just relax and enjoy Brooke and Ryan’s company. Going Under is an intense read. If I didn’t inject a love story or humor or moments that drew readers away from Brooke’s revenge plot, then they simply wouldn’t be able to get through the story. Plus, I wanted to write about a hot guy. I realize my hot guys aren’t your standard NA tatted up, psychologically wrecked bad boys, but I think they’re still hot. And I like to write them. I like the tension they build in a novel. I like the dialogue. The flirting. The teasing. The whole bit. So yeah, I wrote a romance into the story for romance sake, but also because it served a purpose in further developing Brooke’s and Ryan’s characters.

What was the inspiration behind Ryan and Brooke?

Oh, I love this question! And you’re the first to ask me. :) Those two kids . . . God, love ‘em.

Well, there are parts of Ryan that are very much my husband. Actually, a bit of Aidan can be found in all my leading men. Ryan’s dork factor? Getting his homework finished first before visiting Brooke? That’s so my husband. Ryan’s messy dark hair and blue eyes? My husband as well. The skateboarding and gaming? Not so much. But I can tell you that Aidan started playing a lot more games on his Playstation after I read the video game scene to him! I think he’s secretly wishing and waiting for me to mosey on down off the couch and join him on the living room floor while he plays. Um, hello. We’re married. You don’t have to be coy about it, but he is anyway, and that’s what makes him cute. Okay. Ryan’s cute factor? Totally Aidan as well. :) And now I’ll stop gushing about my husband because it’s disgusting.

Now Brooke was totally out of the blue. No inspiration there. That girl burst onto the page with a big ‘ol “F**k you!” Um, excuse me? Who do you think you are, bitch? “I’m Brooke, bitch, and I’m about to take some assholes down!” And Brooke was born. The only thing she and I share is our penchant for strong language. Nothing else about that girl is like me in the slightest. She was sooo refreshing to write. I’m not ADD, so I wasn’t sure I could pull off a character that’s all over the place emotionally and mentally, but I think I did. More importantly, I had to do it if I was going to make her poor decisions (especially at the baseball game) believable. I love the hell out of Brooke. I love her because she is so broken and so flawed. I took a big risk writing her the way I did. I knew women would be pissed about how she treated Beth. Readers tend to prefer a nearly perfect heroine, and Brooke is nowhere near that. Oh, let’s just tell the complete truth: women are freaking hard on their book heroines. I knew this the whole time I developed her. I knew it when my editor wrote a margin note in chapter one that read something like this: “Dear Brooke, it would be nice if you’d stop being such a selfish bitch at your best friend’s funeral and concentrate on her instead of the dude you’re trying to flirt with. What the hell is wrong with you? Sincerely, Julie.” She was a bad girl who needed to have committed the ultimate sin. And her guilt had to be monumental in order for her crazy plan to have any kind of realistic basis.

What particular Ryan-Brooke scene did you enjoy writing the most?

Oh, Lordy. Which scene doesn’t have them going at it? . . . Um, yeah. Truthfully, my favorite scene with them is the video game scene. And here’s why. When I read that scene to my husband and he nearly fell off the couch (not to mention the fact that his face was bright red), I thought to myself, Okay. I’ve got something special here. And when he said to me, “Summer, you cannot write something like that,” I knew that I had to publish it. I use Aidan as a barometer for my work. The harder he blushes, the more determined I am to get that scene to the masses. This is going to sound super weird, but I take great pride in writing the sex scenes in my novels. They always serve a purpose in bringing my characters together and developing their personalities. But more importantly, if I can make my readers happy and give them fun ideas to experiment with, then I feel like I’m doing a public service. You know what I mean? People who have sex are happy people. God knows we need more of them in the world. So yeah, I loved writing this scene because I thought I penned something really original and hot and revealing, but I also (hopefully) made a few couples really freaking happy after they read it.

Would you ever consider writing a spin-off or perhaps a series someday?

Not for Going Under, no. But I am in the middle of working on my first series. I was a little intimidated by it at first, so true to form, I did my market research on series. What readers like? Books in series that could actually stand alone. What readers don’t want? Relationship cliffhangers. (You see how much of a serious writer I am?) I take this research to heart because I want to give my fans what they want (while being able to write the stories I enjoy, of course).  So Good is the first in either a two- or three-part series. It was originally going to be two books until I discovered that my word count for the first one is waaaay over NA standard length. And apparently that’s important in the literary world. I had no idea about this until I got an agent. As I mentioned earlier, Good is a love story about a senior in high school and her calculus teacher. I wanted to develop a story that made my readers say initially, “This is unacceptable and highly inappropriate!” and then feel completely morally conflicted later on down the road. :) You’ll cringe. You’ll read instances where the age difference is blatant and embarrassing. You’ll blush. You’ll root for them. By the end you’ll think something’s totally wrong with you, which is always my intention when I sit down to write!

