Drowning In You by Rebecca Berto
Publication date: April 12th 2013
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Crushed by a tragedy
Charlee May’s been crushing on Dexter Hollingworth since she was fifteen. Five years later, a horrific skiing disaster at Mason’s Ski Lift Resort leaves her millionaire dad critically injured and her mom dead at the hands of Dexter operating the lifts. Charlee is suddenly the sole caretaker for her little brother while their world falls apart.
Dexter couldn’t be more different from Charlee. He’s tattooed, avoids exclusive relationships and his Dad has a fair share of illegal dealings. With Dexter’s reputation, almost everyone believes he planned the Mason’s skiing disaster.
And after all these years he’s still crushing on Charlee May, the girl who’s too good for him.
When this cruel twist of fate ties Charlee’s family and Dexter’s reputation together, Charlee and Dexter wonder if their feelings are reciprocated, while Dexter discovers his dad is trying to steal the May’s millionaire fortune.
But like an addiction, one look, one touch, one taste—they’re hooked no matter the consequences.
From a note tucked under her pillow:
I like Dexter Hollingworth.
Dexter Hollingworth “killed” my parents.
1. Killer Crush
As per all the fourteen- to eighteen-year-olds at our school, I started crushing on Dexter Hollingworth around the age of fifteen. There was one girl who hated him, but she was into girls.
From the football field sidelines to graduation day and beyond, my best friend Rosa and I have wanted him. But guys like Dexter don’t notice girls like us who spend most of our time talking about cool people like him.
At twenty years old, I still “love” him.
I love the way his body personifies what a male God should be without looking like Fabio.
I love the way his perfect tanned skin is inked and how he wears those aviator sunglasses and how he’d use up his lunchtimes to teach the little kids in our school guitar lessons.
But I hate the way I love him.
I hate how Dexter was the one controlling the ski lifts at Mason’s Ski Resort the day my mom was killed because it also put me here, in this position, praying to a God I’ve never believed in to spare my dad’s life.
In this hospital room, the air is as quiet as the still of night and my dad’s languid breathing and drawn-out, heavy movements remind me that my perfect family life was never meant to be forever.
If I’m being honest, it seems like things are already over. Dad’s skin keeps a yellow color—at best—from the IV drip. His meds help with the simple tasks his heart and other organs can’t. My thoughts wander again. I don’t let myself consider the alternative—that maybe it’s wishful thinking. I go with this:
“Dad,” I say, jealous my little brother, Darcy is holding our dad’s hand—the hand he can squeeze with. “Look at you.” I wink.
“Is she okay, Dad?” Darcy asks, sounding as though he’s confused.
“Charlee?” The confusion is contagious, but Dad’s patient zero—not Darcy.
There are bars that raise and lower around Dad’s bed, and they’ve been raised forever. Surely they must be there because they’re too hard to put down in their scratched, old state. My dad doesn’t need silly bars around his bed! My dad owns Roycroft Engines.
“I think you’re squeezing Darcy’s hand too tight,” I say.
“Wha-at?” Darcy says. He’s staring at me with squinted eyes, probably thinking what’s wrong with my sister? She’s supposed to be the adult.
It hurts smiling like this, the creases halfway up my cheeks. But maybe it’ll work. “Isn’t that right, Dad?”
Dad’s eyes are like I remember them now. There’s vibrancy in the rich brown color, like my eyes. I bet he’s thinking is his daughter crazy? He tilts his head to the side—
Injured people don’t understand things like this. Injured people don’t get what’s unsaid. Dad’s not that injured.
—as it clicks. Dad shakes out of Darcy’s grip and waggles his finger at him. “That nurse…”
“Lisa Hollingworth,” I say.
“Yes, Lisa. That nurse Lisa said motor function is good. Squeezing someone’s hand uses up a lot more strength than you think, son.”
Darcy’s mouth flops open and stays that way. He checks out Dad, who’s nodding, and me—should I nod?—so I nod also.
“Squeezing your hand probably takes Dad twenty muscles and millions of brain cells just to do something like that.”
“No way!” Darcy grins and punches the air. “Dad, that’s cool.”
And just like that, Darcy has that same face on as he had when Mom told him she had to wait three hours in line to buy Desert Warcraft and yeah, she really, really got it for him.
That face is why I haven’t downed twenty sleeping pills yet. God knows these last weeks have felt like months, which actually felt like years. That makes me the most ancient twenty-year-old alive.
Why, Dexter? Why did it have to be you in that seat, in that room, at that time?
On writing my fictional characters
Writing a character is like making a new friend. At first you realize they have some good qualities, perks and habits. They seem nice or quirky or weird. And then you get closer and realize what is behind those characteristics that make them up. But it’s only once you become “true” friends, when you adore them, that they become a part of your life so deeply that you can probably guess how they’d react to something.
Fictional characters are exactly that. When I started writing Charlee and Dexter, they had specific qualities that made them them. When I came back to revise the story during the second draft I learnt their deep traits, about their gestures and dialogue patterns that individualized them into fuller, realer characters.
She’s a sweet girl. She’s the type that’s selfless, but her downfall is that she isn’t comfortable voicing her own opinions. Part of her from me is that she’s a swimmer. She used to compete at a state-level and now is a swim teacher. Swimming is how she gets away.
She had a crush on Dexter since 15 at high school, but she was the girl on the edge of the football and soccer ovals, gawking at the hot boys, not the popular, I-get-the-boys type.
Dexter’s made what he could out of shit luck. He grew up without a dad for years since his one was in jail. He had to make and lose friends for years as a child moving across the world for his family. Thus, he’s guarded. He plays the guitar and writes songs, and has a sleeve of tattoos to instead express himself and the pain he’s been through. He doesn’t do serious girlfriends since he’s grown to rely on himself only.
