Daniel and Casey were an unlikely couple back in high school when they came together to write music for a school event. Struggling against their differences, they dated during college, but their relationship never seemed quite right. Yet despite their personal conflict, as songwriters they had undeniable chemistry—and several hit songs. Eventually they went their own ways, both trying to make it in the music world and find true love.
Years later, both Daniel and Casey are at rock bottom, still trying to find success. But when they connect again as old friends, they realize that what they needed was right in front of them all along: each other.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Bestselling author Travis Thrasher has written over fifty books and worked in the publishing industry for more than twenty years. His inspirational stories have included collaborations with filmmakers, musicians, athletes, and pastors. He has written fiction in a variety of genres, from love stories and supernatural thrillers to young adult series. He also has cowritten memoirs and self-help books.
Read an Excerpt
Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?
I ENTER THE ROOM to find this uncreative sack in a suit sitting there, and then I find myself thinking of Casey. This isn’t unusual, since I do it all the time, but this is one of those moments I really wish she were here. I wish she were right next to me so we could be laughing about this in about an hour. I sorta know what’s about to happen. I know that in just a few moments, I’m about to be let go as the head songwriter for The Dandee Donuts show.
Yeah, I know. There’s a reason I haven’t really told many people about my stint on Dandee Donuts. Most surely think Daniel has gone into hiding, playing his guitar and trying to finally make an album that would make the Boss smile. But no. Daniel is in isolation in Seattle, where the weather seems to match his mood.
This show makes The Wiggles look genius. No offense to The Wiggles. They really are a great show for kids, but I am not married and don’t have any kids, and after working on Dandee Donuts, I don’t want kids. I don’t want them suckered by smiling corporate zombies like this one.
Daniel, have a seat, the rather soft handshake offers.
This guy’s name is Stan Terma-something. I always think Terminal. Like terminal cancer. I know it’s not Terminal, but I can’t help thinking it. He’s my boss’s boss and only gets involved in meetings like this because my boss, Cynthia, is too weak to let anybody go or make any sort of decision.
“It’s always a rather unfortunate part of my job to have meetings like this,” Stan says to me. “We’re all about ‘rising up’ around here.”
I seriously want to throw up. He’s using part of the marketing and sales copy for kids in this meeting. “Rise up with Dandee Donuts every morning at nine on the Sprout Channel!” Sometimes I hear that commercial in my sleep as I’m paddling down a jelly-filled river on my Long John.
Really, he’s being merciful. This is like the guy coming up to the dying soldier and putting a bullet in his head.
“I spoke with Cynthia and I know she’s informed you about our change of direction.”
“I understand,” I say.
It’s strange, really.
I’ve got a stack of bills on my counter in the kitchen. And when I say stack, I mean a literal stack that can fall and decorate half the floor below. I’m behind in payments for a variety of reasons. I’m still getting paid, but this job hasn’t paid the way I thought it would. My father’s medical bills are really adding up, thanks to his awful insurance. And, well . . . the good old royalty checks haven’t come in lately.
For a second I think of Dad, and what he might have said years ago when his mind was all there and he tried convincing me this music thing wasn’t ever going to work.
Now it’s time to settle down and get a job and act like a grown-up.
In many ways, I wish he could say those very things now. It would mean the man I grew up loving to hate was still around. The figure sitting in that reclining chair in our old house—that’s not my father.
“You really have written some great songs.”
I bet nobody ever said that to Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen in that particular type of tone. Like someone sipping a soda and saying, “This is really amazing soda” in a monotone and lifeless way.
This is strange because I find it refreshing. I want to start singing myself, even though it’s been years since I finally accepted the fact that I’m not a very good singer.
“My kids still know all the lines to ‘Bizarre Love Sprinkle’.”
Trying to acquire the rights to do that song had been a nightmare, but coming up with lyrics for doughnuts arguing over what kind of sprinkles they wanted on top of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” took perhaps fifteen minutes and a bottle of wine.
“I can only take half credit for that one,” I say.
“It’s just that—I know that Cynthia and you haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye lately.”
I smile. “Yeah.”
“She told me about the argument in front of everybody.”
I nod. “Yeah.”
