Julia Merina always thought her life would be simple – go to college, meet Mr. Right, find her dream job, and live happily ever after. But just shy of 25, she learns the hard way that life rarely goes according to plan.
Now, at age 28, Julia’s life revolves around her three year old son, Carson, her career at Oceanic Marketing, and her supportive family. After the turbulent years of her early 20s, Julia resolved to never trust a man again. That is until Drew Parkington, an old classmate, suddenly comes back into her life.
Julia is forced to examine her life and decide if she can let go of the past and learn to trust again.
Targeted Age Group:: 18 and older
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
A great piece of advice I received when I first started writing was to write about what you know so that’s what I did. My latest (and only so far) book, The Other Side of Later, takes place in a small town on the Jersey Shore. I’ve been a resident of South Jersey for my entire life so the places and even a lot of the characters reflect what I know best. Someday, I hope to step out of that comfort zone, but for now, I like that my stories reflect where I come from. I think it gives them a sense of authenticity.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Julia, the main character, had a pretty rough go of it through her early 20s, and now, she’s facing life as a single mom and unsure whether she can let go of the past (and her mistakes) to move on and trust someone again. I identified with Julia a lot as I wrote The Other Side of Later. Did my early 20s resemble hers? No, not even close. However, Julia has a hard time forgiving herself for some of the choices she made. And that’s something I relate to and I think a lot of other women can too.
Do you remember the moment that changed your life? You know, the one you think back on from time to time and know without doubt it was a turning point. It’s funny because so many times, it seems like such an ordinary moment. It can happen anywhere in the blink of an eye. Sitting in class, walking through the supermarket, driving through town on an all too familiar path. Everyday occurrences change into life altering situations.
I was in college. It was my junior year at Belpark University – a small liberal arts school just south of Philadelphia. I remember it like it was yesterday. The sky was blue; the air was brisk. It was a beautiful October day. Leaves were changing colors, and the temperatures were finally cool enough to drink a latte on my way to class without working up a sweat.
The coffee bar in the lobby of Centennial Hall, the second home for Belpark business majors, added pumpkin muffins to their pastry selection and the aroma permeated the air as I stepped into the building. I was in a little bit of a rush, but I knew I’d have to buy one before the end of the day.
“Julia!” I heard as I reached the second floor. I looked to see one of my classmates waving me over to the student lounge. “Did you get the last two questions for DB Systems?”
Database Systems was a core course for marketing information systems majors. While I was a marketing major, not MIS, I had still opted to take a few electives to broaden my skill base. “Yeah, I think so.” I replied as I tossed my coffee cup in the nearby trashcan.
“Do you think you can you help me? I’m kind of stuck.”
“Sure. I have to drop this off to Dr. Meade.” I held up a file folder with my independent research proposal for the following semester. Dr. Meade, my advisor, was expecting it. “I’ll be back in five minutes.”
As I rounded the corner on my way to Dr. Meade’s office, I hit something and I hit it hard. Unable to catch my balance, I stumbled backward and landed on the floor. The folder with my proposal as well as my agenda datebook and notebook flew out of my arms and papers went flying all over the hallway. I looked around to survey the extent of my paper spill before looking up to meet my human roadblock – Aaron Morgan.
Aaron was a senior finance major. I had never actually met him before, but Belpark was a small school and the College of Business even smaller so most upperclassmen were familiar faces. However, Aaron wasn’t just a senior finance major. He was the guy every girl at Belpark talked about. He was at the top of his class coming off an internship at one of Philadelphia’s top financial companies in addition to being a two year captain of the crew team and vice president of the College of Business honor society. When that was coupled with his 6’2” stature, crystal blue eyes, and golden tan, he was quite the catch, and most definitely, not the guy I wanted to act like a complete klutz in front of.
“Julia?” I heard as I came out of my daze. “It is Julia, right?” Aaron said to me as he knelt down and started to pick up my scattered papers. I couldn’t figure out how he knew my name.
After a pause I let continue for way too long, I finally replied. “Yes, I’m—I’m sorry for all this.” I said as I started to get up and pick up my papers. “I need to watch where I’m going.” I was so embarrassed. It was bad enough to run into someone and have papers go flying, but did it have to be Aaron Morgan? This was how I was going to meet him? It couldn’t be a causal conversation by the punch bowl at the upper classmen social scheduled for the following week? Or maybe at the College of Business football game tailgate? Or even in the basement of a frat house when we were both slightly inebriated? It had to be like this.
“Are you okay?” He asked with genuine concern.
“I’m fine.” I said quickly as I continued to gather and stack all my papers together. My homework for DB Systems. I reached across the hall where I noticed the printout of “The Raven” for Experiencing Lit. And of course, all of the documentation for my proposal was no longer neatly tucked into the pockets of my folder; it covered the hallway. “I just have to get all of this stuff back together. Dr. Meade is expecting it.”
We continued to gather the papers. “I think we got it all.” He said as he handed me a large pile of papers.
“Thank you.” I replied without looking up praying that I could just get my papers together and somehow make the embarrassing situation disappear.
“You’re sure you’re okay?”
I looked up at Aaron. “I’m fine.” I said with a smile. “My ego took a little hit after that klutzy move, but I’m really okay.”
“I should have watched where I was going too. I’m sorry I knocked you over.” He extended his hand down to me.
I laughed a little bit as he pulled me up. “No harm done.”
“Alright then. Have a good one, Julia.” He said as he briefly touched my arm and continued down the hall.
Later that day, I was in line at the small coffee bar getting my pumpkin muffin when I heard him call my name.
“Julia?” Unlike our first meeting that day, I saw Aaron coming towards me before we met face to face.
“Hi.” I replied.
“Hey, I’m sorry for knocking you down earlier.”
I looked down and shook my head. “You really don’t need to apologize. I should have looked where I was going. I was in a rush.” I said with a smile and turned from the counter to leave.
“Finished for the day?” He asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, my classes are done.” I replied.
“Me too. I was heading to the food court. Do you want to grab dinner?”
I looked up at him. “Sure.” I replied, and that was the four letter word that most definitely twisted the fate of my life.
As embarrassed as I had been hours earlier, I was equally relaxed as we settled into a conversation that lasted long after we finished the mediocre bistro wraps and lukewarm minestrone soup, which were the food court specials that evening. Classes, family, high school – we talked about anything and everything. Afterwards, he walked me to my apartment, and the following night, we went on our first official date.
At first, I was the typical starry eyed girl completely enthralled by his good looks and undeniable charm. But after a while, almost everything about my life was about Aaron. I didn’t think of possibilities that didn’t include him; I didn’t do the independent research study second semester junior year; I also didn’t study abroad in London the first semester of my senior year. My life was consumed by him. I thought he was perfect, and over time, I convinced myself I couldn’t find better, or if I could, that guy wouldn’t want me. So instead of running in the opposite direction after so many red flags, I created my own fairy tale.
Two days before my graduation, he surprised me with a trip to New York City and proposed in our hotel suite overlooking Times Square. The story made my friends swoon, and to be honest, my heart skipped a beat every time I told it. I was caught up in a world of flowers, cakes, invitations, and dress fittings. The wedding I dreamed of since I was a little girl came to life. Everything was perfect, and I even convinced myself the groom was too. But once the flowers died, the cake eaten, invitations discarded, and the dress worn, the reality of my not so perfect groom came to light.
Two years later at 25, I was pregnant and alone.
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