The College Experience with Aishlar Snow

May 10, 2016

The College Experience

Hi! I’m Aishlar Snow, author of I Experimented Once in College, and I’m excited to be sharing my first published work with you. I’d like to thank Dreamspinner Press for the opportunity to share.

My inspiration for the book came during a bout of nostalgia for my college days. I had a pretty rocky college experience where I faced down a number of serious situations, but I still look back on it and remember how I met my fiance – and my best friend – there. My main character, William, faces similarly daunting challenges during the semester, and he also ends up finding love and friendship along the way.

While I was writing, one of the things I enjoyed most was painting a picture of a magical university with all the same quirks and routines of a modern one. The freshmen are fresh-faced and often lost, those about to graduate don’t have their books half the time, and throughout the crazy rollercoaster semester the RA plays mediator to such a variety of student concerns you can only find in a soap opera. It’s a confusing place, college, no matter what year you’re in. Maybe your friend is still undecided in his third year, you’re sitting on boxes because none of your roommates remembered to buy chairs, and you can never figure why that one campus building is out in the middle of nowhere. There is a universal quality to college, ineffable, no matter if it’s planted in the real world or fantasy.

Even the music I listened to while writing had ties to my college days, although not in the way you might expect. When I started college in 2009 I listened to a lot of older classics because they were comforting and energetic. My working title for the book was actually “Do You Believe in Magic?” from the 1965 song by The Lovin’ Spoonful. My playlist also included “Magic” by Pilot (1974), “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club (1985), and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics (1983) among others. These familiar songs brought me back to memories of college as well as setting the stage – with lyrics I could relate to the story – for a few of my favorite scenes.

Weirdly, I threw a handful of 2000′s club mixes into the playlist at one point while writing a scene that never made it into the book. When I was a freshman, my friends dragged me to my first club, and that experience was so profound that I knew I had to write William reluctantly stuck in a magical nightclub. For me, that first glimpse into the world of nightlife and dancefloors and shady under-the-stairwell hookups was as shocking as it was fascinating. Writing William, a reserved and tightly buttoned-up PhD student, in a club setting where he was forced to unwind required club mixes that were pretty jarring after the 80′s hits. In the end, I had a better version of the scene with the setting changed to a professor’s office, but maybe the next book can incorporate a magical nightclub?

I’ve asked my fiance what it was like living with me while I wrote I Experimented Once in College over the course of a month, and his contribution was, “You were kind of a brat.” When asked to elaborate, he shrugged, but then he started laughing at the look on my face, so I think we’re good.

In reality, writing a book in a month, while doable, can be a real whirlwind. I was working at a public library at the time, and I had just finished my Masters in Library Science. Much like William, I was overqualified for my clerical position and growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of high-level positions. I used that frustration to illustrate William’s situation at Efeldon University, especially at the beginning of the book. William knows his worth, and he isn’t afraid to say when he’s being underutilized. It is that frustration in part that contributes to his antagonistic relationship to Taliesin, someone who should be a mentor figure but is more often an additional source of irritation for him. During the month when I wrote I Experimented Once in College, I led a very busy, work-filled life; I wouldn’t recommend it every month, but it was a blast!

Readers, do you have certain songs that remind you of high school or college? Were they popular songs at the time, or were they favorites from another decade? You can reach me at aishlarsnow@gmail.com, @Aishlar, and aishlarsnow.blogspot.com, or by commenting on this post. I would love to hear what’s on your mind!

Check out I Experimented Once in College today!

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Blurb:

PhD candidate William Yderis comes to Efeldon University to teach and finish his degree in charmcrafting. For methodical, sedate, and scholarly William, the school defies his expectations—and not in a good way. The biggest surprise comes when William meets his boss, absent-minded Archmage Taliesin Karsus, a man as infuriating as he is sexy.

As William struggles to carve out his place at the university, he is drawn in to Tal’s chaotic experiments… and drawn to Tal despite his logical mind’s protests. And if Tal’s wavering affection isn’t enough to complicate William’s studies, he uncovers a plot involving an ambitious staff member, brainwashed students, sexual assault, and a threat to the lives of everyone on campus. When it comes time to face the danger, William is on his own. For the first time in his life, he’ll have to trust in his heart instead of his head.

 

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