EXCERPT: Swear on THIS Life by Renée Carlino
No one knows the man behind the pen name ... but Emiline certainly knows. J. Colby is none other than Jason, her first love — her first everything. The one who got away. Why didn't he come looking for her? Why did he decide it was okay to tell the story of her troubled childhood for his own book? Find out in Reneée Carlino's August release from Atria, Swear on THIS Life.
He was her first love, the one who got away: Jason. Why hadn't he coming looking for her? Why did he decide it was okay to use her difficult childhood for his
Some girls might be flattered to be the source of inspiration for the protagonist of a bestselling novel, but I was too busy planning out Jase’s murder in detail. Through my homicidal haze, a million questions rose to the surface. Why did Jase write this book? Why is he telling it from my perspective? Was he hoping I would read this? Or was he hoping I wouldn’t — and just wanted to use my story for his own bestseller? I needed to find him to get the answers to these questions ... or at least give him a piece of my mind.
I searched for “J. Colby” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — I already knew “Jason Colbertson” wouldn’t be on any of these platforms because I’d looked before. Nothing came up; apparently both of his identities eschewed social media. Then I Googled his pseudonym and clicked on “Images.”
I’m fairly certain that my heart stopped. I took a swig from the bottle. No chaser, no lime, no salt — just tequila and my angry fingers clicking on every hyperlink.
His picture was pretty much the same on every listed hit. He had grown even better-looking in the 12 years since I’d seen him. More distinguished, more chiseled. But still, there was something boyish and arrogant in his smirk. That fucker.
I knew he would do it. I knew he’d write a book before me. He was brilliant at the age of 10. Why wouldn’t he be at 27?
Another swig from the bottle, then I read a snippet about him embedded in an interview.
After graduating from Columbia University, J. Colby switched coasts and made his home just outside of Los Angeles. His short stories have been published in the New Yorker and Ploughshares. His highly anticipated debut novel, All the Roads Between, has been criticized for being soft compared to his earlier work, but Colby himself has been quoted as saying, “It’s the grittiest and most real piece of fiction I’ll ever write.” He says his novel is a complete work of fiction but credits his childhood in rural Ohio for being his biggest inspiration.
I started laughing and crying at the same time. I typed in his website URL from the book jacket, which brought me to a clean, spare site with a form box where I could submit a message to “J. Colby.”
Sweet. I would get to tell him directly what a fucking prick he was.
You fraud. I wanted to personally email you even though I haven’t heard from you in 12 long years. Not since that day when you did what you did — remember that? Well, no sense in rehashing that right now. Let’s talk about how you stole my life story and got it published. You’re a despicable human being. Why didn’t you ever contact me? You said you would find me and you didn’t. I spent an entire year looking for you, wondering what happened, where you went, why you hadn’t come looking for me yet. Don’t you feel guilty for what happened? And now you’re benefiting from my horror, my pain? You opportunistic piece of shit. I cannot believe that I ever loved you and trusted you. I cannot believe what you did to me ...
P.S. You’re a shitty writer.
I stopped typing, deleted everything, cried, and then took another swig and began again.
I don’t understand anything. What happened to us? Where have you been? What have you been doing? Are you married?
P.S. You’re a terrible writer.
I deleted and took another swig.
I deleted, took another drink, and then cracked the book open again.