Thursday, March 29, 2018

Guest Post with Melanie Hooyenga

Photo Content from Melanie Hooyenga

Multi-award winning young adult author Melanie Hooyenga first started writing as a teenager and finds she still relates best to that age group. She has lived in Washington DC, Chicago, and Mexico, but has finally settled down in her home state of Michigan. When not at her day job as a Communications Director at a nonprofit, you can find Melanie attempting to wrangle her Miniature Schnauzer Owen and playing every sport imaginable with her husband Jeremy.


Series: The Rules Series (Book 2)
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 6, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1984240587
ISBN-13: 978-1984240583


"A fantastic sequel from Melanie Hooyenga... A well-done portrait of life at it's finest--when things end to make way for new challenges and excitement. When love trumps disappointment. And when we find out just how limitless we really are." YA Books Central

The more novels I write, the more I learn about myself as a writer. My process has become more fine-tuned, I recognize when I’m going to get frustrated and start to question why I ever wanted to write in the first place (right about the 30k word mark), and I’m slowly weeding out my crutch words. But there’s one thing that is always new, and that’s the intricate dance of how I get to know my characters.

I’m a social person, and the getting-to-know-you phase is no different just because my characters are figments of my imagination. I know age, hair color, and physical descriptions from the start, but it’s their personality that takes a little longer to discover. In The Trail Rules, the main character is Mike, a 16-year old girl who wasn’t as willing to share her thoughts as my other characters. She’s introverted, unsure of herself, and has no idea what she wants to do for the rest of her life. While my teenaged self can relate to the last one, the other two were a bit of a challenge.

One thing we do have in common is our love of the outdoors. She starts mountain biking because of her boyfriend and discovers that being in the middle of the forest calms her in a way nothing else does. While her boyfriend tries to hold her back, she meets a new group of friends who don’t just challenge her to push her limits, they assume she can do it. I learned that she needs that extra motivation to go after a goal, almost like she can’t give herself permission go after what makes her happy.

Because Mike is more introverted, I had to work harder to show her growth without writing a book that’s all internal monologue. (Don’t worry, it’s not!) My other main characters tend to blurt what they’re thinking and deal with the consequences afterwards, but Mike needs to think things through a lot longer, which makes the last scenes in the book delightful because she loses her filter. (I won’t say why because spoilers!)

  • 1. There are ten “Trail Rules” throughout the book. They’re things that can apply to both riding and life, and my favorite is Trail Rule #8: Sometimes you don’t realize you’re on the wrong trail until the right one crosses your path. All three books in the series have rules like this.
  • 2. Mike is very much like me on a bike. I don’t mountain bike and my biggest fear when I find myself near trees is that they’re going to decapitate me.
  • 3. Mike wearing spandex shorts in the first riding scenes is completely based on my ignorance. My friend who rides kindly informed me that real riders wear padded cargo-type shorts.
  • 4. While the ski resort in the first book is real, I made up all the trails in this book.
  • 5. I did a lot of research on mountain biking to make sure I had the terminology, equipment, and other stuff correct.
  • 6. The Ethics class Mike and Brianna have together is based on an Ethics class I took my sophomore year of high school. Many of the questions and discussions are pulled from my memories of that class.
  • 7. I’m a heavy outliner but I had to change the entire second half of the book when Mike decided she didn’t like her boyfriend anymore.
  • 8. I watched the entire Bourne Identity movie to make sure the explosion I referenced in Chapter 7 was accurate.
  • 9. While I’ve never competed in a bike race, I’ve run a number of 5Ks, including several mud runs. The Pow Cross is based on my experiences there – especially the costumes.
  • 10. I have a short story that tells how Alex and Kurt, two friends Mike makes on the trails, started dating. It comes out this summer in an anthology!

Junior year’s looking up for sixteen-year old Mike. Her new BFF isn’t a sadistic control freak, her boyfriend adores her, and she’s learning to bike in the mountains without decapitating herself on a tree.

Well, almost.

When she meets a group of riders who welcome her into their pack, she feels like she’s finally found where she belongs. One particular rider—a boy with an amazing smile and an even more amazing ability to see what she’s truly capable of—gives her the confidence to go after what she wants: her own life with her own rules.

There’s only one problem—he’s not her boyfriend.

Just as things seem to be falling into place, her parents put on the pressure to figure out her future—one that doesn’t include riding. Mike soon realizes that having everything isn’t that great when she’s not the one choosing it. She needs to decide if she’s going to continue to be a follower or step out of the shadows and find her own trail.

I love this scene because it introduces the phrase “there’s a hiker in every biker,” which is my favorite line in the book.

I glance at Mica again—okay, it’s more than just a glance—and hit a root. Focus, Mike. I push them both out of my head and keep my eyes trained on the ground. Getting distracted on the trail is bad enough, but it’s dangerous when everything is wet and slippery.

I successfully make it through half a dozen turns without checking out Mica, but am forced to break my concentration when he slows. We’ve caught up to the rest of the group. Alex, Topher, and Kurt have their bikes on their shoulders and are picking their way through trees and brush alongside the trail.

“What’s up?” Mica asks Cally and Blake.

“Trail’s washed out,” Cally says.

“Isn’t that why we’re on mountain bikes?” Evan asks. “Emphasis on the word mountain.”

Cally shakes her head. “It’s covered in loose rocks. They said it’s too unstable and it’d be bad to have another fall.”

Meaning me.

“All right,” Mica says. “Let’s go.” He lifts his bike with one hand and rests it on his shoulder, then looks at me. “Can you get yours?”

I normally carry my bike on the shoulder I fell on. “I’ll just switch shoulders.”

His gaze grows serious. “You sure?”

I nod, grateful he didn’t immediately offer to carry it for me. “Yep, thanks.”

Evan touches my arm, stopping me as I’m about to lift my bike. “Let me carry it for you.”

“It’s okay, I’m good.” I turn away before I have to look into his eyes. I don’t understand why everything has shifted inside me, but it has, and I feel awful. Like I’m betraying him. I settle my bike on my shoulder and we trek single-file into the trees.

“I didn’t realize there’d be this much walking,” Blake says.

“There’s a hiker in every biker,” Mica replies.

Cally whips her head around. “Did you just make that up?”

Mica laughs. “I wish. People’ve been saying that for as long as I’ve been riding. Probably longer.”

“A hiker in every biker,” I murmur.

Mica looks over his shoulder at me and smiles.

Trail Rule #7: Never say never.

You can purchase The Trail Rules at the following Retailers:

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