About the Book
Sometimes the only road to the truth...is one you’ve never taken.
Until I found Gideon’s journal in the tool shed—locked in the cedar box where I’d once hidden my old diary—I’d been led to believe my brother was dead. But the contents of his journal changed all that.
The Road to Discovery...
Two years ago, Aurora Gray’s world turned upside down when her big brother Gideon and his best friend Jeremy disappeared. Now, during the summer of her 18th birthday, she unexpectedly finds her brother’s journal and sees that it’s been written in again. Recently. By him.
The Road to Danger...
There are secret messages coded within the journal’s pages. Aurora, who’s unusually perceptive and a natural puzzle solver, is hell bent on following where they lead, no matter what the cost. She confides in the only person she feels can help her interpret the clues: Donovan McCafferty, Jeremy’s older brother and a guy she’s always been drawn to—even against her better judgment.
The Road to You...
Reluctantly, Donovan agrees to go with her and, together, they set out on a road trip of discovery and danger, hoping to find their lost brothers and the answers to questions they’ve never dared to ask aloud.
In that expectant space between silence and melody, our trip began...
Excerpts from The Road to You © Marilyn BrantOption #1 (422 words)
I’d felt a lot like an actress on the night of our brothers’ secret graduation party two years ago. For one thing, I wasn’t remotely as reserved as usual, thanks to being away from home and, also, being a little buzzed.
More than that, I remembered how the bourbon and the careless abandon of summer even made me kind of bold, and how I’d walked up to Donovan McCafferty when he was alone in the kitchenette part of the hotel suite.
“Hey, Donovan,” I murmured, standing much closer to him than I ever would have normally. But I was nearly a high-school junior then. I thought I was almost cool.
“Aurora,” he whispered, watching me with a rare inquisitive look as I smiled at him and leaned against the mauve-colored wall. That glint of interest in his gaze gave me courage.
I reached out to stroke his chest—firm against my fingertips—and I grabbed a handful of his t-shirt because I liked the sensation of it. It was deep red, newish and much softer than I’d expected. Somehow, it made sense to me in that moment to tug him close, my fingers letting go of his shirt’s front and reaching all the way around him. Caressing his back and pressing him to me. I raised my head to kiss him and noticed he was holding his breath.
For a second, he let me touch his lips with mine. Just that one single time. Then he stepped away, abruptly, and with an apology.
“Been drinking,” he said, glancing to either side of us, not that anyone else was looking. “Sorry.”
At first I didn’t know if he’d been talking about my drinking or his. I sort of laughed. “Everyone’s been drinking. Half the people in the other room are passed out.” I shrugged. “Nobody’s, um...watching us.”
I knew my best friend Betsy was making out with some townie in the hall. My brother Gideon was on the sofa—a blonde sprawled languorously on top of him. Donovan’s brother Jeremy was smoking weed with a few people in the bathroom. I could smell it. Hear them laughing.
“You’re too young,” Donovan said simply.
I was almost sixteen then and, in my expert opinion, at least as mature as a twenty-nine year old. He’d just turned twenty-one and had to be going on about thirty-five. But I liked older men. Well, specifically, this man. He was just five years older, really.
And, anyway, if he had a point, I wasn’t about to admit it.
Option #2: (537 words)
I could count on one hand the things I knew were true about Donovan McCafferty:
He was twenty-three—just over five years older than I was.
He’d escaped into the Army at age eighteen and, except for a few quick but memorable visits, hadn’t returned to Minnesota until this past winter.
He had an excellent mechanical mind.
And he made me very nervous.
Underneath my skin, every nerve fiber was fast twitching. Just thinking about Donovan always did that to me...
It was 7:05 p.m. by the time I got to the auto-body shop where he worked. They closed at seven, but the light in the back was on and I knew he was in there. Not because I’d caught even one glimpse of Mr. Tall, Dark and Intense yet, but because the only other car in the lot was a crimson Trans Am with the giant Firebird decal in black and gold across the hood. His, of course.
I pushed open my car door, grabbed my tote bag with Gideon’s journal tucked safely inside and inhaled several lungfuls of the cloying summer air.
I didn’t make it more than five steps before Donovan came out. A solid, broad-shouldered, six-foot-two mass of frequently impenetrable emotions. Not impenetrable enough this time, though.
Even at a distance of half a parking lot, I detected two powerful sensations that crashed, one after the other, into my awareness:
One, he was hugely curious about why I was here.
And, two, he very much wished I hadn’t been.
