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About the author:
S.E. Campbell is a bestselling author who published her first book at seventeen. Now, along with working with Richard Turke on the Visible Scars series, she is also writing the books for the feature film franchise, Jezebeth. Her novels, Specimen X, Specimen Y, and Specimen Z, are being made into movies by SGL Entertainment. She is the published author of The Bloodstone Trilogy, number four Amazon bestseller How to Get Dirt, and Tasting Silver. She is currently twenty-two years old.
What inspired you to write your book?
I love romance. I noted there was no alligator shifter YA books, so I wrote one!
Here is a short sample from the book:
Sixteen-year-old November Gray stared out the bus window, watching the world woosh by. In the distance, she could make out a massive charcoal colored building with a steeple on top that looked more like a church than a school. She had read in the brochure that back in the early 1900’s, the building had been used as a convent. It sure looked like one now.
Nervously, November reached for her violin case, as she always did whenever she was anxious about something. Whenever she played the violin, it was a wonderful release as if her soul was floating from her body and there was nothing to hold her down. She wished she could take her instrument out and play, but that would come soon enough. After shivering and wrapping her arms around herself, she tore her eyes away from her violin and glanced down the near empty bus. Only two other students were inside, chattering. The bus driver pulled to the side of the road. She glanced out the door and saw that the school was still a small distance away.
“This is it,” the bus driver said, glancing in the rearview window. “St. Gabrielle’s Academy.”
“Oh.” November bent down and grabbed her violin case, then she pulled her backpack over her shoulder. “Right.”
Shivering, November walked down the aisle of the bus, then pulled her backpack further up her shoulder. The two other students who walked behind her drew in close, so she quickened her pace. People had always made her nervous, no matter where she was. Now was no different. When November stumbled off the metal steps of the bus and stepped to the side of the road so the two other students could pass her, she was surprised and horrified that they both stopped too.
Both students were girls, which shouldn’t have surprised her considering it was an all-girls school, and both had on plaid skirts and starched white blouses. One had her charcoal hair up in a ponytail and the other had platinum hair running down her back.
“Hi,” the blonde girl said, glancing at her curiously. “I haven’t seen you around before. Are you new?”
Nervously, November nodded her head and gulped.
“School started a week ago.” The brown haired girl had a nasally voice that sounded as though she spoke while holding her breath. “Why weren’t you here already?”
November glanced at the massive school. “I went to a music camp this summer. I had to finish a set of performances before I went here. The school gave me special permission to come a week late.”
The blonde girl’s mouth dropped open, revealing perfect teeth and breath that smelled of mint gum.
“You’re her,” the blonde girl said. “The exchange student I heard about. You won a whole bunch of awards for your violin playing. They gave you a special scholarship.”
“Only because her family was too poor to afford for her to attend,” the brown haired girl muttered under her breath.
Heat filled November’s cheeks. Everything these two said were correct, but she was embarrassed that it had gone around the school already. Then, suddenly, she remembered. The day after her acceptance to the school, the newspaper had taken her picture and had written a headline about her. ‘Toronto Violin Prodigy to Attend St. Gabrielle’s Academy of Music.’ She hadn’t thought anybody would care to remember the article, but apparently, people had. If she suddenly lost one leg, she wouldn’t have been thrown more off balance.
She struggled to find something to say that would clear up the silence, but all she could come up with was, “My name is November Gray.”
“I’m Cindy Joy,” said the blonde. “This is Kimberly Knight.”
Kimberly nodded at her, but she did not smile. When November walked toward the school with her violin case in hand, the two girls fell in stride beside her. She suddenly remembered the words of her mom, Annabelle, the day she had left for Toronto. “Don’t cry, sweetie. When you go, you’ll make lots of new friends and forget all about missing it here. I love you, but you can’t waste talent like yours.” Maybe her mom was right, but November felt a pang of homesickness stronger than ever at the thought of the snowcapped mountains of Canada and afternoon hockey games. Cindy and Kimberly both appeared so prim and proper, way different than the world she had grown up in where she wore a perpetual messy ponytail and never changed out of jeans.
“So are you excited to be here?” Cindy asked, grinning broadly. “I’m so glad that Kim and I decided to head to town when we did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten to meet you before the pack set in.”
The pack? Like a pack of wolves? November thought, gulping nervously. “I miss home. I’ve never been away from my mom before. The two of us were really close.”
For a fleeting moment, November remembered sitting with her mom beneath the limbs of a great pine, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate.
“Really?” Cindy’s mouth dropped open as if missing parents was the oddest thing in the world. “My parents have been sending me away to boarding school since I was five. They’re busy people.”
