One of the themes of Stupid By Choice is judgment, the kind many people do to others every day based on how they look, dress, or where they are from. Judging anyone, for any reason, is unfair and wrong, and it’s a shame people are often so judgmental of another’s differences. We should embrace another’s differences, for knowing people who are different from us is what keeps life interesting and helps us to learn about other people’s views and lifestyles better.
The best example of this in the book is the character of Beau, who goes from being one of the most popular, handsome, and sought-after wealthy bachelors in all of Texas (if not the world) to being shunned and basically an outcast once he becomes a quadriplegic due to an accident. People can be so harsh when they don’t understand a situation, and so they end up judging a person who looks different from them (and often doesn’t want them to be around) instead of giving the person a chance to show they are really the same on the inside even if they now look vastly different on the outside.
Another example of this is the character of Eva who is judged as being an “exotic beauty” (and not always in a ‘good’ way) instead of being the typical, all-American “blond bombshell” most Texan girls are. A man would be happy to have his ‘fun’ with her, but not want to take her home to meet his parents (or even ever have his parents accept her as “good enough” as her doctor husband later learns), and unfortunately many people can relate to this kind of feeling of seeming “different” in different circumstances by others. But what is the point of making others feel bad for how they look or where they’re from? From my viewpoint there isn’t one.
Being different through looks, social status, economic means, or whatever the circumstance shouldn’t ever determine how someone should be treated. People should all be treated the same. But everyone knows they are not. Even people with great wealth judge others in their own social circles on how “wealthy” they all actually are and create levels of status based on that sole circle of wealth, but it’s still not right, for money is just money no matter how much you have of it. It doesn’t make someone better or worse to have less or more of it. And neither does judging anyone for any reason.
I hope readers come away from Stupid By Choice with an open mind to give everyone, regardless of looks, appearances, or status, a chance. For everyone deserves that.
Q & A with Stupid By Choice author Leighton Summers:
1. How long have you been writing, and when did you know that you wanted to become a writer?
I started writing this book about four years ago, but to be honest when I first started writing down ideas for the main character of Melanie St. John, I never really knew at the time they would turn into a novel. I was never trained or studied to be a writer, but for some reason writing novels always intrigued me. So one day I just started writing down notes and ideas from things I saw or imagined and then worked on them until they turned into a whole bunch of little, separate stories centered on Melanie. Over time the stories kept coming, and I kept writing them down off and on for about four years. I showed them to friends who liked them and they encouraged me to keep writing. I never thought it would become anything really, but then people kept encouraging me to turn my stories into a novel. I found an editor to help me and we turned all my notes and individual stories into one complete, more structured story, and then this, my first novel, was finally finished.
2. Who’s your favorite author, and why?
I actually have several so it’s hard to choose one, but F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemmingway are both top favorites because of their fantastic writing styles. I even went to the Florida Keys once and saw where Hemmingway wrote and got his inspiration from. It was very inspiring just to be there!
3. Tell us about your current book.
Stupid By Choice centers around a hopeful debutante Texas Oil Princess’s struggles from her high school years to her late-thirties as she attempts to find true, lasting love amongst the wealthy, jet-set, spoiled, sought-after playboy bachelors in the elite worldwide social circles of Texas, Monte Carlo, Manhattan, Newport, and Palm Beach.
4. If you could have a conversation with one of the characters in your current novel, which one would it be and why?
The first love of Melanie’s life, Hunter, because I would want to know why in the world a man like him—or any man actually—would lead a woman on for seven years, promising he was going to marry her and build a life, but then never do it and end up running off with a Las Vegas blackjack dealer who dresses up in a bunny costume every night instead. What would make a man string a woman along for so many years and keep breaking her heart over and over when he knew deep down the woman truly loved him? I know this happens a lot in all walks of life and I feel many women would like to know the answer to this, but sadly, you sometimes never know why, as Melanie finds out the hard way.
5. Where do you get the ideas and inspiration for your stories?
I was born and raised in Texas in this same kind of upscale, privileged world, and I’ve continued to stay living in it throughout my adult life, so it’s mostly all I know what to write about… I really don’t know anything different. And like most writers who start out writing mainly about what they know, I decided it was as good a setting as any to place a story in (at least for my first book). I was also inspired and encouraged by many good friends and my husband to write about this particular world, for we all knew there were lots of situations we had all seen too many times that could easily be recreated in a fictional story set in this world.
6. What is the best thing for you about being a writer?
Even though this is pure fiction, I learned a lot through the process of writing down my thoughts that all writing is really like therapy. And with fiction you can write just what you want to have happen. You can even let out demons if you need to. It was a very satisfying experience just to write in general actually.
7. If we asked your closest friends to describe who you were, what do you think they would say?
What I hear a lot, that I’m very vulnerable, shy, and private. But also that I enjoy traveling, I never give up on my goals (like finishing this book after four years!), and I always like to get to know interesting people who have something worthwhile to say and don’t want to just indulge in idle gossip (that drives me crazy). I’m also always misperceived by the way I look, for people are surprised when they get to know me that I’m actually smart even though I’m blond and always dressed to the nines.
8. Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route?
I thought a lot about this, but ultimately decided on self-publishing Stupid By Choice because the publishing industry is changing so much with book stores closing constantly and big publishers merging together just to stay in business themselves. And after taking four years to write the novel, I also didn’t want to spend another couple of years waiting around for a publisher to have to “discover” it. I just wanted to get it out and into the hands of people who hopefully would want to read it, and self-publishing was the quickest way towards that goal. And since technology is also changing the way people are reading now-a-days, I decided to release it first as an ebook too to keep up with the current times. (But just so you know, a printed version is in the works as well, hopefully by early fall.)
9. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given or given to someone else?
My current editor has given me lots of great advice and help with finishing Stupid By Choice, so my advice for any writer—especially a first time one like myself—would be to find a great editor to help you if you need it. I went through other editors before finding my current one and know the great ones are hard to find, but keep searching until you find the right fit, both personally and creatively.
10. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as an author?
Spending way too much money and time on people I thought I could trust to help me with this project in the beginning stages of turning it into a novel. They ended up stabbing me in the back big time instead of helping me to finish it.
11. What’s next on the agenda for you?
A lot actually—I’m excited to be promoting Stupid By Choice all summer long (hopefully making it “the” summer beach read for 2013!), and I’m also working on two more book ideas. Once you start writing you really can’t stop. And since I learned a lot about the “do’s and don’ts” of writing from my first novel, I’m hoping the next one won’t take as long!