Tag Archives: feels like the first time

Newly published: Both Sides Now, by Shawn Inmon with Dawn Inmon

Shawn is the author of the true-life romance Feels Like the First Time, the story of his lost-and-found high school romance. I was his proofreader there, and he asked me to edit the sequel Both Sides Now, available for sale today. This book examines the same events from his sweetheart’s perspective.

When Shawn first contacted me about the project, I thought it had potential, but I also saw him facing some powerful challenges. This was to be Dawn’s story, not his. It should be told in her voice, not his. Shawn is extroverted and given to a lot of superlatives, whereas Dawn is more laconic and introverted, with no tendency to exaggerate. What would jump out at Shawn, Dawn might not notice, and vice versa. Shawn’s basic character runs counter to the gender stereotype of masculine emotional stolidity, so he was well equipped to consider some differences in how she might see the world, but it was still going to be a hard go.

Another challenge for him: pry the details out of Dawn.  Shawn can and will talk one’s ear off (and it’s usually insightful, puckish and entertaining). Dawn isn’t a Vulcan or anything, but she learned in life to keep things inside–if you read the book, as I hope you will, I promise you’ll learn why–so she is not prone to waste words, and unsolicited elaboration does not come naturally to her.

I felt very handicapped by not having met Dawn, and both of them saw the potential value in a meetup, so they graciously invited me to their home. I also felt somewhat of a duty. I’d seen sensitive parts of both their lives close up, yet neither had yet had any chance to size me up in person. Dawn in particular had not; to her, one presumes,  I was this eastern Washington guy Shawn worked with on the first book and his novella. Shawn turned out to be just as advertised: as Falstaffian and fun-loving as one might expect of a fifty-year-old man who still participates in a KISS tribute band and would have to look up the word ’embarrassment.’ Dawn was a lady of relatively few words and a steady gaze. Her natural shyness was easy enough for me to accept, because I’m similar. So, my task: in limited time, sit down on the couch and begin asking my hostess about the events of FLTFT as she remembered them, posing very personal questions of a woman I had just met about some of the most painful and difficult times of her life. No pressure.

That isn’t easy for me, because it’s not my nature to pry even with longtime friends. If all my posts about privacy issues tell you nothing else about me, that would be your one sure takeaway. I had to force myself. This was work, my job; without knowing Dawn’s voice, how could I edit it? So, with Shawn whipping up spaghetti in the kitchen, listening in with an invigorated smile, I began to ask Dawn to tell me about her life. One suspects that watching me gave Shawn some interviewing tips, but I had a natural advantage. I hadn’t been emotionally involved in anything that had occurred, nor had I seen it firsthand, thus I didn’t have my own memories intruding. I had no first-person perspective to break out of. I’d obviously read FLTFT exhaustively, to the last comma and loose space, but that’s not the same as living the story.

When one considers that she was speaking to a stranger about life events of the sort that most people would like to forget, I found Dawn a very calm, candid subject, even brave.  What she was feeling inside, I didn’t know and didn’t ask; maybe I should have, maybe I did rightly not to. I also got an answer to one question I didn’t pose, but that lurked in my mind: would she be shy about having her story printed to stand before the public? Dawnconically: no. I also saw strong hints of how she had gotten through a lot of life’s trials. As I said to Shawn over spaghetti, “there’s steel in there.” What Dawn made of me was difficult to say, though before the visit was done, I saw signs that she’d warmed to me. For the record, Mr. and Mrs. Inmon are wonderfully kind hosts, accommodating without hesitation my need to perform physical therapy exercises which somewhat disrupted their home arrangements. Anyone who gets the chance to hang out with them should take it.

I’d also like to drive a stake through one ill-begotten comment I saw in a couple of reviews. Anyone who imagines that this story is embellished or invented can take it from me: while I didn’t suspect that at all, I was doing my mental due diligence by force of habit. There is no way Dawn could have answered me so readily and frankly about the story without having lived it. Often–and especially when I got a brief reply–I’d ask a quick follow-up question for more details; a deceptive subject trips on those, which is why all police use the technique. Dawn did not trip. The historian in me is satisfied that events in both books are accurate to the best of their recollections and note comparisons.