November paused, wondering if her mom had just been insulted. Her mom was busy too being a night-nurse and a single mom to both her and her brother, Kevin.
“I see.” November nodded.
“Of course, it all depends on who you’re rooming with.” Cindy’s voice was chirpy and high-pitched. “Luckily, I get to be with Kim. Who were you assigned to?”
After the rush of changes she had undergone lately, it was hard to recall even her own name, let alone her roommate’s. Plus, as much as she loved the violin and played well, her memory was subpar. She strained to remember the girl. It started with a B…No, a G…Gammy? Suddenly, she remembered it. Gabby. Her roommate’s name was Gabby Harrison.
“Gabby Harrison,” November said.
Cindy groaned and Kimberly cackled into her hand. Immediately, November felt as though somebody had dropped an ice cube down her shirt.
“Is something wrong with her?” November asked worriedly.
“She’s just the weirdest girl here.” With a grin, Cindy exchanged knowing glances with Kimberly. “I heard she steals stuff. And she always wears black outside of class. She also clips this awful blue strip in her hair and listens to scream-o music. I bet she cuts herself, too.”
Both girls fell silent as if expecting November to have something to say. November let out a shaky sigh and glanced at the school which loomed ever closer.
“I see,” November said dumbly, knowing it was a bad answer but not sure what else there was to say about it.
Silence fell as the two of them rounded a corner and November got her first glance of St. Gabrielle’s Academy up close for the first time. She gasped and then came to a pause. Two black steel gates guarded the front of what appeared to be massive school grounds. A tall grey building with wooden double-doors sat in view of the fence. Beyond that was a church with a large chapel at the top. There was a large, industrial type building that appeared newer than the rest because of the state of the bricks. November though those must have been the dorms. Suddenly, she found it hard to breathe. She was going to be living here for the next three years? The building was beautiful, but she thought it appeared cold and lonely. North Carolina was different than Toronto in so many ways.
“A bit small, isn’t it?” Cindy said. “My last school was much bigger. Here, there are only about two hundred fifty students all together.”
The student body was small, but the massive feelings in her heart weren’t.
“You okay?” Cindy stared at her as if contemplating whether she was slow. Kimberly snorted at the expression on her face.
If I could handle an auditorium filled with ten thousand people, then I can handle a boarding school. November squared her shoulders, but toughening herself up felt as hard as smashing herself in the forehead with a hammer. While gritting her teeth and clutching her violin, she approached the double-gates behind Cindy and watched the girl turn the handle. Cindy stepped inside, then almost let the door slam on November’s nose before she luckily managed to catch it.
When November stepped on the cobble-stone street, she glanced around. A garden filled with dying flowers was to the right. A single, stooped man bent over it, patting at dark brown dirt that looked moist from a recent rain. It smelled of wet earth. She saw students’ heads in the window in the big building right in front of her and saw that all of the girls held string instruments. For the first time since she had arrived, her anxiety was batted away by the excitement of having fifty percent of her school day involve music. That was the whole point of the academy, after all. Music and learning from the best.
“Hey, look.” Cindy elbowed her. “You can actually smile. I was starting to think that you couldn’t.”
November slapped her hand to her face as if smiling was a crime. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Cindy paused. “There is twenty minutes before dinner. Where do you need to go? I could show you.”
The kindness Cindy showed her made her heart become warm. “I was told to go to the office to check in.”
“No problem.” With a grin, Cindy tossed a look over her shoulder. “Hey, Kim, do you want to come?”
As if Cindy had asked if she wanted to tackle wild rhinoceroses, Kimberly shook her head and scowled. “No way. Do what you want, but I’m heading back to the dorms.”
After Kimberly stormed away, Cindy shook her head and smirked.
“Ignore her. Kim’s always been that way.” As if they were the best of friends, Cindy grabbed November’s arm. “Well, come on.”
Feeling put-off because of the infringement of her personal space, November followed Cindy through the double-doors and down three large hallways with old floors. The whole building smelled of old stone. Aged paintings covered the walls, most of them depicting biblical scenes or young girls. Cindy led November toward a door that said ‘office’ over the top, then she paused by it.
“Well, I think Mrs. Roads is going to want you alone.” Cindy leaned in close as if to whisper a great secret. “She’s an old bat, if you ask me. I don’t want anything to do with her. But I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? I’m so glad that you came here.”
Before November could say another word, Cindy whirled around and skipped down the hallway. November stared after her, then tucked a strand of bright red hair behind her ear. Her breathing was ragged and her vision spun. She felt as though she had been swept up by Cindy’s pace, and she wasn’t sure that she liked it. With a frown, November entered the office. Once inside, there was no going back.