Today I am very excited to welcome author Alex Kidwell to the blog. Alex is here to talk to us more about her new release, After the End. She has also brought a copy to giveaway to one lucky readers, so check out the details at the end of the post. Welcome Alex!
When I was a child, I was different. I was different in the way all children are different, in the way we all feel awkward and out of place in the world. In order to escape, I did what so many of us did – I discovered the library. There I could see into magic kingdoms or windswept plains, could fight for good alongside wizards and fauns and the brave but simple commoner who would change their fate. I dove into the world of fairy tales and I fell in love with the idea of the hope that pervaded, the love that would last through time, the good that would always defeat evil.
Then I got older. I realized that sometimes, happily ever after wasn’t the end of the story. In fact, after ‘The End’, there were a thousand more days, a hundred more tales waiting there. Some of them weren’t so happy. Some of them weren’t as clear cut as the princess falling in love, as the prince saving the day.
It was that thought that lead to After the End. I wanted to write a story about a love story that had ended. What did it mean to love someone for the rest of your life when their life ended before yours? It’s a heartbreaking question, and it took me a while to find the right story to tell it.
In After the End, we find Quinn O’Malley two years after the death of his long term partner, Aaron. Quinn used to be complete, he used to be a moderately successful comic book artist who sometimes had art shows, who had a fat cat and a man he adored, who had a life and a home and all the happily he could handle. And then Aaron was gone and he remained. So what did he do with the rest of his years, when they were all supposed to be Aaron’s?
Quinn’s best friends set him up on a blind date with Brady Banner, a party planner from a big family. Brady was charming and handsome, he loved to cook and he made Quinn laugh. And that was a big, dangerous thing. Because if Quinn could feel for someone else, how could he ever say he loved Aaron?
And that’s the crux of the book. It’s a very simple story, I think. Nothing new, nothing earth shattering. I just wanted to explore the idea of what might happen if the worst happened, if you lived through the death of the love of your life. What could the rest of your life be?
I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from After the End. In it, Quinn and Brady are taking a walk by the river, soon after their blind date.
It was chilly by the river this time of year, but I just wrapped myself further in my corduroy jacket and long scarf, tugged on knitted gloves as my fingers got too cold. Brady walked next to me, silent most of the time, our breaths twin ghosts against the still air.
“I love autumn,” he said, grinning as he reached up to pluck a just-turning leaf from a maple tree. He twirled the scarlet-trimmed green in his fingers before tucking it into the buttonhole of my jacket pocket. “Just the way the air smells and everything crackles. Also, I look damn good in boots.”
Barking out a quick laugh, I cut a sideways glance at him. “You’re….”
As I trailed off, he filled in for me with a mischievous grin. “Charming? Irresistible? Cute as a button?”
Completely the opposite of Aaron. Of the tall, booming man who’d moved through life like it was a river to ford, like it was a battle he’d already won. He laughed and the whole world lit up; he smiled and it’d been like the sun rose just to see it. I’d lived in his arms, in his eyes, in the breadth and span of his passion, of his wit and gentleness, for so long that when it’d been taken from me, I’d felt like I was only part of a person. All the goodness in me, all the possibilities, they’d been put in the casket with Aaron, buried in dark earth and hidden under a stone marker.
Brady was nothing like my Aaron. He was slim and golden—instead of a lion, he was a prince. The only cardigans he owned were probably bought ironically, and I doubted he owned a single broadsword or cared at all about the War of the Roses. He was so utterly separate from Aaron, so unlike, it was nearly impossible for me to reconcile myself with either of them. Like night and day, I wasn’t sure how I could thrive in one when I’d learned to crave the other.
“That seems to be our particular theme.” Brady smoothed his fingers along my cheek, and I shuddered out a breath, eyes closing briefly. How long had it been? Not just since this—not just since the soft slide of skin along my own, since the hot exhale of someone’s breath stirred across my face—but since the closeness that had nothing to do with our bodies. It was Brady pressing inside that quiet bubble I called my own, inside the walls everyone kept up around themselves. He was looking at me, seeing me, and for a moment I couldn’t breathe for how incredibly long it had been.
“I can’t.” The words came out of me like they were pulled, like I’d ripped them off of the scars I’d thought were so well hidden. “Brady, it’s not that I don’t want to.” Scared and lost, my eyes blinked open and found his, those ridiculously kind brown depths holding my gaze. “I do, I just… I don’t think I’m ready. I don’t think I can. It’s everything, all at once, and I feel like I can’t breathe.”
Thank you so much to Joyfully Jay for allowing me to talk a little bit about this book today. It really was an incredible journey, writing it, and I hope people will enjoy taking that trip with me.
Alex has generously offered to give away a copy of the book to one lucky reader. Leave a comment by Sunday, January 27th at 11:59 pm EST to enter to win.