I’m also traveling to Ireland at the end of July to do research on another series: The Starry Trilogy. This one’s gonna be huge in that the story is complicated. Lots of Irish political and literary history. Hot Irish hero who’s probably the closest to your standard NA bad boy that I’ve ever developed (think The Boondock Saints), and a 20-year-old American college girl who reluctantly falls for him. Not your typical NA read, but then neither are any of my other books. So those are my two series I’m working on.

Any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?

Yeah! I’ve got some advice. :) Work. Hard. I don’t really believe in overnight success. I mean, I know it can happen, but that’s not the norm. Most people have to work their butts off to see success, and success in the literary world usually comes slowly. I published two books prior to Going Under, and it was trial and error to see what worked in marketing and promoting, and what was a waste of time (and money). If I could only list the top five most important things to do as an author, they would be the following:

1. Get a professional editor. NEVER publish your work without a professional edit. Period. You aren’t your own editor. In fact, writers of their own work make the worst editors (of their own work). I landed an agent because my work was edited. So there you go.

2. Outline a promotional game plan before the publication of your book. If you just throw it up on Amazon or Smashwords without building interest first, no one will see it and no one will care. And that’s the harsh truth. I outlined my promotional plan for Going Under months before its release. I set up ARC giveaways on goodreads, worked with book tour companies to host cover reveals and release day book blitzes, and got my social media pages in order. Do these things. They work.

3. Establish good working relationships with book tour companies. These ladies are your “in” with the blogging community. You will find that as you work with blogs, they will be more willing to host you again. Be courteous, respond promptly, and give them what they want (ie. a book for a giveaway). They’re there to promote you, and their blogs are invaluable. They spread the word. They pump you up. They believe in you. So work with them.

4. Recognize and celebrate the little successes. I have a very hard time with this because I’m always thinking about the next thing: What should I be doing? Who should I be contacting? How do I improve sales? Sometimes I let my anxiety overshadow the little successes. I have to remind myself that those successes are just as important. They are small threads in this great big tapestry that is a book’s success. It’s important to give them their due recognition.

5. And this is the most important tip: write what is significant to you. I know the drill with NA fiction right now. I’m aware of the formulaic love stories. And I choose not to write them. Why? Because they don’t interest me, and if they don’t interest me, they sure as hell won’t interest my readers. You see, that comes out on the page, and it’s blatant. If you don’t believe what you’re writing, no one else will. And if you’re writing a formulaic story just to make a buck, that shows, too. Be true to the stories you want to tell. Going Under is not popular with everyone. I’m sure some people threw it in the trash. (Well, hopefully not their Kindles and Nooks.) The point is, who cares? That story was important to me. I knew it needed to be told. And so I told it, and I discovered in the last six weeks that it’s a story that’s important to a lot of other people, too. So always be true to yourself. Sounds cheesy and clichéd, but it’s true. Like a professor in graduate school used to say all the time: “Write real.”

Word Association

Red: Blue
Call of Duty: Hooooot.
Brooklyn: ADD
Nuclear: Orgasm
Beach: Wilmington
Bestfriend: Kelly ♥

Thank you so much for much being here! Squeeeee~

Thanks for having me, Isabel. Love your blog. Love that you love my book. Love that you took the time to feature me. xo

About the author

S. Walden used to teach English before making the best decision of her life by becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Georgia with her very supportive husband who prefers physics textbooks over fiction and has a difficult time understanding why her characters must have personality flaws. She is wary of small children, so she has a Westie instead. Her dreams include raising chickens and owning and operating a beachside inn on the Gulf Coast (chickens included). When she's not writing, she's thinking about it.


One winner will receive a SIGNED paperback of Going Under
Open to US, UK, and Canada only.
Winner will have 72 hours to reply before another winner is chosen.


  1. Hey Isabel,

    Thanks so much for featuring me today! I just realized that I'm the most long-winded interviewee on the planet! My deepest apologies. :)

    xo Summer

    1. Oh don't worry! I loved reading your answers!

  2. He nearly fell off the couch and told her she couldn't write that!

    Lovely interview, and thank you for the giveaway!

    Kirsty x

    1. He did! There's nothing funnier than reading my work to my husband. He just cannot handle the intimate scenes :) It's hard for him to separate his wife from the story. What he doesn't understand is that no one is thinking about S. Walden when they're reading the story. This is the reason he needs to put down his dorky textbooks and read some fiction! Then he would get it.

      Good luck in the giveaway!

