The Daily Post-Athenian

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Daily Post-Athenian

Spotlight on people

McMinn Grad Pens Novel

AUTUMN HUGHES

Citizen News Editor

Eden Newman drew on her recollections of high school and her appreciation for the local geography in penning her novel, “Phase.”

Writing as E.C. Newman – Eden Carson Newman, and “I actually prefer it in all small letters,” she said. – Newman drew inspiration for her book from growing up and attending school in Athens.

“I don’t know why I wrote about high school – I didn’t much like high school,” Newman said.

However, write about high school she did, and added supernatural elements to tell the story.

Newman said the idea for “Phase” began about three years ago, but it wasn’t centered on fantastical elements – it was a story about a friendship between girls.

“I just think that’s something we don’t see a lot of,” she said.

She began with that theme and expanded on it with the thought of “what if one of them was not human?”

In her research, Newman selected various bits from werewolf lore to help tell the story. It took more than a year “to come up with a pretty decent draft,” she said.

Newman added she “wasn’t trying to write a trend.” Besides, if she had been trying to capture the devoted audiences of “Twilight” and the Sookie Stackhouse books, which are the basis of HBO’s “Trueblood,” she missed the timing, she said.

Among the aspects of lore Newman used is that werewolves, technically, shift into wolf mode at the full moon, while shapeshifters can transform into anything at any time. But she liked the idea of the full moon in the story. Newman also wanted to present a strong female presence and character.

The first story of an anticipated trilogy, “Phase” initially was planned as a stand-alone story focused on a main character. However, Newman wanted the book to have a larger cast. Each book of the trilogy will focus on a different lead character, she said. “I wanted characters that were flawed by interesting and that grew and found confidence in themselves,” Newman said. “As I got to know these characters … the other stories had to be told.”

Also, Newman said she is not offended by being told some readers found the first book to be “cute” and “sweet.”

“It’s going to get darker … and a little scarier,” she said. “I will probably have to kill off a few characters that I love.”

But, “that sense of loss and of danger has to come out,” she added.

Newman said she wanted to present a “Mayberry-like” town in her novel, so she based the fictional town of Gregory on Athens. Building on that premise, the high school in the story is based on McMinn County High School.

“Although the main character’s house is not this house,” Newman said of Majestic Mansion Bed & Breakfast, which her parents, Richard and Elaine Newman, operate and call home.

Newman had hoped to finish the first draft of the sequel this summer, while she was living in Athens, but it wasn’t completed before she returned to Illinois for work earlier this month. Newman teaches literature, drama, public speaking and speech at Keith Country Day School in Rockford, Ill. She will also take on yearbook advisor responsibilities this year.

In addition to writing, Newman has been busy reading books and watching movies this summer to help clear her mind in anticipation of writing the second book, which will center on a character named Naomi.

“We have nothing in common,” Newman said of herself and the character. “She is kind of all the things I wanted to be in high school. I’m learning her story.”

Newman graduated from McMinn County High School in 1999 and Taylor University in Indiana in 2003. She lived in Los Angeles for more than three years, where she attended acting school at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

“That seems like another person these days,” Newman said.

She also attended Bath Spa University in Bath, England, spending a year in the master’s program for Writing for Young People.

“I eventually want to write other genres and (for) other age groups,” Newman said, but added she plans to write for the young adult audience for a while.

At 31, Newman said she still feels connected to that age group.

Newman said she decided years ago to write as E.C. Newman, adding she likes that “it’s not a dead giveaway of what my gender is.” Plus, she was known as Eden throughout high school but went by Carson in college, so E.C. takes care of that confusion for her friends from both periods of her life. She is ecnewman on Facebook.

“Phase” is available online for Kindle download at a cost of $5.99, but an on- demand print project is in the works. Readers should soon be able to order a print copy online – check Amazon.com for details.

Newman welcomes readers to buy her book and post a review online.

Email: autumn.hughes@ dailypostathenian.com

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