September 8, 2011

Guest Post by Jennifer Castle (The Beginning of After Blog Tour)

"Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: it’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy. One part of your life unyokes from the other."

Before and After: First Apartment 

The Beginning of AfterMy first apartment was a huge two-bedroom in the San Fernando Valley that I shared with a friend from New York. We had both just landed in California and although neither of us had a job yet, we couldn’t resist this fabulous bachelorette pad with a wet bar, high ceilings, and walk-in closets. We pictured a glamorous Sex and the City West kind of life.

We had no money to decorate, so we scavenged what we could from yard sales; for months we had dining room chairs but no table. When I think of that apartment, all I can remember is the wide expanses of blank walls and beige carpet, waiting for something to fill them. We were waiting too…to be able to eat at restaurants, to go new-clothes shopping, to sleep on a bed instead of a moldy futon on the floor. I used to lie out at our building’s pool wearing headphones, but not turn on the music so I could eavesdrop on the other residents who seemed to have all the things I didn’t yet.

Even after I started temping at film studios, I was barely making enough for rent. I would buy Lipton Noodles & Sauce for dinner and pack turkey-and-mustard-but-mostly-mustard sandwiches for lunch. When my shampoo bottle got low, I’d mix in water until there was nothing left, and then get depressed that I finally had to break down and spend five bucks on a new one.

Before that apartment, I’d never known what it was like to really struggle for the basics in life. I’d grown up mostly comfortably with parents who hid their money woes. I had no idea what it was like to count every quarter you spend and go without things you needed simply because you just didn’t need them enough.

Eventually, I got a real job that allowed me to eat better and live without the sick “how am I going to pay for that?” feeling under my skin. But after, I was different about money -- in other words, I wasn’t an idiot about it. That level of broke-ness still haunts me. It was the one time in my life that I really had nothing, and I’m glad I had that nothing. Because since then, even the smallest something still seems fantastically huge.

Jennifer Castle graduated from Brown University and worked as a celebrity publicist's assistant, an advertising copywriter, and a struggling screenwriter (yes, that's an actual job) before falling into a niche producing websites for kids and teens. The Beginning of After is her first novel. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in New York's Hudson Valley. Visit her at

Next Stop: Monday, September 12: The Story Siren

1 comment:

  1. The quote from the book is awesome and learning about Castle's struggle makes that quote into an even more meaningful. Definitely want to read more. Thanks for the post.


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