Nina Atwood - An Emotionally Accurate Tale of Survival and Soul-Searching
Nina Atwood is a licensed psychotherapist and executive coach by day, and a writer on weekends and whenever she can grab a few minutes. She is the author of multiple self-help books and has recently turned her pen to fiction. Unlikely Return is her first novel, soon to be followed by the second, Free Fall, which is scheduled for release in late 2020. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and two adorable cats.
Please give us a short introduction to what Unlikely Return is about.
The story begins with a wild ride from a capsized boat to a deserted island with rescue uncertain. The struggle to survive mirrors the struggle to re-write the painful love stories of three men and their heartbroken exes back home. It is an emotional journey of stress, hurt, and fear, followed by love, multiple twists, acceptance, and redemption. It’s about the messiness of life and love, and the beauty found in the mess.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there something in particular that made you want to tackle this?
First, my background as a psychotherapist and an executive coach, which meant that over and over I heard stories of love lost, and then, occasionally, I heard stories of love redeemed. I wanted to write about that, and one day, along “what if” question occurred to me. “What if three men, who didn’t know each other previously, were thrown together in a life-and-death situation, then realized they shared a common story of loves lost…what if anything, would they do about it IF they returned?”
Tell us more about Ben, Stuart, and Paul. What makes them tick?
Ben is driven by regret and guilt; he’s still in love with his ex-wife Michelle but knows he stands little chance of unfreezing her heart. Stuart is a bit macho and thinks he’s impervious to heartache, that he’s totally over his ex, Jillian, but he’s a shadow of his former self; he feels compelled to try to fix his past mistakes because he wants to be the man he can feel proud of again. Paul aches over the mistakes he made with his wife, Sara; he’s driven by the need to make amends to her and gain her forgiveness.
This is your debut novel. What has the experience been like so far?
It has been a thrill-ride! There have been days with incredible highs as I’ve received amazingly positive feedback. That is balanced by the challenge of working on the business side of writing, while still having a significant day job. Overall, though, I feel inspired as an author and have a second book coming out soon, followed by two more in process.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have the ability to read people when they’re not being readable, about things they haven’t yet found the courage to verbalize. I seem to detect the things they don’t say but feel strongly, in ways that are sometimes a bit spooky.
Readers say that they found your characters very relatable. How did you pull this off?
The issues my characters wrestle with are not uncommon, and the psychology and emotions behind their behaviors are fairly universal. I think portraying the struggles many people have in an authentic way resonates, and that’s what I tried to do.
Complicated relationships are an important theme in this book. Why?
Even the most stable couples, the ones you think have it all figured out, have behind-the-scenes complexities that they don’t necessarily reveal. The truth of love relationships is this: you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.
Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?
Not really, as in “Ben is exactly like so-and-so.” Well, Paul kind of resembles my husband, who has a 1970 big-block Corvette that he’s restoring… but that’s all I’m going to say about that!
Do your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
One of the most gratifying things I found with this book was that my characters surprised me! I started their story arcs with a general idea of where they were headed, but along the way, the most interesting things popped out of their mouths, and then they did things that I never could have planned.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
This is more of a scene, but one of my favorite moments was Liz trying to explain to Ben why he should intervene in Michelle’s relationship with Joe, who she describes as too “perfect,” with this “hair” and that “teeth!” It illustrated her shift with Ben in an amusing way. What it means for me is that people can forgive without having to make a big deal of it and it’s still forgiveness.
To what degree do you believe authorial intent determines how a work should be interpreted?
I don’t know that I have control over interpretation, but I do believe that an author’s intent should be fairly visible to most readers. It shouldn’t be obscure or baffling; that is, I don’t want it to be obscure. I hope it’s not!
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
A good writing day starts with coffee and is a mix of creative bursts, pages written, then some breaks, followed by pursuing the business of writing. I have to wear both hats, interchangeably, which is actually refreshing. Right and left brain – I’ve always had pretty much an equal measure of both.
What are you working on right now?
I’m polishing a new novel, Free Fall, which I hope will be out by the end of this year. I’m super excited about it. It’s also about complicated relationships but fits solidly in the thriller genre.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Your readers can go to my website main page where they will be able to get my free novella, Unlikely Beginning, just by signing up to my newsletter list. www.ninaatwoodauthor.com. They can go to the contact page on the site and send me a note, which I will be thrilled to receive!