Spotlight: Dysfunction Junction by April Erwin
Today, Out of Control Characters welcomes April Erwin, with her book, Dysfunction Junction. I've known April for many, many years, and helped her with the critique process on this book during this time. It's a wonderful story for those of us who are a bit larger than others, and about finding a good relationship!
Dream big, be bold, no fear! April Erwin is the author of humorous and inspirational contemporary stories that reflect her faith and the life motto created with her sister and best friend. A lifelong resident of Independence, MO, April loves living in her hometown surrounded by family and her Cocker Spaniel, Buddy. Raised in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, she's thrilled to achieve her dream to become a writer and use that to witness of her Christian faith. She holds an Associate in Graphological Science, the study of handwriting analysis, tutors dyslexic and reading challenged individuals, enjoys photography, is a singer/songwriter and records original music with her sister, Angel. Dysfunction Junction is her second published novel.
I was a nerd! LOL. I loved school and couldn’t wait for it to start each year. I was also very shy around new people. Thankfully, I attended a very small private Christian school where I knew everyone, so there was seldom a problem. I was the peace maker and friend to the friendless. Mom always encouraged that. Sometimes that was hard and I didn’t enjoy it much, but I knew what it was like to be teased and not always accepted. I was always chubby and although intelligent, often naïve. I didn’t like to see others go through that too.
From Kindergarten through 6th grade I attended Eagle Hills, a two room trailer that sat beside our church. There were no more than 3 teachers, each handling about 3 grades. I can say I know what a one room school house was like.
When the school shut down, my teacher recommended I skip the 7th grade. There was a new Christian private school being set up, but it wasn’t quite ready yet. I chose to Homeschool my 8th and 9th grade years. In 1992 Center Place Restoration School opened in Independence, MO and I was the first student enrolled.CPRS was K-12 and was a 3 story building. There were lockers, rotating classes and a teacher for every subject. I was petrified I would get lost. After attending for the first week I had to laugh at how ridiculous that idea was. It was bigger than my trailer school – but not disorienting! J
I loved my 3 years in CPRS, uniforms and all. I was involved with choir, drama and Student Council all three years, taking the role of President my senior year. I still do all I can to support and promote my alma mater. They’re a great school.
Kianna is unique in a lot of ways – she’s twenty-six and never been kissed. She struggles with self-image issues due to her size and she’s just about given up hope on real love because of all the failed relationships she sees around her. On the other hand, those same things are what I hope also makes her identifiable to the reader.
One thing that makes Kianna unique is her willingness to take a leap of faith into the unknown. She agrees to pursue those things that scare her and in the process learns a lot about herself and life.
What is your favorite quote?
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” - Albert Einstein
What’s your happiest childhood memory?
Family vacations when we would all pile in the car and drive three and a half hours south to visit Branson, Missouri. The Ozark Mountains are beautiful and so peaceful. Our grandparents lived nearby as well. We’d watch ‘Shepherd of the Hills’ performed live in an outdoor amphitheatre, enjoy country music and gospel shows and visit the theme park just to name a few things. A big part of the fun was the car ride itself when we 5 kids and Mom and Dad would all sing songs together to kill time. Everything from oldies to hymns and camp songs – it’s still the best part of a road trip.
“Kianna, you have such a pretty face, honey.” Miss Bertha examines me as she leans on her tennis ball capped walker.
“If only you could lose weight.” Reaching out, she pats my ample tummy.
My mouth turns to cotton. Oh, no she didn’t!
I want so bad to respond, but words fail me. Heat creeps up my neck and floods my cheeks. Tears sting the back of my eyes as I glance around the church hall to see if anyone noticed this mortifying exchange.
“You know, a pretty girl like you could have any man she wanted if she took care of herself.” Miss Bertha squints her eyes, as if she’s analyzing the amount of effort it would take to make me truly suitable. “Your blonde hair and brown eyes are actually attractive.”
Actually attractive…I’m not sure if that counts as a compliment.
“I’m sure you’re right.” I mumble, clamping my mouth shut on what I want to say—you mean old biddy!
Miss Bertha shuffles forward and for a moment, her skirt looks like it is harboring a pack of wrestling puppies. And she thinks I need to lose weight? Isn’t that like the hippo calling the elephant fat?
I look for something to distract the nosy busybody. It’s Sunday night at Christ’s Covenant Restoration Branch, my church home since I was a baby. I thought a missionary service would be the one place I was safe.