He walked up to me and cleared his throat. “Car trouble, Aurora?” He glanced at my hand-me-down Buick, which had done nothing but purr contentedly during my drives around town. Donovan was the type to have noticed this, so I could tell he knew it wasn’t the car.
I shook my head. “I need to show you something,” I told him. “Privately.”
A small flash of amusement quirked one corner of his mouth upward. I was surprised he allowed me to read this, especially since he knew I could. Surprised he was letting me see that one of his possible explanations for my presence was flirtatious in origin—even as he immediately dismissed the idea.
I rolled my eyes. “It’s not like that.”
He pressed his lips together, but the amusement still simmered just beneath the surface. “Too bad. ‘We’re both young and inconspicuous,’” he said, parroting the hideously embarrassing words I’d said to him two years ago at our brothers’ secret high-school graduation party..
I fought a blush. “We’re not that young,” I told him, trying to stand straighter and look older. “And we’re not inconspicuous here.”
“Ain’t that the truth.” He turned and motioned for me to follow him inside. Led me into the back office and ushered me in. “You want me to close this door, too? Snap the blinds shut?”
He was mocking me, but there was a layer of concern beneath it. He knew something serious was up. In a town of 2,485 people, where you’d run into the majority of the residents a handful of times each week, I’d spoken with Donovan McCafferty in private exactly six times in the past five years.
Here’s to lucky number seven.
Option #3 (564 words)
We emerged into the dazzling sunlight of a hot summer Sunday and got settled in Donovan’s car. He pulled out his road atlas and plopped it into my lap. “You get to navigate on this one.”
I flipped it open in surprise. Considering his ingrained aversion to asking anyone for directions, this was a sign of great progress.
He started the engine. “If we get lost, it’s on your head, Nancy Drew.”
I glared at him. “Stop calling me that.”
“Nancy, Nancy, Nancy,” he mocked.
Oh, you’re real mature,” I said, but he continued with his mockery. I knew he needed an outlet, a little levity, something—especially after all the grave, life-changing information we’d just gotten. I was beginning to learn his patterns. He would need to munch on something, and he
wouldn’t be able to discuss anything seriously for a couple of hours at least. Good thing we had snacks in the car and a five-hour drive ahead of us.
“Fine. Be that way.” I told him the first few turns, taking us past the big Sears on Irving Park Road and following the signs so we could merge onto Interstate 90/94. Eventually, since I wasn’t afraid to read a map—unlike some people—I knew we’d meet up with 55 South, which would take us all the way to Missouri.
But, as soon as Donovan looked comfortable with the roads, I dug through my purse for the cassette I’d been saving for just such an occasion, and I popped it in. As the opening strains of the Bee Gees’s hit “Stayin’ Alive” came on, I had the satisfaction of seeing Donovan make a disgusted face and reach to turn it off.
I batted his hand away from the cassette deck. “Do you really think disco is a fad?” I said, mimicking Vicky from St. Cloud. Then I started singing along with the song’s chorus. I’d heard the lyrics about, oh, sixty thousand times since the movie came out. I knew every word.
“Uh! God, stop that!” he said, half laughing.
“What’s my name?” I asked him sweetly during an instrumental moment.
He shot me a dirty look. “Just cut it out.”
I sang along with the entire second verse. Loudly.
“Hell, Aurora. Stop.”
“What did you just say my name was?” I asked. Then, more threateningly, “You do realize that ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ is coming up next, right?”
He made a gagging sound that I took as a precursor to his inevitable surrender. I was right.
“Your name is Aurora, but I will strangle you with the long threads of tape that I’m going to yank out of my deck in about ten seconds if you don’t do it first.”
I snapped the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack out of the player.
“If you call me Nancy Drew again, you can expect a full hour of disco hits,” I threatened. “I can sing ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and ‘You Should Be Dancing’ and more. All of them a cappella. And, yeah, that’s a warning. Be scared.”
The look he gave me was nothing short of scathing but, a few minutes later, when I was studying the Illinois map in the middle of the atlas, I caught him glancing at me and smothering a laugh.
“What?” I said
He grinned. “Who knew you’d grow up to be such a weirdo…Aurora.”
~*~*~*~Q&A with USA Today Bestselling Author Marilyn Brant
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work and what, exactly, inspired you to write THE ROAD TO YOU?
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work and what, exactly, inspired you to write THE ROAD TO YOU?
