Ava Conway, author of HOLLOW, drops by to give XOXOAD the scoop on how she came up with the idea for her New Adult romance, which is set in a mental institution called Newton Heights…

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Thank you so much for having me here! I love being able to share my story with all of you. Today I’m going to answer a question that quite a few people have asked me over the past week or two – How did you come up with the idea for Hollow?

The inspiration for Lucy, the heroine, came from a news program I saw many years ago. I forget what show it was on. Anyway, the segment I watched focused on freshmen at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a local university) and the enormous pressure they were under to succeed. Many of these students had been raised believing that they had to be the best at everything they did. Failure was not an option. They were at the top of their class, volunteered countless hours in community service, played instruments at the professional level, and excelled at varsity sports. Basically, they were kept so busy that they were never allowed to learn who they were and grow. They did it all…and had never failed at anything. When they first started at MIT, some fell to number two or three in various college activities… and they considered themselves a failure. Eventually, the pressure to be number one began to take its toll. The television program talked about how many of these kids broke under such extreme pressure and entered severe depression. Some of them had to be institutionalized. All of them had to drop out of college to save their sanity.

My first reaction to this was–how could parents put so much pressure on their children? Then I thought about it. I don’t think parents who push their children to excel are necessarily bad. I think that they are loving their children the only way they know how, by securing their future. In their minds, having their child succeed was opening the doors to opportunities that they never had as children and providing them a better life.

But is higher achievement necessarily better? Lucy had so many rules in her life, so much structure, that she never got the opportunity to sit down and think about the type of person she wanted to become. Instead of pursuing her passions, she blindly followed her parent’s requests because she loved them and wanted to please them. The more she followed their rules, the more depressed she became, until eventually everything fell apart and she ended up at Newton Heights Mental Institution.

While Lucy’s parents were over-involved and structuring every detail of her life, Jayden’s parents were nonexistent. He had no parent to sign him up for the local soccer team, or to take him to music lessons. He had to learn to survive on his own. His lack of opportunity limited his choices, and prevented him from realizing his own potential. He had never followed society’s rules because he didn’t see the point. Good behavior and hard work weren’t rewarded, so it was pointless to pursue it.

Putting someone like Lucy together with someone like Jayden was fun, but it was also eye-opening. The result was a beautiful story about self-discovery and healing. While dark at times, Hollow gives the reader hope. As long as you have breath, you can change your life for the better.

So as you can see, Hollow is a romance, but it’s so much more. I hope that you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it!