The meeting where I called her an absolute idiot and then proceeded to call her a few more things. This, of course, was after she rejected one of my songs by letting others make up her mind and convince her it didn’t work.
It’s a bit dark, someone said.
It’s kinda sad, someone else said.
Doughnuts aren’t sad, Cynthia said.
No, doughnuts are happy, someone else agreed.
I swear, if I have one more conversation about doughnuts, I’m going to go insane. I don’t ever want to see another doughnut in my life.
“Do you have anything to say?” Stan the Terminal Man asked.
“Do you like what you do?”
The question came out of my mouth before I could stop it.
“No, I’m not asking whether you like being employed, or the fact that you have insurance and you get a check every other week. I’m not talking about how much you get paid and what you do and don’t do and how many days you take off a year. I’m asking, do you like what you do? Did you dream of this when you were a kid?”
Stan’s attitude suddenly seems a bit more serious and stern. Maybe I’ve finally wakened this vampire from his eternal slumber.
“I’m not trying to be a pain in the butt,” I say. “Really. I just want an honest answer.”
“I’ve worked very hard to make this company what it is today, and I’m proud of the work we do. So yes, I love my job and love what it stands for and what we create.”
I think of that news report the other day that said something like half of the population is obese.
That’s what you create from this show. Happy little kids who keep munching, and then one day, they’re fifty years old but the munching hasn’t stopped and they no longer feel so Dandee.
I look him in the eyes, and it appears he’s not lying.
Along with sipping the Kool-Aid, he’s managed to eat the Dandee Donuts as well.
“I think it’s time to just call it a day,” Stan says to me. “Don’t you think?”
He’s talking down to me even though he’s really not that much older than I am.
I nod and stand up and shake that doughy hand again.
I bet he’s got cream filling in his soul.
See, this is the sort of thing that has happened to me. Every thought has a doughnut analogy.
I leave his office and close the door behind me.
I’m thirty-five years old, and the dream is officially over.
★ ★ ★
BRUCE REMINDS ME of what I really wanted to do later that night as I work my way through a six-pack of cheap beer and listen to Born to Run. This album always reminds me of my youth, when I discovered Springsteen and figured out what I wanted to do. I wanted to do that. I wanted to make soulful songs that stirred the heart and told stories. I wanted to be real. I wanted people to hear the sweat coming off those melodies.
Dad wanted me to be like my older brothers and excel in sports. But I couldn’t throw a football like Philip or hit a baseball like Jeff.
I wanted to follow my dreams, and that’s exactly what I did. Yet those dreams brought me here, to stale-doughnut land.
Yeah, I can hear you, you ghost and you demon and you angel all tied into one.
Casey knows about these dreams. We talked a lot about them. We even made a promise about them once.
I need to tell her. I need to finally tell her I can’t hold up my end of our deal.
Not that she wants to hear from me. Like, ever again. She’s moved on with her life and that’s what I should be doing with mine.
But if this is moving on, then, man, I cannot wait to see what my fortieth birthday holds for me, right, Case?
I’m talking to an imaginary Casey in my mind while I’m drinking bad beer and being reminded of real rock and roll.
I never thought I’d be such an awful failure at thirty-five. I want to say it is what it is, but I hate that saying. It was what it was, but right now, this moment, this very second that I’m thinking of Casey, really hurts.
Call Gary tomorrow and see if he has any kind of answer.
This thought is depressing, since Gary Mains is my manager in Nashville. My quasi-manager, to be honest, since I haven’t sold a song in years. I’ve been waiting for a follow-up call or e-mail from him since I sent him a CD of demo songs a few months ago.
When someone doesn’t call or e-mail after a few months, you know what the answer is.
There comes a point when everybody has to grow up and realize the dream isn’t going to happen. When the silence and the dim light of the room aren’t just a snapshot of your evening, but of your life. When the music doesn’t matter anymore and the words are no longer there. When you realize the world isn’t listening and maybe never listened to begin with.
If it’s really over, I need to tell her. I need to let her know that I broke the promise, that I broke our promise.
It’s been two years since I saw her. That doesn’t matter. I don’t know exactly where she is or what she’s doing, but that doesn’t matter either.
I need to tell her the dream is over. I need to give back a portion of my promise.
Maybe she can find something to do with it.