A: I find inspiration everywhere, really. From conversations I overhear, things my friends tell me, funny/sad/scary stuff that happened in my family, incidents I’ve observed out in public, stories I’ve read in books or seen on TV, as well as those endless “what if?” questions writers always ask themselves. For this new novel specifically, my husband and son and I took a driving trip down Route 66 (some of it on the actual road and most along the Interstates that cut through the areas where it used to be), and I was really intrigued by its history, the little towns that developed as a result and some of the unusual attractions. I found myself thinking, “There’s a mystery somewhere in this journey...and a love story.” Plus, I’ve kept some kind of diary or journal since the middle of 7th grade and, when I was younger, I’d sometimes write in code. I’ve wondered often what it might be like to have to interpret clues that were found in someone else’s... In fact, the first thing I needed to do in drafting this novel was to actually write out all of Gideon’s journal, which turned out to be more complicated than I’d first imagined!
Q: Tell us about the main characters in this story. Who are Aurora and Donovan?
A: At the start of the novel, Aurora Gray has just graduated from high school and is one month from turning 18. This isn’t a paranormal story—she’s not psychic or telepathic—but she is unusually perceptive, particularly for her age. She’s kind of a natural “mentalist,” who’s used to reading people’s reactions and has a history of being pretty accurate. So when she finds the journal of her missing brother, she’s able to make some connections that those around her would never think to make. It gives her both a determined and a stubborn streak when it comes to thinking she might actually figure out what happened that summer two years ago. Donovan McCafferty, on the other hand, is extremely practical, realistic and not especially bookish. He’s 23, has an Army background and is brilliant with mechanical things. He’s also very loyal, very protective of those he cares about and not remotely inclined to take flying leaps of intuition like Aurora. To use a character parallel from “The X-Files,” Aurora would be a bit like Mulder (“I Want to Believe/The Truth is Out There”), but without that whole alien thing, LOL, and Donovan would be the more skeptical Scully type.
Q: Did you draw your characters from real people in your life?
A: Some of my characters have a smattering of qualities and personality traits drawn from people I know, but I do a LOT of blending. It’s incredibly important to me to make my characters unique. To do that, I feel I need to give them a range of quirks and some very distinctive behavior/thought/speaking patterns. The real people in my life are certainly interesting, but none of us (myself included) are entirely “fiction-worthy.” And, boy, am I glad! I wouldn’t want to be a real-life character. I wouldn’t want to be oddly specific enough for fiction. And I sure wouldn’t want those closest to me to be riddled with the stresses and insecurities prominently featured in the characters I’ve created. So, while I’ll happily pluck a trait or two from someone I know to add to the character mix I’m making, I have to do much more to any character to make him/her novel-ready than merely copy someone from my everyday life.
Q: Do you use your OWN experiences?
A: Absolutely. There are a few of my real-life experiences peppered throughout all of my novels. However, I use far fewer of my own experiences than I do my own emotions. It’s not very important, in my opinion, that a writer live through any particular situation in order to write about it. She should be familiar with some of the corresponding feelings a person in that situation might have, though. For instance, I never went to our prom in high school. But I did go to other high-school dances, and I was asked to be the date of someone on the Homecoming Court when I was in college. What I really know about the prom experience is less about event-specific details (I can make those up!) than about the emotional state of a girl who might’ve felt disconnected and marginal at an event full of pomp and pretension. I think anyone who’s ever been in a room full of people and felt unbelievably alone, but still had to pretend to be having a great time, could channel those feelings and write a scene from that emotional place. For The Road to You I had to call upon some memories from about 12 years ago when my parents and I couldn’t get in touch with my brother. He was just away on a trip that weekend, but none of us knew that, so it turned into a really frightening 48 hours... We were so worried that he might be missing. I’ll never forget the fear and sadness I felt, and it’s given me quite a lot of empathy for people who experience the terrifying loss of a family member.
Q: When did you first begin writing?
A: I wrote songs and poems and little stories in elementary school, but sixth grade was when the notion of writing professionally first occurred to me. Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school, though, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. Then, I spent the next several years writing completed manuscripts and submitting them to agents and editors before my fifth one finally sold to Kensington Books. That was According to Jane—a romantic coming-of-age novel (for mature audiences, ages 17+!) about a young woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. The Road to You is my eighth published novel.
Q: Where do you write? Describe your writing space—what’s it look like?
A: I write in my home office—a messy, absolutely cluttered place—I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of hazelnut coffee and the occasional almond-flavored bear claw.
Q: What's your favorite thing about being a writer?
