REVIEW & INTERVIEW: “WEIGHT OF THE WORLD” by Riley Hart & Devon McCormack

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TITLE: Weight of the World
AUTHOR: Riley Hart & Devon McCormack
PUBLISHER: Devon McCormack
COVER ARTIST: Jay Aheer
GENRE:  Contemporary
E-BOOK: yes
PRICE: $ 3.99 e-book on Amazon
LENGTH: 241 pages
RELEASE DATE: 28th August 2016

 

BLURB: “The world’s an awfully big thing to carry by yourself.”

Zack lost his job, his apartment, and his hope, which is why he ends up on the roof of a high rise, certain that one final step will solve his problems. But a mysterious stranger named Rob happens to be on the roof that night too. He talks Zack down, convincing him there’s still hope left in the world. Zack thinks maybe he’s right, which is why he’s shocked when he turns on the news the next morning to find out Rob jumped himself. Disturbed and confused, he searches for answers, starting with Rob’s brother Tommy Rayburn.

It’s been Tommy’s job to take care of his brother since they were kids, taking the blows from their father so Rob wouldn’t have to. Tommy thought he could protect him, even if it meant carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Considering Rob threw himself off a building, he obviously couldn’t.

Then he meets Zack, a friend of Rob’s who’s suspiciously evasive about how they knew each other. But they’re both grieving and determined to find out why Rob jumped. Answers don’t come easily, and soon they’re soothing each other with sweat-slicked, passionate encounters. Hot as things get in the bedroom, it doesn’t take them long to realize there’s more between them than mind-blowing sex and their pain. But the heaviness is still there, threatening to pull them under, and if they can’t open up with each other to lighten the load, the weight just might be enough to crush them both.

 

 

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I haven’t been under the influence of a story this much for a very long time. Weight of the World is a true gem and a must read for everyone who enjoys raw emotions, genuine characters, real depth, and doesn’t mind a plot woven around the heartbreaking event of someone taking their own life. Yes. You heard it right. Although this is a romance novel, the basic idea of the book is how to overcome the fact someone you know, someone you love commit suicide. I’m not sure if there is a trigger warning, but if suicide is not a topic you want to read about, Weight of the World is not a story for you.

This is the first collaboration between the two authors and I believe they create a wonderful and very powerful match. This book is gripping and I couldn’t stop reading. The story is told from three first person POVs and it brings the story and the characters all the more closer to the reader. My emotions were all over the place while reading, as the story and certain elements hit way too close to home for comfort. I have lost friends to suicide. I did have periods in my life when being Atlas was the only option. This book made me think of periods in my life I’d rather forget, but reexamining, evaluating our lives may lead to progress, and give us hope that we can do more, we can do better, and we have to try to live our lives the fullest.

The writing is flawless, the storyline is perfectly built, and the chemistry is over the top between Tommy and Zack. Their pain is palpable, their emotions and struggles are beautifully portrayed, and their forming relationship is one of the best orchestrated unions I have ever read. The cherry on top for me was the epilogue. It brought the book in full circle, and I was crying like a baby reading it.

I’m saying Carpe Diem and read this book. Highly recommended!

 

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I’d like to welcome Riley Hart and Devon McCormack here with us. We are going to talk about their amazing book, The Weight of the World, which was released on August 28th, and writing in general.

-Congratulations on your first book together. I truly loved it and it gave me a serious book hangover! I know you just met in person the first time last week. Do you remember how you got to know of each other, how you got in contact with each other online?

Riley: I don’t remember exactly how we started talking but we spent quite a bit of time PMing on Facebook. We realized we share the same opinions on a lot of things. We’re similar in some ways so it was nice to have someone to talk to, who got me.

Devon: We were sort of discussing this when we met up last week. Trying to figure out when exactly it clicked, but I feel like it evolved slowly and naturally. I’d read some of her books as Nyrae Dawn, and I remember when she contracted a book with Harmony Ink, who I have three books with, I just sent her a “welcome to the club” message. Just trying to reach out because I like it when other authors reach out to me and let me know I’m welcome. After that, we would sort of hit each other up every once and a while, and like Riley said, we found that we had very similar opinions about writing and about LGBT issues. It’s really hard to find someone who when they’re chatting about a subject, you just keep going, “Yes…yes…yes!” And I felt that way whenever she posted online, too. Now that we’ve met, even more so. The bf was at lunch with us when we met up, and he just kept saying, “Oh, God. You two are cut from the same cloth.” That said, we’re a dangerous combo.

