Behind the Story: Friends Like This

I have an obsession with friends-to-lovers stories, and stories about close-knit friends in general, which is where the idea for this story came from. I wanted to write the friends to lovers romance that would make my heart happy and the friend group I wish I’d had.

Keep reading for more about the inspiration for the people and places of Friends Like This

The Characters

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Aaron with bright blond hair and an infectious smile. He was my first baby crush and BFF. 
No, I’m not writing to you as Rae McKinley. From ages 4-6, I had a sweet little boy in my life named Aaron (not Cooper) who was the inspiration for the Aaron you read about in Friends Like This. He moved away before first grade and I haven’t seen him since, but when I started dreaming up this best friends to lovers romance, I remembered him. Of course, the resemblance stops at his features and the way he made my 5-year-old heart feel.
Sarah and Mackie
Mackie’s calm, sure of herself, slightly raunchy, and take no bullshit personality as well as Sarah’s protectiveness and willingness to cut someone for Rae were both inspired by my real-life close friend, Laura. 
I grew up going to a tiny private school. My class sizes were small and everyone was close and there tended to be more boys than girls. While Joel isn’t inspired by anyone specifically, when I was thinking back to some of those friends, I realized he has some qualities in common with one of my former classmates, Mike, who definitely annoyed me and playfully teased me the way Joel does with Rae.
Miles is one of the most fully fictional characters I’ve ever written. He’s nothing like anyone I know and I can’t think of any public figure or character like him. I just heard his voice in my head and saw him so clearly.
If you ever wanted to dig into my psyche… well, Rae is a pretty good look at that. She’s essentially a bolder, more extroverted, and slightly more dramatic version of me. We’re both enneagram 9s, love spy shows, and cry at everything. 😉

The Friendships

As mentioned before, from kindergarten through sixth grade, I went to a little private school with very few people in my class. Because of that, we were all fairly close. That was a piece of the inspiration for the close friendships these characters have, but rather than those friendships fading as mine did, I chose to have them grow into something deeper and more complex—something I wish I would have had. Their friendships were also inspired by my middle and high school years living right near downtown and spending all summer running between my best friends’ houses and having fun.

The Locations

Ida, NY is a fictional town based heavily on my hometown of Owego, NY. Like the six main characters in this book, I lived right near downtown. Several of my closest friends lived on the same block. There was a bakery on the same block, and we spent plenty of time going back and forth between each other’s houses. Rae’s house was inspired by my own, while Aaron’s was inspired by one of my close friend’s. Certain restaurants like Marion’s and The Pit are also inspired by actual locations—but that’s more the aesthetic than the food. Oh, and speaking of food. If you hear the characters mention spiedies, those are a real thing authentic to the Binghamton area of NY. You learn more about them here.

The Card Games

Like Rae and her friends, I spent many many nights up late playing Nickels, Bullshit, or Spit. And many afternoons. Mornings. Any time, really. It’s what my friends and I always did when we were together. And yes, one of my friends and I always teamed up to cheat at Bullshit. You can learn more about the card games below.

The Music

If you haven’t listened to the playlist for Friends Like This, you can find it here. However, if there’s one song that gives me all the Friends Like This feels, it’s Old Friends by Ben Rector. His entire album, Magic, captures the nostalgia that I feel when I’m in the Friends Like This world incredibly well.

Have you read Friends Like This yet? If not, make sure to grab your copy and fall in love with Rae and Aaron and their best friends & the entire town of Ida.

Anxiety & Self-publishing

“Your book probably sucks.” “No one is gonna read it anyway.” “Why did I even start writing?” “I don’t know how to do this.” “It’s never gonna amount to anything.”

I wish I could tell you those were shitty things someone else said to me and I promptly ripped them a new one and cut them out of my life. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I haven’t figured out how to rip anxiety from my life, though I’d certainly like to. Those phrases are just a few among the many that roll through my brain on a given day because of my anxiety.

Wait. We all face doubt, right? Absolutely, we do. But this is where anxiety differs. Those thoughts begin to control me until a spiral forms. And then my chest tightens. Tears threaten. And I feel useless. The negative self-talk begins again, and I’m caught in a vicious cycle.

I’m lucky that I can mostly manage my anxiety. Usually the blend of venting to a trusted friend, listening to some really good music, and appealing to my logical side will eventually pull me out of it. Typically, that happens within a matter of hours, but as I’ve learned with self-publishing, it takes a little longer. Days.

I’m writing this now from the depths of an anxiety spiral. I’m one tiny trigger away from imploding into tears. I don’t say this for pity (I HATE that), but because I know I’m not the only one out there who feels this way.

Writing has always been the ultimate dream for me. Besides being a mom, there was nothing I wanted more. I have extreme determination with no intention of giving up. But I want to. With everything inside of me, I want to, because self-publishing, trying to be the entire business entity of creating, marketing, selling my books is the ultimate trigger. Every day. For someone with anxiety, that’s hard. No, more like excruciating.