A: Getting to do something creative every single day. Truly, that’s been such a gift. Even when the plotting of a scene is giving me fits or the synopsis doesn’t seem to make sense at all…I love knowing that I have a place to play with these characters and storylines. My hope is that by writing deeply and personally about realistic people—about their hopes and their fears—and addressing their talents, dreams and flaws as honestly as possible, I might get closer to helping readers recognize truths about their own lives. It was this sense of recognition that my favorite novelists gave to me, and I'll always be grateful for that.
Q: What's your secret indulgence? A certain food? A particular movie? What would you buy on a day of shopping?
A: Easy. Gourmet European chocolate—dark or milk, with all kinds of different fillings. I’ve tried to break myself of the habit but, really, that’s just not possible. The chocolate goes well with old movies, too, like “The Philadelphia Story” and “Roman Holiday,” which I can watch over and over again… Mmm. Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and Godiva/Ghirardelli/Cadbury!
Q: What's one thing no one knows about you?
A: That I am always watching them—LOL. I just can’t turn off the writer thing and am, at all times, collecting the quirky habits and mannerisms of the people around me. (Now they know this, of course, and will be more careful... :)
Q: What other art form inspires you as much as writing?
A: Music, hands down. Playing and listening to music remains one of my most enjoyable and inspirational pastimes. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Music is the favorite passion of my soul,” and I agree with him.
Q: Do you listen to music while you write?
A: No. I wish I could. I adore music, but it’s wildly distracting to me while I’m writing. (Probably because I love it so much and am too often inspired to sing along—however badly!) I reference songs quite a bit, though, in the narrative itself, so I listen to a lot of music while I’m working on a story—just not when I’m actually sitting at the computer doing the typing. One of my favorite activities is to go on walks with my iPod and think about scenes, testing out different songs to see if they provide the right musical subtext. For The Road to You I used road-trip music and the classic songs of the 1970s. For According to Jane, I have an entire soundtrack of ‘80s tunes amassed. And for A Summer in Europe, I referenced musicals, especially those of Andrew Lloyd Webber. (I have a “Soundtrack” link for each of my novels on the “Books” page of my website.)
Q: Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
A: I absolutely HATE celery. That’s not an official phobia, as far as I can tell, but I think it should be. The stuff is so horrible it scares me… I’m also not a big fan of rodents. Or snakes. Or driving in downtown Chicago. But I do think celery may still be the worst of them.
Q: In an alternative universe, what would you be doing?
A: Traveling. I love it. All forms—road trips, trains/boats/planes, international excursions. I'd explore everything from the alternative universe’s equivalent of The Great Wall…to their version of the Pyramids…to the place where they make the best chocolate and/or ice cream on the planet. And I’d want to people-watch and blatantly eavesdrop—at cafés, historical sites, random shops, national parks, etc. I'm pretty sure it would prove that people the world over, at their essence and in whichever universe they inhabit, are all very much the same.
Q: What’s your life like outside of your writing career?
A: Outside of writing, my life is rather quiet. I live in the suburbs, drive my son to his various lessons, clubs or practices, meet my friends for coffee whenever we can arrange it and occasionally drag myself to the gym for a much-needed workout. (I don’t go nearly as often as I should…) When I want to relax, I read, listen to music, play the piano or watch films or TV shows with my husband and son (we all really enjoyed “Under the Dome” this summer and have just gotten hooked on “Sleepy Hollow”). And we’re all big fans of travel, so we like to go on short trips together, especially really simple daytrips or quick overnights where we just hop in the car, don’t make any reservations, drive somewhere that’s interesting to us, stay longer if we love it, press onward to somewhere else if we don’t... I never get tired of that. And I love spending time with family and close friends, just talking. And, when possible, eating brownies, too.
Marilyn Brant is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She wrote the new adult/humorous paranormal novel ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), the women’s fiction relationship drama FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010), and the romantic travel adventure A SUMMER IN EUROPE (2011), all published by Kensington Books. She's also a #1 Kindle and #1 Nook bestseller and has written a series of fun and flirty romantic comedies, including ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAE (2011) and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH (2013). Her coming-of-age romantic mystery, THE ROAD TO YOU, will be available in October 2013.
Marilyn is a lifelong music lover and a travel junkie. She’s visited 46 states and over 30 countries (so far—she's not done yet!), but she now lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. When she isn't rereading Jane Austen's books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she's working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.
Prizes (open internationally):
-One signed trade paperback copy of According to Jane
-One signed trade paperback copy of On Any Given Sundae
-One A Summer in Europe t-shirt
-One Marilyn Brant canvas tote bag
-And one The Road to You luggage tag
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