Riley: Aw, Devon explained it much better than I did. We are a dangerous combo and I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble we can get into. LOL.

-When and how did you decide to write a book together?

Riley: It just sort of happened. I am pretty sure I was rambling to him about something or another and was like…have you ever considered writing a book with anyone? And he was like, if you mean you, what are we writing and when are we writing it? LOL.

Devon: Yes, that’s verbatim what I said. I felt that there was some kind of chemistry from those early exchanges, and I was kind of feeling like, based on our conversations, we could write a cool book. But I never would have suggested it. When Riley did, I jumped at the opportunity. Not so much because I thought we could, but because I thought it would be fun to try even if we found out we couldn’t.

-Have you ever co-written a book before?

Riley: I have under my Nyrae Dawn name. I wrote two NA’s with Christina Lee and two YAs with Jolene Perry.

Devon: Yeah, Riley’ll write a book with anyone…obviously. Lol. I’ve collaborated on other writing projects, but never a book. That always seemed like a creative nightmare. I’m a control freak, so the idea of having to work with someone and negotiate character choices and plotlines seemed like something I would abhor.

Riley: Are you calling me easy??? LOL. And GAH, he is such a control freak! I was miserable the whole time! Just kidding 😉

-Tell us about the writing process. How did you deal with working with someone? How could you cooperate?

Riley: We’ve talked about this often…it was such a smooth process. Once we knew what story we were telling and we each created our character’s backstory…we just sort of jumped in. We were open and communicated the whole way with things like… “feel free to change this. Or if you don’t like that, I can take it out.” But we both just wrote and we had no issues the whole time.

Devon: It was concerning how smoothly it went. I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept thinking, “It can’t be this easy. It’s never this easy.” I figured we were always two seconds away from having some huge fight and just walking away from the book. Not because of anything happening in the book or between us, but because it seemed too good to be true. I would write something in her character’s backstory, and be like, “If you don’t like this, feel free to change it.” And she had the same mindset. More often than not, we worked off each other’s additions rather than reworking them. Very rarely, we would change the wording if we didn’t think our character would say something a certain way…or just make a suggestion. But after our preliminary discussions about our characters, it became clear that, like with our early messages back and forth, we were on the same page.

-How did you build your characters and the plot? Did you use any visual inspiration (can’t wait to read Devon’s answer… )

Riley: I can’t wait to hear Devon’s answer either! But no visuals for me. Devon came up with the basic plot—man is on the roof to kill himself, meets a guy who talks him out of it, discovers the next day he jumped and then finds his brother. From there it all fell into place so easily. Like, I knew I needed to write Tommy. I relate to him in a lot of ways. I was nervous to want him too much because I didn’t know if Devon would. But right away he knew he needed Zack like I knew I needed Tommy and we both sort of needed Rob, so we shared him. It was really like it was all meant to be. So once we knew I was the brother and he was the one on the roof, we created our own character backstory, shared it and jumped in.

Devon: Yes, I had this idea that Riley’s referring to. I wanted to work on it, but I knew I couldn’t handle it by myself. And if I worked on a book about suicide, I wanted it to be uplifting, and I worried that if I worked on it alone, it would turn dark and morbid. I remember pitching the idea with several other concepts. Almost hiding it in the mix, hoping she would see something novel about it, but not wanting to be like, “Please choose this one!” At the time, I really felt like I needed this book, and in hindsight, it healed me in so many more ways than I thought it could when we started it. I always wanted to write Zack. Zack is who I felt I needed to write. As for visuals, I know this is going to be horribly disappointing, but I didn’t use any. When I first started writing, I used tons of visuals, but nowadays, it’s all about music. Often, it’s just one song that I listen to over and over again. It sort of sets the mood for me when I sit down to write. For this book, it was Kate Bush’s “And So Is Love.” It conveyed the sort of loneliness and hopelessness that I was trying to portray in Zack and Rob’s characters. There’s a dance in the book, and it was written with that song in mind, but it’s a reference very few people would get, and it didn’t really work in that scenario.

-What was the easiest and most difficult thing about working together?

Riley: In a lot of ways, it all felt easy. But in others, it was hard because it was emotional. It’s a heavy book, so it’s hard to be in that headspace but it helped to share that with someone else. It’s also scary to send your chapter because every one I would be like…what if he hates it???