Wrong. I wish Jason was here. My best friend since childhood, Jason Payne is like the big brother I never had. He always knows what to say or do to make a situation better, but he’s out of town and I’m on my own.
“Did you enjoy the missionary slides?” I ask, as the line moves again.
I want nothing more than to run away, but it would only give her more ammo. I hear her walker click as she moves forward a step with me.
“Oh, yes. The last set especially touched my heart. Jim is such an angel to be ministering to all those children in Africa. Brings tears to my eyes.” The fore-mentioned drops slide out and ride the wrinkled crevices in her cheeks.
Jim Noble is the hottest missionary I’ve ever laid eyes on. He also happens to be the sweetest. He attended the same church youth events with Jason and me for years and we all stayed good friends. That was before Jim grew into his ears and before his family moved to the mission field. It doesn’t matter. He’s not interested in me romantically. To him, I’m a friend. Like I am to every other male I know.
“He is a good man.” I agree. “I think it’s amazing how God is working in the communities over there.”
Her head wobbles in agreement. “Too bad he doesn’t have a wife to help him. He’s such a catch; I can’t imagine why he isn’t married yet. I told him so too, tonight.”
I bet you did. “I’m sure he’s waiting for the right person.”
I see Jim across the fellowship hall and feel a stab of sympathy. No one leaves a conversation with Miss Bertha unscathed.
“You might find he’d look your way if you slimmed down.” She eyes my hips and raises an eyebrow.
I bite my tongue. Oh, Lord. Get me out of here before I say something terrible.
“Pardon me, Miss Bertha. I see someone I need to speak to.”
I slide out of the refreshment line and speed walk across the room, ignoring the surprised and probably hurt look aimed at my back. Remembering the wrestling puppies, I slow down and fight the urge to smooth my shirt down over the back of my slacks.
Heaven help me, but I can’t take anymore of Miss Bertha’s supposedly helpful advice. I’m fat and I know it, but patting my tummy in the middle of a packed social hall is about the rudest thing I’ve experienced yet. Following it up with an attempt at conditional matchmaking, well, that’s par for the course.
A crowd still surrounds Jim, but he sees me, and waves. I’m surprised he notices me. I return his smile and wave back. Several of the women look surprised at the exchange. I can see the wheels turning in their heads, and after getting Bertha-d, I can’t bring myself to go over there.
Not that any of them would be hurtful. It’s just the opposite. Some of the women think being single is the only requirement for a successful relationship and they will push me toward anything with testosterone and a bare ring finger.
Chicken. I kick myself for letting Miss Bertha’s comments bother me so much, but they’re hard to ignore —mostly because, despite her tactless delivery, she’s right.
Walking to my car, late August heat billows off the black top like a humid oven. I pull open the car door and slide behind the wheel. My cell phone vibrates from the seat beside me. I pull the phone out of my purse and check the caller ID.
“Hi, Jason, I’m glad you called.”
“Miss me?” His deep voice echoes with humor and immediately brings lightness to my heart.
“Are you crying?”
“No.” I hesitate, “Not anymore.” I can’t lie to Jason.
“What happened?” He waits patiently in silence while I pull my thoughts together.
“Honestly, I got Bertha-d and I’m really emotional right now.” I give him a brief outline of the night’s events.
“I wish I could be there with you. I’m sorry I’m going to miss your birthday, but as soon as I’m back, I’m all yours.”
“Thank you, Jase.” I lean back into the head rest and close my eyes. “I’m feeling a bit better already.”
We say our goodbyes and I drop the phone back into my bag.
I feel calmer, but the questions and insecurities are still there. Jesus, If you have a plan to show me, now would be a good time.
Kianna Ravencamp is twenty-six and never been kissed. That’s about to change…
Finding true love these days feels impossible, only dysfunction surrounds her. Her sister’s married to an abusive husband and marriages she’s admired for years are falling apart. Maybe relationships like her parent’s don’t exist anymore. She dreams of true love and a family, but she’s never even been kissed.
For her birthday, her best friend gives her a journal and dares her to follow her dream of songwriting and vocal lessons quickly follow. Kianna’s finally dared to dream big… if the three men in her life don’t get in her way.
Nick Steele, her new vocal partner is flirtatious and charming. Derek Simpson, the new vocal coach is asking her out for coffee. Even Jason Payne, a childhood friend is acting odd. For the first time in her life, she will have to navigate dating and flirtation. Will her inexperience be her downfall? How will these relationships affect her songwriting career? Letting go and trusting God is the only answer that brings the path to real love and success.
You can purchase Dysfunction Junction at Museit Up Publishing: