Book & Author Spotlight: Unquiet by Melanie Hansen

Unquiet
(Resilient Love #3)
by Melanie Hansen
Release Date: January 22, 2016
Dreamspinner Press

About Unquiet
Loren Smith has been in love with Eliot Devlin almost his entire life. During their turbulent childhood and teen years, Loren didn’t always understand Eliot, and sometimes he could be a challenge, but Eliot was the only one to ever truly ease Loren’s deep loneliness and accept him. When Eliot’s increasingly erratic and self-destructive behavior culminates in a suicide attempt at seventeen, Loren is devastated.

Upon meeting again by chance nine years later, Loren is enjoying a successful career as a police officer while Eliot’s life has been a constant struggle for stability. In and out of mental hospitals, with a rap sheet a mile long, he continues to be buffeted by the twin storms of mania and depression. Loren’s love and protectiveness for Eliot are deeply ingrained in him, however, and their feelings for each other are quickly rekindled.

Loren has issues of his own he’s dealing with, and trying to understand and cope with Eliot’s bipolar disorder isn’t easy. They believe they’re meant to be, and Eliot brings a fulfillment to Loren’s life that no one else will ever match. But as they both come to realize, love by itself can’t cure all.

Read my five-plus-starred review of Unquiet.

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Purchase Links
Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo

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An Excerpt from Unquiet
When they woke the next morning, they packed an overnight bag and headed north on I-17. Eliot was amazed at the view out his window, craggy rocks and towering saguaro cactus eventually giving way to the pine trees of the Coconino National Forest.

In Flagstaff they stopped for gas, and both of them shivered at the cold bite in the air. They ran by a sporting goods store to buy some fleece pullovers, and Eliot goofed off with a couple of plaid hunting caps, complete with fuzzy earflaps. He grinned at Loren, trying to keep the hat from falling forward into his eyes.

“You look about twelve years old,” Loren said drily. “That hat swallows you whole.”

As Loren reached out to take it off of him, he stroked his thumb along Eliot’s cheek.

“I love to see you smile, to see you happy,” he whispered. He grabbed a simple knit cap and pulled it over Eliot’s head, fussing with it a minute before saying, “Much better.” Eliot scanned the room and, not seeing anyone, stretched up to give Loren a kiss.

Soon they were on the road again heading north, and Loren took Eliot’s hand, twining their fingers together and resting their joined hands on his knee. Eliot could sense Loren was turning something over in his mind, so he just waited.

Are you happy, El?” Loren finally asked. “I’ve seen so many different incarnations of your moods, but I honestly don’t know if I’d recognize happiness in you.” His voice held a faint note of apology for asking, and Eliot glanced at him, surprised but pleased by Loren’s candor.

“I don’t know if I’d recognize happiness either, Loren,” he admitted, rubbing his thumb over the back of Loren’s hand when he threw Eliot a stricken look. “Hey, hey,” Eliot said reassuringly. “I don’t mean that the way it sounds.”

Eliot blew out a breath, thinking about how to explain this. Loren waited, but his lips were pressed together in a tight line, and Eliot squeezed his fingers.

“Usually when I wake up in the morning, I’m afraid,” he said slowly, and Loren opened his mouth to speak but then didn’t say anything. Eliot glanced at him again, then continued, “I feel the craziness, the madness lurking, just waiting for me. It feels like it’s attached to me, that when I get out of bed, I’m dragging it with me. It’s always there, ready to pounce and swallow me up.”

“Oh, El,” Loren whispered achingly.

Eliot stroked his hand. “And this morning when I woke up, I wasn’t afraid. I think that’s what it feels like to be happy. It’s enough for me.”

Loren didn’t say anything, but a lone tear slid down his cheek. Eliot reached up and wiped it away with his thumb, stroking Loren’s jaw tenderly.

“What’s the matter, honey?”

Just then the sign for a scenic lookout appeared, and Loren took the exit, parking the truck. He stared through the windshield, blinking fast, more tears welling up.

“The thought of you for all those years, waking up afraid,” he whispered brokenly. “And I wasn’t there, Eliot. I wasn’t there.” Eliot could see Loren’s throat working as he fought not to cry, and with a soft exclamation, Eliot opened his arms, gathering him close. He stroked Loren’s hair, feeling the hot wetness of tears against his neck.

“But you were there, Loren. Shhh,” he murmured.

When Loren calmed a little, Eliot pulled back and took Loren’s face in his hands, forcing him to meet his eyes.

“I’ve been in a lot of therapy over the years, and they always ask me the same thing, what my best memories are, what memories do I have of feeling happy or safe. I’m supposed to bring them to mind when I’m stressed or scared or angry. It’s part of cognitive therapy, learning to readjust your thinking, to focus on good things and not negative things.”

Eliot caressed Loren’s face. “And Loren, there’s a lot I don’t remember, but what I do, every single one of those types of memories is about you. Being kids, riding our bikes, playing with toys, laughing at stupid jokes. Then later the way you held me in the dark after a nightmare or sat with me when I was so sad and hurting that I wanted to die. The way you—the way you loved me, loved my batshit crazy and fucked-up mess.