The resulting ms impressed hell out of me, because my biggest question had been whether Shawn could Dawnninate his writing voice. He could and did. The voice read like the lady I’d interviewed. I had to fix some wordiness (which I think was far more Shawn than Dawn, as ‘wordy’ isn’t how I’d describe her), and I took a few firm stands on what content best fit where. If you read the prologue and find yourself yelling “That’s all I get? Damn you! Now I have to read it!” then I guess you can thank me. Or cuss me a little.

It’s a better book than FLTFT (which was quite good), and I wasn’t even close to the main reason for that. The ms came to me more polished than had the former’s edited version. Shawn Inmon is one of the quickest studies I’ve had the pleasure to work with. If I don’t keep upping my game, I’ll become less useful to him throughout his career, so that pushes me to improve. If you liked Feels Like the First Time, it’s a lock that you’ll like Both Sides Now, and you may well like it better still.

I did. I do.

Recent project: _Feels Like the First Time_, by Shawn Inmon

Inmon’s first foray into print (if that link doesn’t work: http://www.amazon.com/Feels-Like-First-Time-Story/dp/1479258946/ ) is deeply personal, telling about how he lost and later rediscovered a true love. I was his proofreader, for which he has lauded me way out of proportion to my contribution, Shawn being a fundamentally generous and thoughtful guy.

I came to the project in a very interesting way. As some of my dear readers know, I cut my comic writing teeth at Epinions (a product review site) just after the millennium. One fellow I met there, I sort of stayed in touch with him and spouse, in part motivated by a mutual small-town-Washington-1970s upbringing. A few years back, I happened to touch base with the lady I did not then know was his widow. She caught me up. I tried to provide what inadequate support I could to her, and in the process, met some of their high school friends. One was the author of this story, Shawn Inmon.

So, when Shawn had a book he wanted proofread, I was glad to sign on. I liked him and his attitude toward life, and was pretty sure I could help him achieve his goal. He wanted to publish a book to a higher standard than the avalanche of self-published dubiousness that is the rage today. How could that not resonate with me? I quickly found Shawn a very coachable and soulful fellow, with a lot of guts to put this very personal story out before the world. I probably did a little more than your standard em dash and comma police work, but I’m glad I did. He was dead serious about publishing the story and I was glad that the final set of eyes would be mine, because proofreading is something I can do. We had a rollicking good time, bantering and discussing passages as I sent the chapters in.

I believe that Shawn’s book will succeed because its fundamental honesty will resonate with the readership. For one thing, I’m not a big true-love story enthusiast, and I found myself wanting to know what happened next. This is remarkable. For another, yesterday I handed my wife the printed, red-spattered, sticky-noted manuscript with which I worked. (I really needed to get it off the office floor, where I had stacked up the pages as I finished dosing them.) Today I asked her how she liked it. “I can’t put it down! This is great! I want to find out what happens!” (And, be it noted, that was the unproofread version, which may have improved before printing thanks to Shawn’s tolerance and endurance of my dry, occasionally caustic notes.)

The reason Shawn’s book jazzed my wife is easy for me to see. Honesty. If you read love stories, you want honesty, candor, the real deal. You want the author to damn well come across, be s/he overjoyed, embarrassed, bored, frustrated, furious, whatever. For what do you read love stories, if not for authentic emotion? As I proofed the ms, my most common sentiment was: “This will ring honest. Readers can spot a phony or a candy-ass, and they would and do barbecue those kind. They will feel the reality here, and it will grab them as it grabbed me.”

Link posted earlier is to the print version, but Shawn’s with the times, also providing a Kindle version (search Amazon on ‘shawn inmon’). If you resonate with honest love stories by a man unafraid to share what he truly felt, you’re going to like Shawn Inmon’s writing as much as I liked working with him.