Colleen Hoover's Latest Combines Drama, Humor and Intensity
Mon, 08/21/2017 - 6:34pm — Emily Walton
Colleen Hoover is back with a new addicting novel for hungry fans! This editor can attest that you will need to block out a big chunk of reading time — this novel begs to be finished in one sitting! Without Merit has all the drama, humor and intensity you crave from a Colleen Hoover novel, but with an interesting twist thanks to our 17-year-old protagonist, Merit Voss.
Merit’s family doesn’t even register on the “normal” scale. They live in a repurposed church and her now cancer-free mother lives in the basement while her father and stepmother (AKA her mother’s former nurse!) live upstairs. Her older brother and twin sister are scarily perfect, and Merit fits in nowhere — she’s a misfit.
When Merit’s habit of collecting trophies she hasn’t earned introduces her to Sagan, her world goes topsy-turvy. It’s too bad there’s been a huge misunderstanding and he’s completely unavailable. In a world, and a family, where she feels she doesn’t belong, Merit is bursting at the seams to air every dirty family secret. When it becomes too much, she does. And it’s explosive.
We can’t wait for you to read this novel, so we touched base with Colleen to talk about keeping secrets, depression, art and more. Enjoy!
RT: Wow! Talk about a novel that draws you in! After that first chapter surprise, I couldn’t stop reading Without Merit. How does it feel to set this novel loose?
Colleen Hoover: Long overdue! I’ve been wanting to write this book for about four years now. It just never seemed like the right time to throw a 17-year-old narrator in the mix with all of my more mature books. However, after writing It Ends With Us, I really needed something new and fresh, so it felt like the perfect time to finish Without Merit.
Without Merit has a lot of heavy themes, and while all are handled with the respect they are due, your writing style is still fresh, invigorating and fun. Were you mindful of your writing style during the process, or did it flow naturally?
I actually needed something invigorating and fun, so I’m glad it came off that way! I tend to take on the mood of my characters while writing. And since I lean toward more heart-wrenching stories, it’s very emotionally taxing. I knew I wanted Without Merit to have a different feel from my other books. I needed to write something that wasn’t as heavy as my last few books, but I also wanted to write something that could touch on heavy themes (so it wouldn’t feel TOO different from a Colleen Hoover book). I aimed for a balance between the two. With the cast of characters in Without Merit, it’s hard not to find humor in some of their misfortunes.
Our heroine Merit Voss has one enormous, explosive family — all with different personalities and quirks they bring to the table. Was there real-life inspiration for any of your characters?
A few aspects of Merit’s personality were pulled from my son, Cale. A few years ago, he started a collection of trophies he didn’t win, and I knew I needed to put that in a book somewhere. But aside from small characteristics, I do my best not to emulate the people in my life. I find it more entertaining and fulfilling to invent characters from scratch.
Depression plays a major role in your novel, and it’s refreshing to see this mental illness handled seriously by supporting characters. What do you want readers to take away from this book?
I always say I write books to entertain, not to educate. But when I’m writing stories about real situations, I do realize that a reader might gain more than just entertainment. I saw this in the overwhelming feedback of It Ends With Us. So in writing Without Merit, I was careful in my approach and didn’t want it to seem like I was trying to write a book to teach people how to deal with depression.
The treatment of depression isn’t even tackled in the novel. I merely wrote about a character who discovers a lot about herself throughout the story. And a huge part of that is discovering she may struggle with depression.
As a social worker with mental health training, I am very aware that many people who suffer from depression either don’t realize they have it or they are too embarrassed to seek treatment for it. I wanted Merit to fall into both of these categories, because many people do and they don’t even know it. If people read this book and realize something about themselves, that’s a wonderful thing. But if they read this and find it nothing more than entertaining, that’s also a wonderful thing.
One of Brandon Adams' incredible pieces for Without Merit.
You have commissioned artists before to create the images described in your books, like in 2015’s Confess. In Without Merit, Sagan is a character who is always putting pencil to paper when inspiration strikes him. Luckily for readers, we get to see the images Sagan creates thanks to real life artist Brandon Adams. What was it like working with Adams to bring Sagan’s creations to life?
Brandon was MAGNIFICENT! He’s local to me and I can’t even remember how I first heard of his work. I follow him on Instagram and have purchased a couple of his creations for my home. He and his father delivered them to my home and they seemed like such a great family. When I was writing Without Merit, I contacted him and asked if he’d be interested in doing some sketches, even though his main focus is the paintings he creates. He was up for the challenge and worked really fast. I’d give him an idea and he’d forego sleep to get it back to me.
I can’t wait for people to get to know his work. He actually put several of his pieces in The Bookworm Box and it had such a positive impact on the look and feel of the store.
Almost all of your characters are hiding something or keeping secrets. At times, I was shocked there could be even more twists! What is it about the Voss family that kept them holding each other at arm's length for so long?
I think a lot of families are guilty of this. Confrontation isn’t easy and it’s sometimes easier to just keep opinions and thoughts to yourself than to share them with the people you live with. The Voss family was really good at sweeping things under the rug. I don’t think poor communication in a family is a sign of a loveless family. There was definitely love there all along, but you have to learn how to communicate with one another; lack of communication can lead to a lack of understanding. There’s almost always a reason behind someone’s actions, but if they don’t tell you the reason, you can only assume.
While Colleen Hoover fans (ahem, the CoHorts!) are certainly excited to get their hands on this book, I’m sure they also want to know what the future will bring. Are you working on your next project now or taking a much deserved break?
I’m already working on my next novel. It’s called All Your Perfects and is a totally different piece of work than Without Merit. I enjoyed the break from the more adult novels while writing this one, but All Your Perfects gets back to the heartwrenching, angsty, sexier read. If I had to compare it to any of my other books, I’d say it has the same feel and angst of Ugly Love or Maybe Someday.
Don’t wait any longer! Pre-order your copy of Without Merit from one of these retailers: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Indiebound
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