      <3 Summer

  3. LOL He said "Summer you cannot write something like that" - I would have totally put that in the book too. Perfect reaction! I cannot gush about this book enough. Such an amazing story. I loved all the characters (even the bad guys). Everyone had a role to play and they did it well. Touchy subject and as a mother of 2 girls it hit home hard with me. I hope everyone takes the time to read Going Under! Thank you so much for the chance to win!

    1. Hey Adrienne,

      I hope I didn't scare you with the book! I've heard from other mothers who were deeply disturbed by it. And I totally get it. The subject matter is so disgusting that it's hard to believe this stuff happens. But it does. And I think the hardest thing for parents of teen girls is figuring out the balance between freedom and safety. Because even though you raise your girls to be respectful and kind and cautious, there is still evil in the world. My hope is that perhaps Going Under will bring more awareness to these sex clubs. I will tell you that the saddest thing I read about one of these leagues in California was the fact that girls willingly participated out of peer pressure or the desire to be popular. Dear. Lord.


  4. Her hubby said, "Summer, you cannot write something like that." Haha. You two are such a sweet couple. Summer, you need to post a pic of your hubby. Ya know..just so we can see where you got your Ryan inspiration from. ;) Heehee. I hope I'll be able to find love like you two have one day.

    1. Hey Aly,

      Okay. I'll put him up on my blog, but I won't tell him because he'd go crazy. I thought authors were supposed to be the insanely private people, but in our relationship, he is. Probably why he can't handle half the things I write. "You wanna put that out there for people to read? But you're revealing your secrets! Oh my God!" he cries. Yeah. And? :)

      <3 Summer

  5. Her husband said, “Summer, you cannot write something like that,” and judging from his response I'd say it was a pretty steamy scene. I haven't read any 'New Adult' books so if I do win it'll definitely be a new experience. Even if I don't, I might just buy this one. It sounds like a good book to gain experience with in the genre.

    1. Hey Carrie,

      You are correct! That scene is pretty steamy :) And as far as New Adult goes, I don't know that you want to gauge the genre by my books. They don't really fit the bill, but I tag them "New Adult" because I've no idea what else to call them! So far my books have been about high school students which should really make them YA, but the content in my stories is far far from YA. So there you have it. I hope you do pick up Going Under. For one, I'd love another fan (ha ha!), and two, I think you may just find it a refreshing (if intense) read. Be forewarned though: there is a rape scene. Good luck with the giveaway!

      <3 Summer

  6. I need an international giveaway!!! I need this book on my shelf, preferably signed. Heehee.

    Okay, let me gush a bit in this comment. I still need to write my review on this book but holy macaroni! This book is freakin mindblowingly amazingly awesome! Every Ryan-Brooke interaction, no matter how simple, leaves me smiling like an idiot. I am serious.

    I enjoyed reading this interview! I already love this feature on your blog, Sab. The one where Summer revealed about her husband as the inspiration for Ryan was totally cute. Such a cute couple!

    To Summer, thank you for writing this book. As far as I can remember, I only read 3 books with this theme and yours was the sort of detailed and gave more impact.

    To Sab, thank you for tapping your foot and urging me to read this fast.

    Charlie @ Letter Trails

    1. Oh and Ryan and Brooke's first kiss was alkhfkaljhdfalhkfs swoon-tastic to the nth! I cannot believe I forgot to mention that.

    2. Hey Charlie,

      So glad you picked up the book! I read your conversations with Isabel on Twitter about Ryan and Brooke's "cute" scenes. Yeah, you obviously said that BEFORE you got to the gaming scene. lol Still think they're cute? I think they're wildly inappropriate, and I wrote the damn things! And yeah, I use my husband a lot as inspiration for my writing. I think he's a treat. Multi-layered. Lots of stuff to draw from. I got a request to see a pic of him. He vetoed it, but I think if I promise to help him with yard work this weekend, he may relent and let me share his face with the world!

      <3 Summer

    3. You and your husband is so cute. Haha! Now I'm having different thoughts about the word "cute". I love the video game scene. I was at the edge of my seat, figuratively since I was on my bed at that time, while waiting for what's next. I seriously did not see that one coming. No pun intended. Haha.

  7. Her husband said “Summer, you cannot write something like that,”

  8. He said "Summer you cannot write something like that"! Which I think is awesome =D I guess husbands reaction is a good way of telling if you're writing something racy and good!

  9. What an awesome interview! I loved reading about what your husband said about your heated writing. LOL!!!! I also really loved the advice you gave to aspiring authors. Those tips were something I really needed to hear! So thanks!

    Also thank you so much for the chance to win a signed copy of your book!

    1. He said "Summer, you cannot write something like that"!

  10. He told her, "Summer, you cannot write something like that!"

  11. I would love to read this book!!!

  12. Her hubby said, "Summer, you cannot write something like that."
    enjoy the power trip!