What I see: No KU page reads today.
What logic tells me: Lots of people have already read this book, eventually more will trickle in & you had a lot yesterday.
What my anxiety tells me: This is a crappy book. Obviously people don’t like it. You’re a four-star author at the very best. Don’t bother promoting, people don’t want to read it anyway.
What happens: My author friends share other author friends posts (as they do mine) and say lovely things.
What logic tells me: Look at everyone supporting each other, this is awesome!
What my anxiety tells me: What that friend wrote is way better than your book. They don’t actually like your stuff they’re just trying to be nice. They know you can help them too, so they just pretend to like you.
What happens: I find a really cool blogger who might like my stuff.
What logic tells me: Message them, if they can’t help or aren’t interested, they’ll tell you.
What anxiety tells me: Your books aren’t niche enough. They won’t want to read them. They’ll ignore your message. If they don’t like your book they’ll tell everyone they hate it. Your books aren’t as good as what they’re reading, don’t even bother messaging them.

These are just a few examples of life with anxiety. Self-publishing and being an author has become my biggest trigger because it’s the thing I want the most. It’s the one thing I always felt like I was good at. (Anxiety right now: You’re shitty at this too. You have no place.) It’s incredibly hard to fight against it and some days I absolutely want to give up.

That’s why I’m writing this. Self-publishing is hard. Having anxiety can be debilitating. But I know I’m not the only one to struggle through either of these things or the combination of the two. If you’re struggling, too, I highly recommend finding a good outlet. Somewhere you can let go and let it out or talk it out. Find your safe space. Take a break if you need one. Focus on your mental health. Do what you need to do for yourself. But whatever it is that anxiety is telling you you’re not good enough for, you don’t deserve, I can tell you, you absolutely do.

You are enough. You deserve good things. And you can have the things you dream of.

Writing this blog is my way of giving anxiety a giant middle finger. It can’t take this from me, even if it tries.

I wish you all the best with whatever you’re working on, whatever you hope to achieve. And if you’re struggling with anxiety, I wish you strength in fighting it and encourage you seek further help if you need it.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is a great place to find more info and support if you need it.

Until next time, take care.

Behind the Story: Freaking Love Part 1- Inspiration

Freaking Love is officially out in the world! You can read it here.

With Freaking Love finally out on Kindle Vella this week, I wanted to share a little behind the scenes about the inspiration for this story.

Please note: This contains spoilers for the first couple of episodes of Freaking Love. If you haven’t read it yet and want to remain spoiler-free, avert your eyes now. Otherwise, continue on.

When it started…

I’d have to look back at the date to be sure, but I’m almost positive it was early spring of 2017. There’s a possibility that it was 2016, but that seems too early in my memory.

What it started as…

This story started as a script. I’ve always loved screenwriting and it came very naturally to me because I love telling all the parts of a story. I love the idea of how you can overlay music with a scene to heighten its effects. I love all of that. What’s funny is I hate writing in the third person and it took a long time for me to find the right stylistic fit to make this into a book. When I heard about Kindle Vella, the serialized format really seemed to fit with that serialized way I thought of this story. That said, in its origins, it was actually set over two linear timelines. The past, the high school days that this story tells (though that’s now set in the present-ish time) and a present about twelve years later, exploring the family dynamics and personal relationships somewhat like Parenthood. Because of this, it was originally called Nontraditional, because it was about a group of families raising kids and many of those families and situations were nontraditional.

The inspiration…

Like with almost anything I write, the inspiration didn’t come from one specific place, but rather a compounding few things that came together and created this story in my mind. The first was that a boy I used to crush hard on and was once close friends with got engaged and I started thinking about the almost relationship we had and wondering how it would’ve gone if we’d ever actually dated. I realized it probably would’ve gone pretty badly. Then I laughed, thinking that I’d probably have ended up pregnant or something.

The next day, I was listening to Yellowcard in the car (they’re one of my favorites) and the song Ten came on, which is a (fairly sad but beautiful) song about a miscarriage. The singer reflects that that baby would’ve turned ten that year. And it got me thinking what would’ve happened if I’d gotten pregnant at seventeen. Which took me back to my previous thoughts.

Finally, for some reason or another, I decided to listen to Last Play at Shea by Billy Joel. I grew up listening to him but since my mom didn’t really like the song, I’d never heard Scenes from an Italian Restaurant before. It seemed to fit with the theme of this story that was rapidly building in my head. And so it became mostly what you see in Freaking Love today.

Final fun fact…

Because I originally wrote it in two timelines, I know plot points for these characters that happen YEARS ahead in the story, so there will probably be a time jump to early adulthood at some point.

Are you enjoying Freaking Love? Like and follow for more behind the scenes content and for lots more from me, follow me over on Instagram @bethanymonacosmith