Tara Lee Reed lets readers make the decision for her character.

The first thing I learned about writing a chooseable path novel is that it’s incredibly difficult. By the time I’d made it from first draft through launch, I realized the reason for this is that it’s kind of like real life. A better analogy might be leaving the nest to make it on your own.

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There’s no manual or regular feedback on how you’re doing and how you could improve. It’s all trial and error and trusting your gut – even when it disagrees with your head. It’s having faith and hoping for the best or, at least, minimal collateral damage. Things rarely turn out the way you wanted, or expected, which is sometimes a great thing. And sometimes you play it safe as a result of what happened when you bit off more than you could chew.

Inspired by dating advice books and culture, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda sees you assume the role of Elle, making hundreds of decisions about your love life en route to 60 Happily Sometimes Afters.

Okay, maybe not the wisest choice for a new author to cut her teeth on, but I fell in love with the idea of turning “the dating game” into an actual game – in a book. So much so, I never stopped to think beyond my elevator pitch.

Much like when I thought my decision to go to journalism school would turn me into Lois Lane, I didn’t think about the effort of getting there. I saw the finish line, but conveniently ignored the research, plotting, writing, rearranging, rewriting to fit the new plotting, and the fact that no matter how many times I told people it was romantic comedy about dating, they’d still call it an advice book – and me a dating expert. I underestimated how frustrating it would be to create a believable and relatable balance of angst and conflict that ensured the reader wouldn’t hate her leading man too much to take the romantic Do-Overs when offered.

And it took a long time. Long. So much longer than it “should” have, and years later than I wanted it to. I try not to dwell on how much time was lost to poor planning, repeated overhauls to the mechanics of the manuscript, and years eaten up by the illness that led to me writing in the first place. I generally fail miserably at that, usually when I think about the slew of chooseable path novels for women that also launched this year. Even Neil Patrick Harris is on the board with his upcoming interactive memoir.

I usually (try to) focus on my mother’s example of looking for the opportunities and hidden advantages resulting from delays beyond my control, like finding an agent, and going for the ride of publisher submissions, with acquiring editors dropping everything to read my book – and making offers. My Lois Lane! My endgame!

In keeping with leaving the nest analogy, that’s probably the Coming Of Age portion of this story. There I was, being offered everything I thought I wanted when I set out on this path: the credibility, the prestige … the marketing budget. It was the whole package. But much like my ill-fated foray into journalism (which I quickly dropped in favour of public relations), while traditional publishing was great in theory, it just wasn’t right for me at the time. And before you could say whiplash, I resumed my plans to publish my series independently.

This art imitating life thing applies to reading chooseable path novels, too. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda weaves together dozens of storylines, making it highly unlikely two people could read it the same way. In life and in the novel, we start out with few expectations, and no real sense of what’s to come. Personal experience impacts our decisions, often making it hard to choose between our hearts and heads. Things will come sooner than we expected, and sometimes not at all. We soar, only to fall with a heavy thud. And then we stand and try again until we find our happy ending.

Maybe most importantly, we come to realize that what we think we want is frequently at odds with what’s right for us, even if that means taking what seems like a giant step back in order to leap forward. Eventually. Usually the wiser and happier for it in the end.

You can see for yourself and pick up Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda with reduced pricing until August 12. You’ll also find character-curated Pinterest boards and an Unofficial “Official” Soundtrack at http://www.doorflower.com. Remember: all of the conflict and angst, none of the leg shaving or STDs.

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 12.29.30 PMElle Masters is over dating. It used to be fun: the drama, the angst, the exhilarating beginnings, the bittersweet middles, the blowout endings. Then the tears, hangovers, rebounds, and another addition to the shoebox of memories in her closet. Now Elle can’t remember the last time a guy made his way into her box.

When her friends Rachel and Valerie insist she snap out of her post-breakup funk with a girls’ night out/rebound hunt at a San Francisco bar, Elle isn’t expecting tall, dark, and hummuna-hummuna, Nick Wright. This is no rebound guy. He’s definitely, maybe, The One.


Tara Lee Reed is the accidental writer from Toronto, Canada, not that chick from Sharknado. When her career in public relations was forced into hiatus by a jerky plot twist, she wrote the first in a series of interactive novels. She was voted Most Sarcastic Female at her high school prom, which she went to alone. (Not that she thinks about it.) She can fit her whole fist in her mouth (which makes the prom thing surprising), and she can sing with her mouth closed, but she can’t do both at the same time.

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