Listen to that voice in your head. And never, ever let someone else decide your life’s path.
Sometimes in order to find yourself, you need to venture off the map.
Talia and Bran broke all the rules and navigated dark and stormy emotional waters to be together and now that they finally seem to have found their way back to each other, the winds of change threaten to blow their love off course yet again…
LR: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Julia!!
JK: What can readers expect from Talia and Bran this time around?
LR: Weeeeeeeelp. Upside Down is more about taking a risk and falling in love. Sideswiped is what happens after the dust settles and decisions get real. What can readers expect? Well, this book is a little bit sexier, there's more drama-rama, but ultimately, I wanted to explore what the hell it actually means to fall in forever love in your early twenties. What do you gain but also, what might you give up.
JK: Sideswiped is the second book in the Off the Map series. Was writing this one a different experience than writing Upside Down?
LR: Okay, so let's enter the truth circle. This book was a trick to write, we're talking I took long walks in the rain while crying. But I'm a big ol' drama queen and in many ways this book was a blast to write because Bran finally started talking, and the dude fascinates me. He's such a baby man, really needs a kick in the ass, but unnnf, I do love him so.
JK: One of the big challenges writers in series face is making sure that their characters change and grow. How are Talia and Bran different in this book than what we read in Upside Down?
LR: Ah, yep, the good ol' character arc. In this book, we see some role reversals and power dynamics shift. I wanted to show Talia and Bran tracking toward adulthood and emotional health, but invariably stumbling along the way.
JK: Who are your favorite secondary characters in the series, and can we expect more from them in the future?
LR: Great question. Two secondary characters, Karma and Marti, were people I never planned to write. They popped in during drafting and were all "yo, I'm going to be in this here book." I really, really enjoy both of them. Sunny is also a hoot but gets far too little page time. Look for some Off the Map companion novellas/books in 2015. I've got 2-4 planned and more will become clear to those who read Inside Out (Book #3).
JK: What can we expect for the next installment of the Off the Map series?
LR: Spoiler alert: Inside Out has a happy-ever-after. LOL. But for real, Inside Out will still put Talia and Bran to the test. I'm kind of a monster, so make these crazy kids dig deep to earn their right to true love.
JK: And a quick last question: what's in Talia's purse and Bran's manbag?
LR: HAHAHAHA. Bran is like "JULIA! I DO NOT CARRY A MANBAG." He's a backpack guy. If you look inside there will be a beat up copy of Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang and a half-crushed muesli bar. Talia's purse has hand sanitizer, lip gloss, fifty thousand receipts, and a George Costanza wallet.
Thanks for hosting me today <3
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Excerpt from Sideswiped
Talia passes out hard from the travel and epic reunion sex. I’m too amped for sleep, so I lie in the dark and trace her spine. Can you love someone too much? No point being afraid, might as well jump in it with both feet. I press my mouth to her neck and she undulates, responsive even from her dreams. If miracles were real, I’d swear we were designed to fit together.
I loop my arm around her waist and hold fast, until our breathing syncs. I’m drifting off when she jerks—hard—once, twice. Her body recoils as she unleashes a lung-tearing scream.
“Talia, wake up. Come on, sweetheart, talk to me.” I clamber over her, hunching protectively. “Open your eyes. It’s Bran. I’ve got you. I’m not letting go.” I keep talking while she flays my chest like she’s drowning under ice, desperate to find a break in the surface.
“Can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I…where am…oh God. Bran.”
“I’m right here.” I cradle her while she draws another unsteady gasp. Her hair plasters her forehead in sweaty wisps.
“Give me a minute. I’ll be fine.” She pushes herself to a half-sit and sways with disorientation. “This…this happens sometimes…panic attacks or night terrors…whatever. They seem to come when I drop my guard. Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s the meds. Those pills make me feel like a toxic waste dump.”
“Have you been bad this summer?” The muscles in my neck cord. It shreds my guts to see her hurting. I’d do anything, any fucking thing, to carry her pain. I don’t fully understand the inner workings of OCD but she’s explained that for her, the condition comes in waves. Everything will be rolling along fine, more or less, and then bang—a giant squid grips her brain. She fights hard for recovery, a warrior even when she believes she’s nothing but a coward.
“No, not really.” She grinds her eyes with the backs of her hands. “I kinda danced around the edge of the rabbit hole a few times but never fell inside.”
My muscles release some tension. “Try to go back to sleep. You need the rest. Don’t worry, I’ll keep watch, okay?
“I’m sorry to be such a psych job. It’s totally shaming.”
Her chin tips down. “Can you talk to me for a little while? Get me out of my fuckball head?”
“Hey now, I got mad love for that head, Captain.” I kiss her brow, acting chill even though I’m scared. How can I get her to settle? Then it hits me. “I want to take you surfing again.”
“Mmmm, that’d be nice.”
“Picture yourself out there, in the water, on a board, under the shooting stars.”
“With sharks eyeballing me from the depths?”
“Nah, they’re all busy hunting sea lions or some bloody mischief. This is you, the sea, and the sky. A set rolls in. You can’t make out the wave. The board lifts and you feel the momentum building. There’s fear deep in your belly, sensible, because you can’t see what’s coming or where you’re going. You fight the self-protective instincts, give yourself over, and the next thing you know—you’re having the ride of your life.”
“Thank you.” She flips in my arms so we’re belly to belly. “I mean it. That was beautiful, really, really beautiful. I’m so excited to be here, for right now—to live in the moment. But it’s like I have this…this weird mental stutter. My thoughts keep skipping over the same annoying question like a scratch on vinyl: What will we do?” Tears spill from the corners of her eyes, course silently toward her chin. “My visa.”
Talia’s been granted a three-month student visa to complete her senior thesis in history. In all its benevolent generosity, the Australian government expanded her time in the country by an extra month.
Four months—the sum of our allotted time.
“They’ll make me leave.”
“Don’t believe everything you think.” I wipe her damp cheeks.
“Can you tattoo that on my forehead?”
Maybe it’s my imagination, but the brass alarm clock on the dresser clicks louder.
Another second gone.
Another second gone.
“I’m not losing you to some shithouse immigration policy, Captain. We will be all right in the end.” I’ve no idea how the hell I’m going to solve this drama but I will figure it out. “We have to hope, otherwise we’re sunk.”
She jerks with surprised laughter.
She hiccups and covers her mouth with her hand, shoulders shaking. It takes me a second to realize she’s giggling.
“I’m funny to you right now?” This girl drives me every sort of crazy.
“I’m not laughing at you.” She works her lips together and unsuccessfully smothers the smile. “It’s—”
“Forget it.” I instinctively stiffen.
“Bran the Optimist.” She grabs my wrists, lifts my palms to her face, and plants a kiss in the center of each one. “I like this side of you.”
“Never mind. I was being dumb.”
“You were awesome.” She pecks the tip of my nose. “And for the record, I love your stupid face.”
I give her a begrudging kiss back. “I love yours too.”
Love isn’t enough of a word.
I wasted almost an entire year of my life implementing a scorched earth policy, not caring who I left burned and broken in my path.
Talia was my oasis. My salvation.
“Don’t give the visa a second thought.” I nestle her against me, rubbing her lower back in easy circles. “I’ll sort this out, I swear to you.”
Even if I don’t have the first fucking clue.
About the Author
Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult Romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling fourex with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments. A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn't mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. She and her family live mostly in Northern California.