January 10, 2019

meet the heroine of 'counting on you'

Let me take you behind-the-scenes of my latest release, Counting on You. In addition to introducing you to the heroine, Haleigh Parde, I thought I'd give you a little insight into my plotting process by sharing the character sketch I developed before I wrote the book.

Now some details changed while writing. Or maybe they didn't come into play. But I still thought you might find it interesting to see the thought process that went into developing this character. It's also unedited, because I wanted to give you the full impact of my rambling plotting mind.

(As a note, there aren't any real spoilers in here. If you haven't read the book yet, you should be good!)

Name: Haleigh Parde

Age: 28 going on 29, born April 12

Hometown: Born and raised in Lincoln.

Who would play her? Jessy Schram

Physical Description: Wavy mostly naturally blonde hair, which she does have some help with every 12 weeks at a salon, that just touches her shoulder. Light bluish/gray eyes that typically betray what she is thinking/feeling even if her face/posture does not. Wide, easy grin with teeth that she whitens periodically with strips and thin-ish lips that she wishes were plumper (but not enough to go in for injections. Minimalistic makeup that mostly includes foundation and bronzer to cover-up the light sprinkling of freckles she has on her nose and cheeks, and neutral eyeshadow and mascara to help her feel put together. A little bit of light pink or peach lipstick to try to help those lips, without drawing too much attention. She maintains a healthy diet and exercises regularly to maintain a trim, toned figure. She stands about 5-7 or 5-8. Style: For work days she sticks mostly to black slacks and an assortment of blouses—usually in bold colors like turquoise, royal blue, Kelly green, and fuchsia. She also has a couple of dark-wash denim jackets and black blazers for when she needs to bring it. She owns two dresses—one is the classic shift LBD and the other is a floral sundress she bought the summer before, hoping she’d someday have an excuse to wear it. On the weekends, she sticks mostly to plain t-shirts (in similar colors to the rest of her wardrobe) and jeans. She has a solid collection of boots (knee and ankle), ballet flats, plus a pair of tennis shoes for her five times a week runs. For workout, she wears basic black leggings with brightly colored compression tank tops covered by loose T-shirts acquired from school functions. She occasionally adds simple metal earrings when she is trying to dress up for special occasions.

Personality: In one word: driven. Haleigh works hard and works harder. (That’s twice the work.) She often becomes so focused on fulfilling her tasks—particularly when it comes to her commitments as a teacher—she forgets to enjoy the climb. She’s quick to say yes and slow to slow down. When she gets an idea—or sets a goal—it’s full steam forward. Super Type A. (No minus about her.) She’s a problem avoider. She’s a team player, but acts as the coach. Though she is smart and beautiful, she often feels awkward in purely social settings. Her natural introverted manner makes it challenging for her to step out of her comfort zone. When she is in a classroom or educational setting, she’s confident and cool. Great at leading the conversation and taking action. When she’s out in social settings, she gets kind of quiet. She’s still sharp-witted, but people tend to miss what she says, because she’s mumbling it. Her sense of humor borders on sarcastic without being totally jaded.

Habits/Mannerisms: She always carries a water bottle around with her and refills it. She keeps track of how much she drinks and monitors her fiber, sodium, and sugar intake with a mobile app. Part of that is control to help her avoid anxiety. The other is her wanting to counteract her addiction to Pringles and ice cream. She follows exact schedules. When she’s processing on the fly, she says a clipped, “Okay.”(Think Niles on Frasier.)

Occupation: She teaches high school math at the fictional Lincoln West High School. (Go Warriors.) She’s really good at it. So good she will win a teacher of the year award at the end of the school year. 

Hobbies/Interests: She is an unashamed nerd. She loves Dr. Who, Star Wars, and reading heavy/thick books about fantasy worlds. She was raised on Harry Potter, Narnia, and Middle Earth. She’s following the Game of Thrones books—and TV series—and reads Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. She also stays active by going for long runs on the weekend and using the treadmill at her house every morning before work. She does yoga/pilates in the evening and takes a Zumba class once a week with some of her colleagues. Most nights, she stays at school late as an adviser for Math Club, Girls Who Code, and a co-adviser of Engineering Club. She also serves on a couple of district and state panels to promote STEM education and interest for girls.

Education: She went away to college at the University of Minnesota with her high school boyfriend. After being homesick, breaking up with the guy, and changing her major (she started as pre-law in a moment of rebellion), she transferred to the University of Nebraska, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics. She underwent an accelerated master’s degree program and takes courses every summer to develop her skills.

Family: She is an only child. Her parents tried hard to have her and she is a miracle baby of sorts for them. She is close to her parents, who recently retired and are new snowbirds and are spending half the year at their home in Arizona and return to a condo in Lincoln for the summers. They exchange texts and Facebook messages almost daily. They are good—if a little protective—parents, who instilled a strong work ethic in her. She only wants them to be proud of her.

Other Background: Had a long-term boyfriend in high school (sophomore through senior year) and they broke up freshman year of college—while they were both at the same university. When she made it to her new school, she put most of her energy into becoming a “master teacher,” and catching up on her studies and making new friends. She went on a handful of dates, but never felt much spark and kind of gave up, instead focusing on her work at school and as a mentor. After a while, she realized she didn’t really know how to date anymore and the thought of doing so stressed her out. So she didn’t give it much thought.

Internal Conflicts: That’s one of her big internal conflicts—worrying too much and wanting everything to be perfect, even to the detriment of her mental health. She has dealt with anxiety most of her life and occasionally has massive panic attacks. She’s gotten better at managing them, but she occasionally slips and hits a big high/low. She really has good intentions, but puts too much pressure on herself. She’s so used to doing well and succeeding—at everything except romance—that when she does fail, it’s a great, devastating loss. She’s never totally gotten over how hard it was to fail at going away to college and making her high school sweetheart relationship work. Not because she wants it back, but because it was something she failed at. She comforts herself in stressful moments by setting new goals and making lists of menial tasks she can accomplish to feel in control. She also cares a lot about what others think of her—even if her natural introverted traits war with that.

External Conflicts: Her upcoming high school reunion, and the constant teasing from her co-workers, including a longtime acquaintance from high school, makes her realize just how long it has been since she’s dated. It also makes her feel inadequate and like there’s something wrong with her. That’s why she decides to go on a blind date. It’s also part of why she’s willing to cut Ian some slack after their initial misunderstanding. Of course, there are always issues with budget at school and she receives some blowback from parents and community members if students aren’t doing well at school or for her being such a proponent of women in STEM. She also has a weakness for Pringles and ice cream. She makes up for it with her otherwise healthy diet and regular workouts.

Usual drink: Not much of a drinker, she typically orders a glass of white wine with a tall glass of water. (She drinks two glasses per one glass of booze.)

Counting on You, is now available!

Is love worth the risk? 
Math teacher Haleigh Parde has no desire to change her single status until she receives an invitation to her high school reunion. With her ex spreading rumors she needs a date and fast. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Haleigh finds herself meeting a blind date at a neighborhood bar called Amarillo Sour . . . 
After watching Haleigh crash and burn, app developer Ian Henning makes her a proposition. If she’ll provide honest feedback on his new dating app, he’ll guarantee her a date to knock the socks off her former classmates. Even better, he—and the other Amarillo Sour regulars—will help her navigate the rocky road of dating. 
Through setups ranging from awkward to absurd, Haleigh discovers her matchmaker might just be better than the matches. And Ian wonders if she’s the answer to everything he’s worked for professionally. Or is she something much, much more . . .
Find It On

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