“You’ve always been with me, Loren, through my memories. Always.”

Loren completely lost it then, and Eliot let him cry it out, murmuring to him, rocking him, reveling in being the one to comfort, to soothe, of being able to shore up the man he loved when he needed it.

Finally the storm passed and Loren pulled away, sitting up and scrubbing his hands over his face.

“I’m glad, El,” he said hoarsely, clearing his throat several times before starting the truck and pulling back onto the interstate. “I’m glad I’m your best memories.”

About Melanie Hansen

Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.

She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.

Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Melanie
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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A Q&A with Melanie Hansen
1. What was your inspiration behind the Resilient Love series in general and the latest book, Unquiet, specifically?

When I wrote my first book, Everything Changes, I wasn’t planning to write a series.  I just knew that I wanted an amputee hero, and another hero suffering from PTSD, a reality for so many of our fighting men and women.  During the course of research for that story, I became fascinated by the resilience the human spirit has in so many ways:  whether it’s recovering from a devastating injury, from crippling grief, or learning to live with a mental illness.  As I wrote each book, the idea for the next one grew out of it.

During the course of writing Signs of Life, I fell completely in love with Loren Smith, who was intended to be just a minor secondary character put there to create some conflict between the MCs.  He grew into a major character in his own right, and I wanted to give him a story, but I felt it needed to be a special one for a special man.  My cousin lost her battle with bipolar disorder several years ago, and something she always used to say was that she’d never find anyone to love her.  She’s my inspiration for Unquiet and I wrote it for her, since she never got the chance to find her Loren.

2. Was it difficult to write a love story that dealt with mental illness and what kind of research did you have to do for the character of Eliot Devlin?

It’s easy to find ‘facts’ out about bipolar disorder.  There are a wealth of excellent books and online resources out there for that, but what was very difficult for me was wanting to tell part of the story in Eliot’s POV.  I was very intimidated to do so, and almost didn’t try.  My first attempts were awful, made him seem like a stereotype, and he was very one-dimensional, almost a caricature.  What I finally did was start reading blogs written by bipolar people, and I found several excellent autobiographies.  Immersing myself in their worlds in their words helped me find Eliot’s “voice,” and hopefully he now comes across as a person with depth and substance, not one defined by his illness.  I have to say between that, and crafting a realistic love story that still has elements of hope and joy to it, it’s by far the most challenging piece of writing I’ve ever done or will do.

3. What three words would you use to best describe Eliot Devlin? What three words would you use to best describe Loren Smith?

I would describe Eliot as compassionate, loving and resilient.  He has low self-esteem from a lifetime of struggle against a brain that frequently betrays him, but he also has a deep inner core of strength that keeps him going.  Loren is determined, loyal and patient.  When he loves, he loves deeply and forever, even when that love is tested in ways he never imagined it could be.  

4. Why do you think love is resilient?

Because sometimes it has to be.  Loving someone like Eliot taxes every bit of strength and fortitude that Loren has, over and over and over again.  As another character in the story puts it, love sometimes isn’t just a feeling, it’s an action word…an act of will.  Eliot himself comes to realize that, despite his myriad challenges, his is still a life worth living, and he’s every bit as worthy of love as anyone else is. 

5. What do you have lined up after Unquiet?

I have three WIPs going at the moment, all M/M:  a stepbrother story, a Navy SEAL story, and a May/December military story.  The one furthest along at the moment is the stepbrother one at 70K words, the others are in a holding pattern at around 40K each.  Real life keeps getting in the way, but I will get all of them done!  But first I have a Valentine’s Day short story called Love and the Exorcism coming out through Dreamspinner on Feb. 11.  It’s hot, sweet and fluffy, no angst!  

6. If you could spend 24 hours free of family and writing responsibilities, what would your day be like?

Oh, that sounds heavenly!  I think I would get together with my best girlfriend and go for a long morning hike, then get pedis and lunch.  Maybe coffee next, and wrap it up with a movie night and popcorn!  

7. What words of wisdom would you give aspiring writers who look up to you as their inspiration?

A week before my first book came out, I attended a Dreamspinner author workshop in Orlando.  Everyone was so supportive, and the main words of wisdom I took away from that weekend was ‘not every reader is your reader.’  If you’re happy with your story and you did your best, that’s all that matters.  Some readers will love it, some may hate it.  You won’t speak to everyone, and no matter how many great reviews you get, there will be some bad ones too.   Expecting everyone to be your reader will lead to discouragement, stress and unhappiness.  I read a quote recently that said, ‘A good book will find its readers.  So just write a good book.’  Write your book, and don’t be afraid of what others will think.   Those pieces of advice help me get through the angst and stress of each release day, and gives me the courage to keep writing!  

I loved these questions!  Thank you so much for hosting me today!

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Note: Thank you to Melanie Hansen for taking time out to answer my questions and thank you to Lisa Filipe for facilitating.

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Comments

  1. Great interview! Thank you for hosting UNQUIET today!

    Crystal, Tasty Book Tours

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks so much for hosting me today! <3

    ReplyDelete

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