Behind the Book with Kendra C. Highley

Behind the BookMy road to SIDELINED’s publication was a curvy one, full off sudden drop-offs, sharp-turns and even a dead end or two. To give the full picture, I need to go back a few years…

For most of my career, I’ve written YA Urban Fantasy/Dystopian. In 2010, I signed with an agent and went on submission with a boy-centric YA UF. I was filled with hope that this was it—the BIG BREAK. But, as weeks turned to months, and the book didn’t sell, I took everyone’s advice and threw myself into writing something else. But my agent passed on the new novel, and the next. Doubt crept in. Was I really cut out for this? Was that first book a fluke? Should I quit my pursuit of publication?

My heart, thankfully, said no…and I kept going.

In the summer of 2010, I served as a camp counselor. Wrangling a group of fourteen-year-olds for a week taught me that there were a lot of stories begging to be told.  I came home full of ideas—one in particular. A counselor had shared his struggle after being told he could no longer play football in high school. An acquaintance of mine in high school had gone through the same thing, injuring his knee his senior year and losing all his scholarship opportunities. I remember how angry he was about that, how betrayed he felt…and the main idea for SIDELINED was born.

But I didn’t write it right away. See, I was an urban fantasy writer. I couldn’t write a Contemporary YA…it wasn’t my space. But, a little voice kept asking, “Why not?” So I started reading more contemporary, to get a feel for the genre. I loved it and decided to try writing in that space, just to see.  Couldn’t hurt, right?

Sidelined-cover-500pxWhen I finally started drafting SIDELINED in 2011, I came across a news article about prescription drug addiction, and how more and more teens were abusing pain medication. That’s when I knew how Genna would try to deal with this earth-shattering experience. She’d want to hide from the pain, and her meds would allow her to do that. It’s a timely topic, but I wasn’t going to use it as a soapbox. Really, I just wanted to show that this could happen to anybody. Genna’s story really spoke to me, too. How she wanted something so badly, only to fall short just in front of the finish line. I’d been through that with my road to publication, and I empathized with how she felt.

After I polished the draft, I sent it off to my agent, once more full of hope. But…she wouldn’t read it. Crushed and thinking I’d gotten it all wrong, I put the draft in a drawer. Not long after, I parted ways with my agent to pursue self-publishing for my urban fantasy and had some success. Still, SIDELINED weighed on my heart and I wondered if it would ever see the light of day. Because if it did, I’d have a reason to put the other contemporary YA stories I had rattling around in my brain on paper.

Early this year, my cousin sent me a notice that Entangled Teen was looking for YA Sports Romance. Going totally on blind luck, I sent the manuscript in with my fingers crossed. I heard back from Heather Howland two days later—they wanted the book.  This story, which had stuck with me and kept me up at night for two long years, had found a home, and I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled. Even better? Now I have a reason to start writing those other stories I want to share.


About Sidelined


“An intense look at one girl’s struggle with drug abuse, divorce, first love, and first heartbreak. Genna’s life and problems read as realistic and resonant.”
– Lisa Burstein, author of PRETTY AMY and DEAR CASSIE

There’s more than one way to suffer…

After being pushed to excel her entire life, high school basketball star Genna Pierce is finally where she wants to be. University scouts are taking notice, her team is on its way to the state tourney, and Jake Butler, the hot boy she’s daydreamed about since ninth grade, is showing some definite interest. When he asks her out and their relationship takes off, Genna believes things can’t get better.

Then, it’s over.

A freak accident ends her career before it’s even begun. Her parents are fighting more than ever, her friends don’t understand what she’s going through, and she’s not sure who she is without basketball. And while he tries to be there for her, Genna doesn’t understand how Jake could ever want the broken version of the girl he fell for.

Her life in a tailspin, Genna turns to the only solace that eases her pain: Vicodin.




About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.