Whiskey on Our Shoes
by Tonya Preece
Genre: Contemporary New Adult Romance
Q: What’s the best and worst things about being a writer?
A: One of the best things about being a writer is getting positive reader feedback, especially from complete strangers who aren’t just friends trying to be nice or not hurt your feelings. The writing community is another one of the best things about being a writer. I don’t know what I’d do without my local critique partners who’ve become great friends, and I’ve met several writers online through social media who have become friends. I think, for me, the worst thing about being a published writer is imposter syndrome. Who am I compared to “real” authors?
Author’s choice of topic:
A little “behind the scenes” of writing Whiskey on Our Shoes: In early versions, Eva’s brother, Lor, died from advanced liver cirrhosis and multiple sclerosis. His demise was unpopular among beta readers who came to love his sense of humor and sibling relationship with Eva. Also, a literary agent rejection I received during the height of the COVID pandemic suggested I try for something less devastating in those trying times. I found a different reason for Lor to be bedridden and revised accordingly. I’m very happy with the way his character arc played out, and I hope readers are too.
1. How many books have you written, and which is your favorite?
I’ve written six novels and, while I love Whiskey on Our Shoes for its big cast and unconventional family dynamics, my favorite is my young adult book presently titled Closer to the Flame. It’s about a teen girl who undergoes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to address her panic attacks and nightmares. The story is important to me because of my own life-changing experience with EMDR for complex PTSD. I hope the book will someday bring awareness of EMDR benefits to readers.
2. If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
There is no sequel planned…but if there was a sequel, you can bet it would include Eva and Alex taking a Pacific coast highway tour in her tiny house. Oh—and a trip to Hungary where Alex just might propose to Eva in a fantastically romantic way.
3. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Each book stands on its own, but I sometimes include things like fictional band names in more than one.
4. How did you come up with the title for your book?
I’m usually terrible at titles! Luckily, I have writer friends who are more creative with them. Credit for the title of WOOS goes to my fellow writer and critique partner Ashley Martin, who I met and befriended through Goodreads.
5. How long did it take you to write this book?
The first draft came quick, in less than a year, but periodic revision took another four. So, I’d say five years in all.
6. What does the title mean?
The title of Whiskey on Our Shoes is a nod at the meet cute between the main characters Eva and Alex. The meet cute comes about when Eva’s bedridden brother cooks up a scheme to get his hands on a bottle of whiskey, despite his promise to stay sober. The scheme involves an unsuspecting Alex, who’s just the delivery person. As Eva confiscates the bottle, it gets dropped and broken at her and Alex’s feet.
7. What did you learn when writing the book?
With this book, I learned to get out of my head and made steps toward not worrying what people (read: my ultra-conservative family) would think. The book I’d written previously was meant for my mom and grandmother’s eyes. WOOS wasn’t, so I gave myself freedom with details of the characters’ lives and wacky situations in which they found themselves.
8. What surprised you the most?
In hindsight, I think Eva’s brother, Lor, surprised me. He turned out more likable than I expected. This made it easier to not kill him off in the end as originally planned.
9. Have you ever killed off a character your readers loved?
In early versions of WOOS, Eva’s brother, Lor, died from advanced liver cirrhosis and multiple sclerosis. His demise was unpopular among beta readers who came to love his sense of humor and sibling relationship with Eva. Also, a literary agent rejection I received during the height of the COVID pandemic suggested I try for something less devastating in those trying times. I found a different reason for Lor to be bedridden and revised accordingly.
10. What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?
I listen to the music that I picture that character liking. For example, while writing Alex’s POV, I listened to a lot of country music, especially Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan. In my YA novel, Cordy is a big pop-punk fan, so I channel her through bands like Mayday Parade, State Champs, Broadside, etc.
When the attention-avoiding daughter of a celebrity couple and a Texas cowboy college student with his own troubles fall hard for each other, they must face their truths together or be torn apart by a media storm.
Eva dodges the fans, media, and gossip that follow her supermodel mom and rock star family members by wearing disguises. After an aimless gap year, she struggles to figure out what she wants from life. She moves in with her famous guitar god brother in Austin while he recovers from a drunken stage stunt accident and tries to stay sober. When a hot Texas cowboy named Alex takes Eva by surprise, she risks her safety and security of anonymity by letting him into her unconventional life.
Alex is captivated by Eva and promises to protect her privacy. Yet he has a secret of his own—the fling he had with an older woman is fraught with scandalous potential for him and now Eva. He broke free of that mistake months ago, or so he thought. As things heat up with Eva, his old flame returns and won’t leave him alone.
Just when Alex thinks he has the reins on the situation, his ex teams up with a gossip reporter hell-bent on invading Eva’s privacy. The resulting exposé, with a sly spin on a recent encounter with his ex, is Alex’s worst nightmare, and Eva’s unsure what to believe. Can she face the world with Alex at her side or will she return into hiding?
Checking that the wig hides all my blonde hair, I ask Mom, “Who am I today?”
Her head whips around, and she gasps. “I almost forgot. How about…Bella?”
“Works for me.” I slide on a pair of oversized sunglasses, and she puts on a floppy, wide-brimmed hat.
She’s told me before how being spotted in public doesn’t concern her unless there’s a chance of me getting drawn into the attention. On the few occasions I’ve shown up in snapshots with the celebs in our family, I looked slightly different each time, thanks to various disguises. And in those rare photos, I’m in the background, facing away from the camera.
