This past year what’s interested me more than what people have been sharing on social media and even in day-to-day conversations with co-workers, friends, and romantic partners, is all the things people aren’t saying. How often in our lives are we completely vulnerable and real? Who are we when we’re not putting on a front?
It’s tentatively titled The Influencer and primarily takes place during one weekend at a hotel on the marsh in South Carolina. It’s about an unexpected connection that develops between a fashion blogger struggling with finding her true self and a man with a secret who volunteers to take her pictures during a sponsored trip that goes terribly wrong. Each chapter opens with a photo from the woman’s Instagram—that tells one side of the story—and what actually goes on that weekend behind the lens is revealed in the novel itself.
This is a fairly personal story for me (although as I wrote that I realized that all my books are personal). None of them are my story of course, but they’re all loosely inspired by curiosities I’ve had about life from my experiences to date in an effort to make the books I share with you real and relatable. If something is keeping me up night after night, I figure it keeps a lot of other people up too.
Last year I took a trip with my sister’s friend (who was a stranger to me at the time). He was between jobs and helped take pictures of me for my blog while I was meeting with independent bookstore owners on the east coast and doing some interviews for Waiting at Hayden’s in the South. What I didn’t share about that trip, everything that wasn’t “captured” was the intriguing part.
He also doesn’t have social media, so wasn’t fully seeing what I was posting, but on our last day together he looked at my Instagram page and said to me: “What you shared on here…it’s the least interesting thing about the person I just spent the past two weeks getting to know.”
Writing about the setting has been one of my favorite parts of this book!
My favorite moments in life have all been when I can experience a moment or conversation without having to worry about capturing it, and the times when I can be somewhere and not have to share where that is or what I’m doing. That being said, I’m also a storyteller and want to connect with my audience and my readers. This is the dilemma I face in my particular line of work as it relates to authenticity.
I know from talking to others that the workplace is a challenging spot for most to be fully themselves because of particular demands and expectations. Certain relationships too can make it hard to be fully ourselves. Like when we’re around friends we feel “don’t fully get us.” Or when we’re with someone we’re not sure we trust, and therefore don’t feel comfortable completely opening up to.
When we do have the opportunity to be fully vulnerable with someone, sometimes opening up is still difficult because it can lead to heartache, or rejection, or another other unpleasant emotion. (I went through a really tough heartbreak this past December myself followed by another sad loss, and it made me want to close my heart off completely and even stop doing this work, so if you’re going through that right now, I’m sending so much love your way and I get it.) But as Brene Brown speaks about in her oh-so-popular Ted Talk, vulnerability is also the birthplace of true love and connection.
I got into writing books because I wanted to tell stories that made people feel understood. Given our current cultural zeigest, I’m hoping this story resonates and helps.
It’s a book that explores both sides of life—the light and the dark—and while it’s a love story between two people, it’s also a story of self-love. What does it really mean to love ourselves for all that we are? And what would it be like if we could let more people do the same?
I’ll be sharing the full storyline on the blog next week (I can’t wait!) so stay tuned and thank you, as always, for reading and for connecting here. I’m so grateful for each and every one of my readers and for your continued support.
More photos captured by Ketara at Studio Alani from our trip below: