Ivy Whitaker is a long-time lover of the romance genre and horror/paranormal fan. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember and telling stories for longer than that. She currently resides on the east coast, living comfortably in a cabin (in the woods). When she’s not writing, she’s obsessing over her garden, furry companions, or daydreaming about romances yet to be written.
For as long as Lily can remember, it’s always been her and Autumn. They’ve had many sleep-overs, awkward school pictures, bad break-ups, and embarrassing drunken nights. It was always supposed to be them against the world.
Until it became Autumn and her husband-to-be. And Lily.
Naturally, Lily was asked to be Autumn’s maid of honor — a role she filled perfectly. All except for one crucial thing. She forgot to write her maid of honor speech.
The day before the wedding has come, and Lily has hidden away to put pen to paper. But it’s not as simple as jotting down the poetry that fills her head. Not when every story reminds her of their past — when every retelling makes her heart ache for their future. A future where they could be more than friends.
A future where the only speech she writes are her wedding vows.
It’s the night before the wedding, and Lily has to decide which speech she will make.
Lily would never forget the moment she had seen her in her dress. She had been heart-achingly breathtaking. Every divine inch of her curves was covered in silk and Chantilly lace. Even with her hair mussed from the night before spent drinking and smudges of mascara darkening her under eyes, she had been radiant. No part of her doubted that seeing her tomorrow would take her breath away.
Dennis had no idea how lucky he was. Sure, he knew Autumn was beautiful, smart, funny. He knew she was genuine and kind. But he didn’t know that she had the power to shake universes. To dim the sun with a smile and make the stars flicker in envy. He didn’t know that the tide ebbed and flowed with the beating of her heart.
He didn’t know about Fergus, the blimp of a house cat they had accidentally let out when they were seven, and the subsequent day-long hunt they had embarked on. He didn’t know the way she had hugged that obese cat, whose fur was covered in burrs and dandelion seeds, or see the relieved tears in her eyes. He didn’t know that her favorite ice cream was pistachio — but she lied once in fourth grade because she was getting teased and hadn’t changed her story since. Sometimes, she still liked to try to convince Lily that she had grown to enjoy it.
She had never been a good liar.
Dennis also didn’t know that she liked to eat frosting straight from the container at two in the morning. Nor that she kept a secret stash of candy in nearly every room in her apartment. He most certainly didn’t know about the penis they had painted on the wall behind her bed. The one that had never been able to be completely covered. Three coats of paint later, and the outline was still visible. If one knew where to look.
But Lily did.
He was a good guy. It was the mantra she had to keep repeating to herself. Dennis Geis was successful. He came from a good family. He was gentle, understanding, and supportive. Dennis was handsome — at least, handsome enough that even she, preferring the company of women, had taken notice. There was something classic in the harsh lines of his narrow face. All angles and no soft curves. He had the sort of good looks one would expect on the movie screen. But being with him had dulled some of Autumn’s wildness. He had taken the fight from her bones and filled them with contentment.
He was a man who favored tradition over advancement. A wife at home, two and a half kids. Dinner on the table, his house kept all spick-and-span.
The way he talked about their future left Lily wondering if there was even a place for Autumn at all. Or if that wild-eyed girl with a fat, burr-covered cat in her arms would all but disappear.
They walked together in silence, their fingers laced, palms sticky with sweat from the August heat. Neither seemed to care. It seemed to make them squeeze tighter.
“Are you sure about this?” Lily asked, her lips pressed together, holding back the torrent of other questions she felt flooding her mouth.
“About getting married?”
Her best friend paused, her delicate brows furrowing together. It was a look she had grown to dislike over the years. A look she hated to see now.
Autumn took a while to answer. Too long, in Lily’s opinion.
“Yes,” she said, at long last, her smile easily sliding back into place. “I love him.”
But are you in love with him?
I imagine my answer is the same as almost everyone else’s. I loved reading as a child. I devoured every book that fell in my lap, regardless of the intended audience or age group. I became obsessed with storytelling and world-crafting. I fell in love with worlds and characters; before long, my head was filled with my own. I have veritable piles of notebooks filled with ideas and short stories (unsurprisingly, most of which are horror stories). My journey to becoming an author was far less clear-cut. I didn’t show anyone anything I’d written (outside of my poetry) until I was in college. My first-ever manuscript was passed to an editor who told me I had “something special.” In the end, I sat on that manuscript like a chicken safeguarding an egg. It took years for me to do anything with my writing. To make a long story very short, I decided to self-publish. I wanted complete control over what went out into the world. I wanted to ease myself into the idea of people reading my work. And now, here I am!