Devon: I’m terrified of sending people my rough work, so I would just write it and send it off immediately. I was like, “If she doesn’t like this, then we’re not going to be able to work together. I can improve it, but this is an accurate depiction of where I’m at as a writer.” As Riley said, the hardest part was handling the emotions. It was a very serious subject matter, but it was nice being able to go on the journey with someone else. To not feel like I had to do it on my own.

As you said, Devon, suicide is a very emotional and serious topic. Please tell us about the reasons of picking such a difficult topic.

Riley: This is a personal topic for both of us, but for different reasons. Honestly, when we decided to write together, I had no clue we’d take something like this on, but once it was on the table, I knew there was nothing else we could write about for this first book. It was deeply personal and important for both of us.

Devon: As Riley said, the topic was very personal for both of us. More than anything, we were scared out of our minds about getting it wrong. Not only getting it wrong, but writing this depressing book that would leave people emotionally dissatisfied. We wanted an uplifting book. A book that could heal. But there was always the fear that we would take people to a dark place and not be able to get them out of it.

Riley: I agree. It was incredibly important that the book was uplifting, despite the topic. Hope can heal.

-I think you did an absolutely amazing job. I was totally under the influence for a long time and I was crying while reading the epilogue, which was a brilliant touch. What was the reaction you have got since release day?

Riley: I can say that I’ve been speechless by the response. I’ve been in tears numerous times reading private messages, emails, and comments about the book. I’ve felt honored with some of the things people have shared with me, and the impact they said the book had on them. I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of this book and I’m so glad I got to share it with Devon.

Devon: I felt like it would resonate with some people in a powerful way, but I totally underestimated the number of people who would reach out and respond with such open and moving messages. One day, I was actually in tears over a book I was working on, and I messaged Riley to tell her how good the creative juices were flowing. Then she was like, “You haven’t checked your email, have you?” It was one of these messages from someone who the book had touched in the most personal of ways. It just tore me apart. Like Riley said, I feel lucky that I could be a part of something that’s been able to touch people like this, and I’m glad I got to share the journey with someone else. It wouldn’t have meant as much if I’d done it on my own and not been able to read those sorts of responses together.

Riley: It’s humbling and…unbelievable to see something you created having an impact on people’s lives. I will never get over that experience.

-Do you have plans for future works together?

Riley: We do! And let’s say that Devon likes to keep me on my toes. He’s not going to let me take the easy way with anything. I was like…I don’t know…can we do this? And he was like, yes! Yes, we can do this! LOL.

Devon: Yes! We both like taking risks. I felt like Weight of the World was a huge risk, and I think the riskiness brought a lot of life, energy, and excitement to the project. As readers, we like being surprised by authors, so I think we keep that in mind when we’re developing books. And there is some security in knowing that we have each other around in the writing process so that one of us can be like, “Um…Not sure that’s such a great idea.”

Riley: I do like taking risks but they scare the hell out of me too. It’s nice to have someone there to hold you hand. LOL.

-I’m so happy to hear that. You guys form an amazing writing duo and I can’t wait to read more by you two in the future. What is your personal favorite book that you have written and why?

Riley: That is hard. It’s really impossible for me to answer that. I love them in different ways for different reasons. I’ll always be extremely proud of Broken Pieces. It tested me in ways I’d never experienced. Façade, one of the books I wrote under the name Nyrae Dawn will always be a favorite, as well.

Devon: I love all my books, but I owe my writing career to Clipped. Without that book, I never would have taken that leap into the world of publishing. It’s also one of my most daring books. I didn’t play by any rules. Didn’t try to make it fit any particular genre. I wrote the book I wanted to write and destroyed all my notions about what should and shouldn’t be written about. Since that book, I’ve written some daring things that I’m proud of, but that was my first big moment where I broke away from all the limiting voices in my head and wrote something wild and crazy and raw…very raw, if you know what I mean. 😉

-Could you name one book (by another author) you wish that you had written?

Riley: Yes, I’m going easy on this but it’s true—Harry Potter.

Devon: Fifty Shades. I want money and lots of it. Not that the JK Rowling money would be bad, but I don’t want to have to be clean on Twitter. If I was the author of Fifty Shades, I could write whatever the fuck I wanted on social media. And I would have an Instagram account where my followers would just see pictures of me taking baths in mounds of cash.

Riley: Devon’s answer just made me snort coffee.

Devon: Mission accomplished!

-Lol… luckily I wasn’t drinking anything… I’m sure you’d have done a better job of it, Devon. 😉 Do you prefer standalone or series?

Riley: Both. It depends on my mood. I do enjoy visiting previous characters in a series though.