I’ve held it for long enough and it’s only brought me to this sad, sappy point.
I get out a notebook and start writing a letter. I don’t know any other way to get in touch with her. I’d text her if I had her number, but she changed that a long time ago. She’s not a social-network sort of gal, at least judging from the last few hundred times I searched for her on the Internet like a weirdo stalker boy. This is all I can do, this pen-to-paper sort of old-fashioned thing. I know her mother still lives in their house in Asheville, North Carolina. And last I checked, the post office still delivered letters.
After an hour and another Springsteen album and a few more beers, I’ve got a doozy of a letter. I’ve thought about telling her everything, but instead I simply say the following:
Are you gonna kiss me or not?
I fold it up and find an envelope and seal it. I’ll find the address of her mother tomorrow and will send it out.
This letter says everything I need to say. It says more than I ever could.
This is our history and our story, summed up by seven simple words.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not includes an introduction and discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
A chance meeting in the hallway at the beginning of their senior year of high school ignites a spark that initially looks like it might turn into an explosion between Daniel Winter and Casey Sparkland. But when they are paired up to write a song for extra credit in one of their classes, the reality of their chemistry is undeniable. They both have big dreams for their life that don’t involve hanging onto an unpredictable high school romance. Despite their resistance and stubbornness, they cannot outrun the memories of the music they made together. Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not? is a story of hanging onto hope and believing in second chances.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What is your favorite genre of music? Are you a country music fan? Who are some of your favorite songs/artists?
2. Who was your favorite character in the book? What attitudes or actions endeared them to you?
3. As the book opens, Daniel Winter is thirty-five years old, and life hasn’t turned out exactly like he imagined. What are some common responses you’ve observed in people when life takes a surprising or disappointing turn? Do you relate to Daniel? How has your life turned out compared to the dreams you had in high school for your future?
4. Describe the contrast between how Daniel and Casey approached hopes and plans for their future as seniors in high school. Which one do you most identify with?
5. As you read the story of Daniel and Casey’s high school romance, what do you think were the main factors that kept them from staying together?
6. On page 34, Casey says: “When your heart is broken once, it has the ability to heal. But when it’s broken twice, it vows to never allow it to happen again.” What impact do you think this vow had on Casey and her relationships, especially with men? C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
7. On page 82, Daniel says: “I wish there was a rulebook for living, a dummy’s guide for growing up and getting a clue.” Have you ever wished for a guide like this? Where have you turned for guidance and help when life has taken unexpected turns?
8. Burke and Daniel were brought up in very different circumstances and became very different people. Describe each man’s character qualities and how you imagine his life circumstances contributed to the formation of those qualities.
9. Casey’s mom is not shy about expressing her disapproval of Daniel. How did Daniel respond to her constant rejection and criticism? What do we learn about some of the root emotions that have fueled her anger? Do you think Daniel could have done anything to change her attitude toward him? When someone expresses rejection or disapproval to you, how do you respond?
10. On page 194, Daniel says: “It’s a weird thing to know you have everything you own in the back of your two-door and slightly beat-up Mazda Miata.” What emotions do you think he felt as he drove away from Seattle? Have you ever left behind one season of your life and simplified your “stuff” with no clear idea of what was next? How did things turn out?
11. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why do you think Casey and Daniel never lost hope about each other?
12. Bruce Springsteen was one of Daniel’s music heroes. Do you have a hero? If you met your hero, what would you want to ask them?
13. On page 238, Casey reflects on her life by saying: “I’ve always had a plan. Sometimes those plans have backfired…I did end up achieving my goals. It’s just the final results weren’t exactly what I thought they’d be.” Do you relate to this? How does this impact you as you think about your goals and plans?
14. In what ways does Casey follow in her mother’s footsteps in the area of relationships? What about Daniel’s similarities to his father’s choices? What ultimately allows each of them to break free of old vows and patterns? Are there vows or patterns of relating that you see in your life that you want to change?
15. On page 317, Casey says: “I want to believe you don’t have to be a twenty-something to start over again, and that maybe, possibly, life is all about starting over again, day after day after day.” What do you think? Discuss how believing in second chances can impact your perspective in the midst of unfulfilled dreams and broken relationships.