Managers and salespeople create a subtle barrier between us and other shoppers, but my goal is to be invisible to them as well. Not so easy when they give us the royal treatment behind the scenes. I trust they won’t take pictures or video, but a lot of my energy’s spent pretending to be someone else. I’m rusty at avoiding curious stares. It’s more exhausting than I remembered.
As Mom browses from display to display, I find it easier to stay engrossed in a game on my phone. Staring at the screen, my face is shielded by the tresses of the brunette wig.
“Earth to Bella.” Mom waves a hand in front of my eyes. “Isn’t it cute?”
I glance at the summer dress she’s holding. “Yeah, it’s nice,” I say, and my gaze falls right back to my phone. She must not notice my lack of excitement and moves on to another dress, chattering non-stop.
“Ooh, Bella, check this out.” “Hey, Bella, I could see you in this.” “Bella, do you like this dress?” She won’t stop, and I have an absurd sense of not being me anymore. How the hell should I know what Bella likes?
The next time Mom calls me Bella, I wince and squeeze my eyes shut.
“Are you okay?” Mom touches my arm.
“I’m not feeling well.” I press my fingers to my temples.
She guides me into a curtained dressing room. “Try not to puke or faint or anything.” She lingers by the entry, eying me warily. “Are you good now?”
“I will be. You should keep shopping. I just need a minute.” I sit on a bench in the small space.
“Maybe you’re dehydrated. I’ll have someone bring you a drink.”
I close my eyes and lean on the wall, craving the freedom I’ve enjoyed without Mom.
My heart sinks, though. I love Mom, and I’ve missed her, but is this what Lor means when he talks about me finding independence?
“Excuse me, miss, are you Bella?” someone says.
I open the curtain. There’s a lady, mid-twenties, offering me a bottle of water. Grateful, I take it, and she has an eager, starstruck look in her eyes.
“It must be cool to hang out with Sloane Silver, huh? How do you know her?”
“She’s a friend of my mom’s.” I take a long, cold drink.
“Wow, where’re you from?”
Cornered, I mutter the first thing to pop into my head. “I’m from Budapest.”
Her eyebrows rise, probably from disbelief since I don’t have an accent.
Oops. I stand. Time to leave.
The lady moves aside, and Mom’s standing there, the color drained from her face. She stares in my direction, her eyes glazed over.
I approach her. “What’s wrong?”
She startles and snaps out of whatever made her look like she’d seen a ghost. “Oh, nothing.” Her gaze flits to the lady. “We’re good here. Thanks for your help.”
The lady makes herself scarce as Mom shoos me back into the dressing room and closes the curtain.
“Eva, what made you think of…that place?” Mom whispers.
“What place? Oh, Budapest?” I shrug. “It came to mind because of the postcard. The one in Lor’s living room.” I note the clenching of her jaw as she turns away. “Does the postcard mean something? When I asked Lor, he wouldn’t say.”
“If he didn’t tell you, it must be private.” She faces me again, with a tight smile. “You’ve hardly shopped for yourself today, and I want to buy you something. Try these on.” She hangs the dresses she’s holding on a hook in the dressing room.
I absentmindedly flip through them, waiting for her to leave before I strip.
“Ev—Bella,” she whispers. “Why are you checking price tags?”
I shrug. “I guess it helps me decide if something’s worth it or not.”
“Worth it?” She eyes me, head to toe, like I’m a stranger. And I do feel strange. Maybe she doesn’t know me anymore. Do I even know myself?
About the Author
writes romance and contemporary young adult fiction and incorporates music into
all her books in one way or another. She lives near Austin, TX where she’s a
small business manager for a forensic engineering firm. She and her husband
enjoy traveling, live music, wine, and spoiling their fur babies.
As an active
SCBWI member since 2015, Tonya has volunteered for several conferences and has
served as a critique group facilitator. She joined the Writer’s League of Texas
and The Author’s Guild in 2021. She served as the 2022 WriteOnCon Financial
Administrator and Critique Boutique Coordinator.
debut, Whiskey on Our Shoes, was selected for the 2019 #WriteMentor program.
One of her YA novels, CLOSER TO THE FLAME, earned her a 2020
scholarship/mentorship with Austin SCBWI and was a finalist at the 2018 Houston
An avid consumer
of written stories, Tonya reads and/or listens to an average of 75 books a
year. Some of her favorite YA authors include Jeff Zentner, Julie Buxbaum,
Sarah Dessen, and Robin Benway. In adult romance – Kate Clayborn, Christina
Lauren, Helena Hunting, Emily Henry, and Abby Jimenez. Series she tries to keep
up to date on: Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.
Recent mainstream faves are Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Daisy
Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Five Fun Facts
about Tonya that aren’t reading or writing related:
volunteers at a local food pantry, where she’s enjoyed serving weekly since
2. Her travel
bucket list includes Italy, Ireland, and Bora Bora. Australia would be awesome,
3. She loves
ziplining, indoor skydiving, and rollercoasters.
4. She’s a fan
of bands like With Confidence, Broadside, All Time Low, State Champs, Sleeping
with Sirens, and As It Is.
5. 5. In her free time, she can be found indulging a jigsaw puzzle habit and/or binging shows like Outer Banks, Never Have I Ever, Downton Abbey, Bridgerton, Good Girls, Veronica Mars, and iZombie.
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