Guest Post – Michelle Kemper Brownlow Talks Abuse, Music, and Writing

The White House has deemed sexual assault an epidemic on college campuses and over the last few weeks has started a nationwide movement to bring awareness to what is happening under everyone’s nose.
80% of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows and in Gracie’s case, it’s her boyfriend, Noah.


“For this to be a debut novel just absolutely amazed me. I was completely captivated and blown away. Michelle Kemper Brownlow has written one hell of a book and I am seriously in LOVE. Look out folks because I am telling you, this one will be moving up, up, up until it reaches the top.” – Brooke Hunter, True Story Book Blog

Last year, Michelle Kemper Brownlow’s debut novel, IN TOO DEEP, was released and Gracie’s story of abuse, friendship, true love, and the healing power of music was brought to life and hit Amazon best-selling status immediately.


Authors will tell you that they are personally connected to their characters as if they were real people. Well, Gracie is as real as they get for me. And, every day I’m humbled by the attention our story has gotten. I say “our” story because Gracie and I have a lot in common. I’ve always taught my own children and the teen girls I mentor that “a positive always comes out of a negative” and that’s the reason I wanted to share Gracie’s story…I want her to help you find the positive in your negative.
There’s one part in the series where Gracie says, “I had to go through Hell to know how beautiful Heaven was.” These were words I’d spoken on more than one occasion when talking about my own story of emotional abuse at the hand of my college boyfriend.
Throughout my life I’ve had people say, “You should write a book!” And my answer was always, I don’t have the patience or attention it would take to work out a story longer than a couple pages. Well, I proved myself wrong two years ago when I was reading through an old college journal. The evidence of abuse in that journal wrecked me on that day. I saw my former relationship much differently than I ever had. I wasn’t just in a reckless, intense relationship…I was being abused. I hit rock bottom that day and wrestled with some pretty big demons.
When life throws me a curve-ball, I self-medicate with music and that’s exactly what I did that day. After a long shower trying to calm myself down and deal with the triggers that sent me into a full-on PTSD reaction, I lay on my bed with Pearl Jam’s TEN album blaring.
The song DEEP came on and I heard it like it was brand new…I knew the words by heart, I’d been singing them for twenty years, but on that specific day they really reached out and shook me.

on the edge
ponders his maker
ponders his will
to the street below
he just ain’t nothin’
but he’s got a great view…

on the edge
know-nothin’ town
feelin’ quite superior
the aged come
to the sky above
he just ain’t nothin’
but he’s got a great view…

on the edge of a
christmas clean love
young virgin from heaven
to the man above her
she just ain’t nothin’…
she doesn’t like the view
doesn’t like the view
doesn’t like the view…
but he sinks himself deep.

can’t touch the bottom
in too deep
can’t touch the bottom

can’t touch the bottom
in too deep
can’t touch the bottom

can’t touch the bottom
in too deep
can’t touch the bottom
can’t touch the bottom

And it was the repeated chorus at the end that gutted me. It’s exactly what I felt like while I was going through the hell of that relationship and it’s what I felt like at that very moment trying to shake the feeling of brokenness and heartache all those years later.
In my mind, a writer’s mind, I began to describe what it would feel like to drown. I hopped up off my bed and grabbed a pencil and paper and began to write. This is what I wrote those minutes after Eddie Vedder’s voice spoke something brand new to me…

“The strong force of the wave pulled me under. I gasped for air just before my face disappeared below the surface. My body rolled over and over, my arms flailed, and my head pounded into the sea bed which felt like a concrete floor. The salty water stung my eyes. I forced myself to keep them open, fearing I would slip into unconsciousness from the blow I took to the head. I knew I had to hold it together long enough for the swell to pull me back up when the wave rolled. But something was pulling me deeper. I fought with all my might, kicking against the thick water swallowing me whole. I used my arms like underwater oars and sliced through the depths trying to reach what I needed most, but I was in too deep.”

And with that Gracie, Noah, Jake and the entire cast of the IN TOO DEEP series were born. I wrote the whole novel in thirty days and proved myself wrong. When a story grabs ahold of your heart as violently as this one, you don’t need to worry about becoming distracted and not finishing it. It will eat you alive until you’ve set it free.

While writing the series and seeing a therapist of my own, I uncovered some more of my own story that I’m still working through. But, sharing this journey with Gracie has given me strength to deal with whatever will be thrown my way in my recovery process. Gracie and I…and so many others… are survivors and the positive out of this, probably the biggest negative of my life, is the response I’ve gotten from readers who are survivors. Gracie’s story has touched so many young women in ways I could only have dreamed and I will forever be grateful for that one day…just me and my journal.

The IN TOO DEEP series will forever have a special place in my heart and the characters within its pages are real to me…very real. Although this is a work of fiction, as writers we are taught to write what we know. I tried to keep the structure and the cycle of abuse as real and accurate as I could. And Gracie’s story is not an easy read, you’ll want to shake her, yell at her and knock some sense into her. But through her story you will gain an understanding of the psychological break down of a victim and you will see why it’s so hard to leave an abusive relationship. It’s as real as it gets in this series. It was tough to write, to put myself back into that dark place to be able to summon the demons I needed to hit Gracie with but the outcome is an authentic peek inside the life of an emotional abuse victim.

But, don’t worry, Gracie’s story has a happy ending – the positive that comes out of the negative. You will see Gracie’s healing process in ON SOLID GROUND and you’ll also get to know a beautiful soul named Calon Ridge. Yes, he’s the dreamy rock star we all fantasize about. But, like all of the characters in this series, he’s based on a real person, someone I knew a long time ago.

And you’ll fall even deeper in love with Calon as his story continues in ABOVE THE NOISE.

It’s been a crazy ride, three books out in twelve months. But I wouldn’t change a single thing. And I’m a third of the way through my first book that is NOT in any way related to Gracie and I’m loving it.

I hope, if you read the series, you will let me know what you think as you read!

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A big thank you to Michelle for stopping by today for this very personal guest post. If you haven’t yet read the In Too Deep series, then I would strongly suggest it. Each book is filled with so much intense emotion, and they just get better – and sexier – as the series goes on.



IN TOO DEEP (#1) – Out Now!
Goodreads | UK eBook | US eBook

ON SOLID GROUND (#2) – Out Now!
Goodreads | UK eBook | US eBook

ABOVE THE NOISE (#3) – Out June!
Goodreads | UK eBook | US eBook



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