MARSHALL - For her first book, California author Rayme Waters decided to tackle a tough subject, addiction to methamphetamines.
But the novel is also about how one overcomes that addiction, she said.
Waters will read from her debut novel, "The Angels' Share" at 7 p.m. Monday in Charter Hall 201 at Southwest Minnesota State University. She will also do a reading at noon Monday at the Marshall-Lyon County Library.
Waters was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Dzanc Best of the Web Award.
"Angels' Share" is about a recovering methamphetamine addict named Cinnamon Monday who rebuilds her life while she works at a small Sonoma County winery. Waters describes her main character as a "fighter."
"Although she's a recovering methamphetamine addict, it was important to me she wasn't a victim," Waters said. "Sometimes her feistiness gets her into trouble but ultimately it saves her."
Growing up, Waters said she knew some smart, great kids who had trouble with drugs and with her novel, she wanted to create an addict that everyone who read it would recognize as "that good kid they knew."
"The world of addiction, especially for young adults, is never black and white and small decisions, less than ideal family circumstances and a little bad luck can be a very deep hole to dig out of," she said.
Waters grew up in an agricultural community, which like many other rural areas, saw an explosion of meth use in the late 1980s and 1990s.
"Childhood friends who have struggled with addiction inspired me to do some research on meth production and addiction, then my imagination took over," she said. "Methamphetamine addiction is so ravaging to the body, mind and soul, writing about (it) was heartbreaking. There are some passages in the novel that were very hard to get down on the page."
There's a little bit of a story behind the title of her novel, Waters said. The wine-perfume air you smell when you tour a winery or go into a wine shop, which is caused by the evaporation of wine through the bottle's cork, is called the angels' share.
"I heard tales that the term harkens back to a time when the winemakers thought guardian angels oversaw the process of turning grape juice into sacramental wine," she said. "Because Cinnamon's life is literally saved on a vineyard and is working as a 'cellar rat,' she is able to gain confidence in herself and her trajectory in life she is like those wine molecules - bouncing around until she finds her way up."
Getting a debut novel published is hard work, especially if you're not a "known" author, Waters said.
"I wish I could say it has been nothing but fun, but honestly, each stage of the process has been a challenge. What makes it all worthwhile is when I hear form a reader who was moved by the novel," she said.
When she has an idea for a story, it won't leave her alone, Waters said, that it's like a hungry child that keeps tugging on her sleeve until she pays attention.
"I enjoy getting my ideas down and seeing them develop and often merge into a larger, richer tale. Most importantly, I want to delight people with my stories. When I get good feedback, it charges my creative batteries," she said. Waters is at work on her second book, which is a young adult novel about a 15-year-old who moves from San Francisco to a wealthy suburb that she discovers is under a curse.
Waters said she wants readers of "The Angels' Share" to leave the last scene of the novel with the knowledge that Cinnamon's spirit has triumphed over adversity.
"I also hope they have laughed a few times in the book, it's a huge compliment to be called funny," she said. "Writing something that makes your reader chuckle is at least as hard if not harder to bring tears."
Waters said her goal is to connect with readers.
"Even though this novel takes place in northern California," she said. "The 'Angels' Share' is about universal experiences and themes that I believe will resonate strongly with readers in Minnesota and beyondAs E.M. Forster says, 'only connect.'"