I drifted off still in my clothes, the drone of Gran’s TV like a lullaby. I
slept heavily with no dreams, with only the vision of M leaning over
me and looking into my eyes, humming, “She wants to lead the
glamorous life. Without love. . . ” I didn’t even hear the knock at the
door when Gran came to tell me that Marianne was dead.
There are two constants in Opalís life: her dadís grungy green
baseball cap, and her troubled pal, Marianne, whom Opal loves as a
best friend . . . and even more.
But nothing stays the same forever,
and like so many other unpredictable, dangerous, wild, promising
people, Marianne dies far too young.
Now Opal is faced with a reality she does not recognize, one in which
she must make her decisions alone and try to accept her tragic loss
with the help of her family.
M+O 4EVR is a poignant and daring story about growing up, realizing lifeís hard truths, and having the
courage to move on. This beautifully written first novel is at once a modern coming-of-age tale and a look
back into history, as Opal finds comfort and inspiration in the story of Hannah, a runaway slave who, like
her, struggles to discover her own path in a world that suddenly seems so strange.
Tonya Cherie Hegamin decided she would be a writer when she was eight years old.
Between then and now, she has also been a social worker, an educator, a vintage
clothing vendor, a vegan soul food caterer, and the program director of a poetry retreat.
Tonya is a graduate of Cave Canem and a native of Pennsylvania. M+O 4EVR is her
A Conversation with Tonya Hegamin
Why did you write this book?
This book was my first attempt at writing the novel I always wanted to read as a teen. I adored
plain but thoughtful characters set against a harsh and moody landscape, trying to survive and
yearning for human connection, like Jane Eyre and Pecola Breedlove (from The Bluest Eye); both
were such sad and interesting outcasts. The characters in this book called me to write them, but I
think they were born from driving through central Pennsylvania visiting family for holidays as a
kid. Those hours of thinking and dreaming out the car window while ignoring my parents fueled a
lot of my imagination. But essentially M+O 4EVR is a love story, not just romantic love but
family love and self love. Itís about loving someone despite dangerous situations, opposing
cultures, social norms, and passing time. Itís about refusing to let go of the love you have without
losing your own sense of self.
How did you become an author, and what interested you in the profession?
Iíve wanted to be a writer since I was about eight because Iíve always lost (or is it found?) myself
in books. I spent countless hours of my youth in bookstores, trying to find something that would
suck me in entirely and dare me to put it down. Some of my favorite writers for teens were
Christopher Pike, Virginia Hamilton, and Norma Klein. Iíve been a writer since then, writing
journalism, short stories, and poems, even going to college for a BA in poetry and an MFA in
writing for children.
What do you want young readers to learn from this book?
Iím totally a sappy romantic, so I want young readers to learn about unconditional love from this
book. Obviously many teens donít have home lives that exhibit unconditional love, but there are
so many true and fictional stories from the past that can help them to understand real love. The
most magical thing about life is love! There are so many obstacles facing kids today that could be
hurtled if they knew how to properly love themselves and others.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?
I guess the most important lesson I learned from this book was really just for me: I really can
write a whole novel!
When did you know the book was finished?
Actually, I never think anything is really ďdone.Ē Thereís always something I want to add or
change, from little things like revising a sentence to big stuff like adding a chapter. I think itís a
healthy part of the creative process. Nothing is perfect, especially when you work organically
without an outline, as I did with this book. Ideas are like bunnies: theyíre always multiplying.
Which was your favorite character to write?
Thatís like asking a parent to choose their favorite child! Each one is a different part of me. Iíd
have to say that I was as much in love with M as O was, but when she refused to redeem herself
(I never wanted her to be such a lost cause!) I began to love Opal more, kind of how she has to
learn to love her self, I guess. Gran was pretty fun to write, too. Hannah was the hardest because I
had to relearn how to do historical research.
Whatís the best part about being a writer?
What I love most about writing for a living is that everything around me can influence my work.
From the way the clerk at the store wears his hair to music and films, even the way a cloud
moves; anything can end up in a story. Itís also the scariest partóliving and breathing your work.
But I try to work in a way that empowers my life.