About My Recent Novel “What You Deserve”
Some FAQs and an Excerpt
About this book:
I originally had this idea when I was in Plano, Texas and a friend of mine was complaining about the abortion laws there. I wondered what it would be like to be in a situation where people were pressuring you to have a baby because they believed you were chosen by God to have that baby. How was that different from being in an abusive relationship? And how was it the same?
A lot of people think my fiction is real, so I already know a lot of people will think I am Talia. In some ways, the thought processes are similar, but this book is definitely fiction. I am remembering pain to write Talia, but her mental state in the book does not parallel mine.
As I left a bad relationship, I realized how hard it was to be open and to have sexual relationships. There’s not a lot of free help out there. Talia is navigating the trauma as best as she can, basically using social media to piece together some form of therapy.
I have never worked in a coffee shop.
Why the location change?
When I went to NYU, there were cult members who walked around Washington Square Park and talked to students. One of my friends was involved in religious abuse in New York. I think there’s a stereotype that these things only happen in certain places, not in liberal cities. So I wanted to put this story in New York City because predators, in short, just look for people who are confused…and they are everywhere, because we are all human.
The man who abused me for four years was named Blaine. He was handsome then, in my memory, where he glowed with possibilities like a god.
He was still handsome now, but he didn’t shine. When I saw him, I saw a future that was a death. Having his kids. Being trapped in his apartment. He would tell me what to eat, which aspirin to use.
He had brown eyes and thick hands. He was wide and tall. He had played football in high school, and he always seemed to smell like sweat.
We met in the city. I was with a group of college friends. He met up with us. That first night was magical. We wandered around Manhattan with the group, but we always seemed to end up next to one another.
First, he teased me, lightly. I don’t remember if the streets were wet or dry, but I remember his playful teasing. I remember catching him looking at my ass. I remembered feeling excited.
We remained friends. I had a boyfriend already. But I felt a spark I didn’t feel with my then-boyfriend.
We got together. The first couple of months were great. The first time we had sex…I’m not entirely sure it was consensual. I mean, it wasn’t rape, but I didn’t want to do it. I was kind of asleep.
Anyway, I didn’t fight. I didn’t say no. After a while, I convinced myself that I wanted it. I probably did.
It doesn’t matter.
His teasing became mean. He always said I couldn’t take a joke.
“No one cares how old you were when you went to college or which college you went to.” He said this because I had been sixteen when I went to college, and I was proud.
“Psh. You really think you can do anything.” When I tried to get my paintings into an art show.
“Don’t you ever eat like a girl?” When I ordered pasta.
These were all his jokes.
And then, he asked where I was going. He started to comment that my relatives and friends didn’t like him, so I should stop seeing them.
Blaine made my world smaller and smaller until he was the whole thing. And that’s when I realized he was also taking pills.
He had been injured playing football as a junior in high school. Then he started taking them for pain.
He often said he could have gone pro, but he hadn’t wanted to. He quit football before his senior year. He went to NYU, a school without a football team, in part because he didn’t want to be reminded of what he could have been.
I went on a four-year mission to save him. I failed. I lost my entire self. He wanted to tattoo his initials into my lower lip. He wanted me to have his kids. He forbade me from going on birth control.
He said he was sick. He had cancer. I have no idea if that was true.
I didn’t save him. I left when he started hitting me. I ran, with none of my things. My phone. My laptop. My bank cards.
Blaine was still out there. I didn’t know if he was still using. He somehow always managed to keep it together.
He lived in Queens, and he really had no reason to be in this area.
He was trying to run into me.