My writing process is a unique brand of organized chaos. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of “front-loading.” I spend a lot of time conceptualizing my book, starting with a comprehensive character write-up. From there, I dive into the world-building, adding little touches until I feel like the world feels real. From there, I storyboard, outline the story, then fine-tune the chapters. Then, it’s time to write! At some point during the writing process, I usually end up deviating from my notes, which leads to correcting my outlines, my spreadsheets, and all other data sheets. As you can imagine, my brain is just two hamsters on a wheel. When I have to alter something, the hamsters start running in opposite directions from each other, and it becomes a whole mess.
I’m sure, like most authors, one of my favorite pastimes is reading. I’m a bit of a gym rat when I’m not reading. I enjoy lifting heavy weights, running, and yoga classes. I love gardening and spending time outdoors (particularly in this part of the northern hemisphere where warm weather is fleeting). I also enjoy cooking. I have regular daydreams about starting my own vegan food blog, but I have the awful tendency of never writing down my recipes.
Thai food and a few days off!
Thai food and a few days off!
I keep myself busy on release days. Typically, this involves inviting friends over for a few drinks, some good food, and a night of playing board games. My friends typically will continuously check Amazon or my socials to see what is being said (because they’re the real MVPs). I get wildly nervous on launch days, so having friends around keeps me grounded!
When I first started writing in the romance genre, I started with PNR (paranormal romance). I have always loved stories about everything that goes bump in the night. As time passed, I realized I wasn’t filling entirely fulfilled. Not creatively, not emotionally. When I first started writing in the romance genre, I thought the only way to get anyone to read my work was to write straight couples. As a queer woman, I grew up with limited (to no) lesbian representation in the media. If there were gay women (or gay men), they were typecasted in the most unflattering ways. Too often, lesbian storylines were depicted as “gay for now” when they inevitably found a man to leave their partner for. Or something horrific would happen, robbing them of their happily ever after. I discovered lesbian fiction (the lesfic genre) late in my reading/writing journey. And it was like a light switch went off in my brain. I can write what I want to write. I can tell stories about two women falling in love. I can tell love stories that resemble my own. But more importantly, I have the opportunity and chance to add to the ever-growing market of queer-written stories. I can write about love because love is universal. And all love deserves a happily ever after.
There are certainly a few situations in Don’t Say “I Do” that resemble real life. A few of these stories are lifted directly from my childhood. A few are inspired by my partner and my friends. I do my best to never base characters directly off anyone in my life, though, it’s impossible to avoid likenesses entirely. I think my characters are amalgamations of the best parts of those I love and the worst parts of myself.
Writing the book wasn’t the problem. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything faster in my life. It was mustering up the courage to finally publish. It took a pep-talk from a very dear friend of mine to finally pull the metaphorical trigger. “If you build it, they will come, right? If you write this, the people who are meant to find it will.”
I don’t have the words to describe how freeing it was to write about love between two women. I grew up in a small town where same-sex relationships were often trivialized and invalidated. I moved through social circles, hearing the most unkind things. I don’t know that I ever had a chance to acknowledge how much of a mark those comments left until I started writing this book. I felt like I was reclaiming pieces of myself that were whittled away. I took back my joy. I took back my self-confidence. I took back pieces of my identity.
But most importantly, I accepted that I had been trying to put myself in a mold that I perceived as marketable. I was putting content out there for readers who don’t care about people like me — people who see sexuality as something to fetishize and not valid. To make a long story short, the most enjoyable part of writing this book was realizing that I didn’t have to make myself small. And I shouldn’t. Because I was always valid. And so is everyone else in the LGBTQIA* community. And we deserve to tell our own stories. Even if they’re about runaway brides and best friends falling in love.
Despite only being one year her senior, Autumn had always had a sort of wisdom about her. A gentleness. Empathy. Which was what made it so startling to see her when the flames of her temper were stoked. With the snap of a finger, she could turn into an inferno. One that would devour anyone who stood in her way.
But that was just her way. To feel things so greatly — so intensely — that it often befuddled those around her. Even those nearest and dearest to her. Over the years, Lily had come to love how deep her emotions ran. Deep, fathomless waters in which she could get lost. But somehow, never drown.
Perhaps it was because she had learned to respect the current. She had learned to embrace the undertow as it moved her, taking her deep enough that she could caress the darkness beneath. The underbelly that trembled and quaked at being acknowledged for the first time.
This is a tricky question to answer. In the end, I suppose there’s nothing I can say to Lily or Autumn that they don’t already know. They learned a lot during their time together in the world I created for them. So, I imagine that the only person who needs a little kernel of wisdom is Fergus. I would tell him that he’s an indoor cat. Inside is where the food is.