Devon: I love writing a series. I like crafting a world and characters that can keep growing in my head. There’s something very fulfilling about watching an idea just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And watching characters get deeper and deeper. But I do enjoy being able to just write characters that I can fall in love with briefly and then walk away from. The best thing about writing is that I can have a new boyfriend every month. The bf knows this, and he’s gotten used to sharing me with my characters.

Riley: I’m feeling insecure about the length of my answers compared to Devon’s…

Devon: Now you’ve made me self-conscious about the length of my answers!

-I’m saying you are both doing great. 😉 How important is the interaction with your fans?

Riley: VERY. I would lose my mind if I couldn’t interact with my readers on a regular basis. They cheer me up when I have a bad day. I’m able to share my excitement with them. I feel so lucky every day of my life.

Devon: I don’t know that I would be interested in having a writing career if I couldn’t interact with readers. Part of what’s nice about writing something is that you get to share it and generate a dialogue because of it. I’m not the kind of person who could just write in a box and let that be that. And as a reader, I like knowing about the authors I read. I want to know about their lives. I want to know who they are outside of their writing, so I try to offer some insight into my life to readers the way I would want it if I was in their shoes.

-Do you have any particular advice that you have learnt from personal experience that you would like to share with someone thinking about writing their first novel?

Riley: Don’t rush. Read. Write from your heart.

Devon: I’m gonna twist Riley’s advice a little. Rush. Get it done fast, because the first one is gonna suck, imho. Then rush through another three or four books. Just get them down on paper to see that you can do it and to get those more cliché ideas out of your brain. Those always creep out first. You have to exorcise them by having already written them. I wrote fifteen novels before I ever published one. Too often, I think people try to procrastinate with the first one, and they let it become this thing that seems too big for anyone to ever accomplish. It has to be perfect. It has to be the best book ever written. No. You don’t have to try to make it the greatest thing ever. If this is your first book, odds are it won’t be, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. You just have to get it down on paper. Better to have written a shitty book than no book at all. A lot of people will disagree with me there, but you can learn something from a shitty book. You can’t learn anything from no book. You don’t learn to play the piano by trying to get it right every time. You learn by making mistakes again and again and again (and allowing yourself to make those mistakes). Writing books is no different. And writing a book isn’t just about crafting pretty prose. Or building good characters. Or writing realistic dialogue. It’s about a collection of things that you can really only learn by crafting a complete novel. Check it off your bucket list now. And second, but equally important, there are two things I never wait for in life: men or muses. They aren’t reliable, and they never show up when you want them to. Get to work!

Riley: I do agree with what Devon said about rushing, in a way. I think the thing to know is…most of the time, the first book isn’t the one to publish. That’s what I meant about not rushing. I’m not saying that it never is, so please don’t think that, and also not saying I know best, but I’m similar to Devon, in that my first book was crap. I wrote it and thought it was the best book ever. I found critique partners online and realized I didn’t know crap. Head hopping? What’s that??? I took a writing class taught by published romance authors. Joined critique groups that met in real life. I wrote another book, thought it was the best book ever, and this is where I rushed when I shouldn’t have… I submitted to agents. They were like, nope. No thank you. And they should have said that! I’m glad self publishing wasn’t a big thing at that time because I could have easily published that book when it shouldn’t have been published. I worked on my craft. Found more critique partners, and found some small press epublishers who I published novellas with (and learned more through their editing process). I didn’t get my first agent until I’d written and submitted three full length books to agents.

Devon: See what I mean, guys? We really agree with each other even when we don’t. I think it’s okay to rush the first books, but eventually, once you know you can write a novel and you’ve gotten out those shit ideas, that’s when you can start taking your time and really begin trying to improve your craft. I think where the big “don’t rush” comes in is “don’t rush to publish.” It’s not a race. But then I say this knowing there are so many people who are natural geniuses whose first book probably will be more incredible than anything I could possibly write with a lifetime of practice. Those people can publish whenever.

-Something you’d like to say but we haven’t ask?

Riley: Thanks for having me! And thanks to anyone who has given Weight of the World a chance.

Devon: Ditto! We’re so happy to be able to share a book that we are really proud of with readers, and I can’t thank everyone enough for letting these boys into their hearts and lives. It’s truly an honor.

You are seriously amazing duo. It was a pleasure to have you here. Thank you again for visiting us and for this unforgettable story you created. Wish you guys all the best and can’t wait to read you in the future.

 

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