He’s been crushing on Charlee, the tall, blonde-haired beautiful girl a year younger than him, since 16. The girl who’s dad’s a millionaire. The girl who’s perfect in every way. The girl he’s hardly spoken to and probably will never get the chance to.
Charlee and Dexter, together, are like cake. They’re delicious and dangerously addictive. When split apart, though, they begin to crumble.
These characters became close to my heart for a few reasons:
They were broken for different reasons and proved two wrongs can make a right—a whole—by healing and learning through each other.
As I revised and edited, I analysed why they would act the way they did, and put myself in their shoes. They turned into 3D characters by me acting out a scene in my head as them: thinking through what a real person would do in their shoes.
Unlike real people, characters have to be empathized with. They don’t have to be liked, but as readers, you do have to understand them. Charlee and Dexter, for me, turned from a list of descriptions and traits on paper to friends by how they reacted to conflict. That—that is what made them loveable to me.
I hope you enjoyed getting inside my head! This post was a lot of fun to write. If you want to get to know Charlee and Dexter better, why not read their stories in Drowning in You?
Rebecca Berto is the author or the dark contemporary/literary novella, PRECISE and the upcoming new adult contemporary romance novel, DROWNING IN YOU. She is also a freelance editor.
She writes stories that are a bit sexy, and straddle the line between Literary and Tear Your Heart Out. She gets a thrill when her readers are emotional reading her stories, and gets even more of a kick when they tell her so. She’s strangely imaginative, spends too much time on her computer, and is certifiably crazy when she works on her fiction.
Rebecca Berto lives in Melbourne, Australia with her boyfriend and their doggy.
Interview With Rebecca:
Where are you from?
All the way across the world for most people. I’m in Melbourne, Australia, the city with four seasons in one day.
Tell us your latest news?
News, as in plural? My paperback for my novel, DROWNING IN YOU (DiY), is much prettier than the eBook. When I received the ARCs to approve, they looked unbelievably awesome! Also, I can’t believe more than 3,500 people have added *my* book to Goodreads. That enough? (Yes, Rebecca, enough self promo!)
When and why did you begin writing?
I know it sounds cliché but I’ve been writing and making books since pre-school. Back then I would write my own versions of fairy tales such as RAPUNZEL and make a cover and pretty illustrations to go with it.
These days, I’m cautious of copyright and I write my own stuff.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A serious one? I started my first serious manuscript back in August 2010. I was 19 then. It’s been a long journey but the 2 and 1/2 years writing and wanting to get published have been worth it to learn as much as I know now.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d been wanting to do some creative writing for a while but no idea long enough would come to me. Nowadays, like my first idea for a book, I get my ideas from my experiences and putting a “What If” spin on them.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes! It’s quite direct, makes you feel in the moment, and is emotional.
How did you come up with the title?
DiY came along after I’d finished and rewritten a second draft. Writing it, I was emotionally drained, yet beautifully in love, and the idea of metaphorically drowning in someone you love randomly sprung to mind.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Absolutely. Love always wins. Always.
How much of the book is realistic?
Being a perfectionist, I struggle to write extraordinary, unbelievable aspects. I used to be a State-level swimmer and I’m a Type 1 Diabetic so every scenario that occurs regarding both those aspects in my books are all true and correct. ;)
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Always. I can’t write something that I don’t know what feels like. Sure, my parents are alive and healthy and I’ve never been accused of murder but I use scenarios where I’ve felt a similar emotion and draw on that for a particular scene.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Man, my favourite question being foremost an avid reader. I was 9 when I started the HARRY POTTER series and that shaped my childhood. TWLIGHT made me love books again after my horrid teen years where I was afraid to be seen with a novel.
More recent ones that have affected the types of stories I like to write are THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY and BEAUTIFUL DISASTER.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Jodi Picoult! I can’t adequately explain her genius but I’ve never read a book with realer, deeper, fuller characters than hers…and the storylines! Man, she knows how to pen an unputdownable novel.
What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on another New Adult Contemporary Romance (separate from DiY). I’m devouring this genre like crazy, so it’s expected I had to write another.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
To be honest, my most supportive group—ever—have been my circle of writing friends and critique readers. I absolutely couldn’t have come this far without them. They are like family to me.
Can you share a little of your work with us?
Yay! Here’s one of my favourite snippets from DiY:
“This isn’t the type of thing I do, confronting a guy I’ve been in love with, confronting rumors of how my mom died and how my father was critically injured.
This isn’t the type of thing I do, finding out if the guy I’m in love with is a murderer.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes! Making it interesting to my readers!
Who designed the cover?
Sarah Hansen from Okay Creations. She designs many covers that grace the lists of the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon and more. She’s amazing, simply.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The emotions. I don’t just write a “fake” story. Everything that happens is real in my head. I can’t write interesting and realistic stories unless I believe I’m the characters feeling the things that are occurring.
So, being in all those tough situations my characters go through. It’s an out-of-this-world feeling with so much power in your hands: so intense.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I did! I learned about love again and about finding your soul mate. Makes me appreciate having someone care about me, too.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read, and read more. I’ve spent lots of time figuring out how to best improve my writing and the only way to be better than the books out there is to know your competition. Analyse the bits you love and hate from books and figure out how you can put your own twist on that technique.
You can’t learn to write well unless you pump your mind full of great fiction.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks! Sure, I do. Please visit my website/blog. I have all my social media links there to stalk, and I love sharing giveaways, freebies, and lots of book news.a Rafflecopter giveaway