Clovis High grad's new book explores life in reality TV

The Fresno BeeFebruary 1, 2014 

Heather Demetrios


Authors find inspiration in a lot of places. For Clovis High School graduate Heather Demetrios, the spark for her new novel, "Something Real" (Henry Holt and Co., $17.99), came from reality television star Kate Gosselin.

"A couple of years ago I saw a People magazine that had a story about Kate Gosselin and her eight kids. I've always had an issue with reality TV," Demetrios says. "So I began to think about, what if you were a teenage girl where everyone could download your life. How crazy it would be growing up in that world."

That idea became a young-adult novel about 17-year-old Bonnie Baker, who along with her 12 siblings, stars in the reality show "Baker's Dozen." In the wake of the show's cancellation and a scandal surrounding it, the teen tries to live a normal life. That fails when the reality show goes back on the air.

Demetrios had the unpleasant task of watching a few reality programs as research for the book. She had to catch up with the popular genre because, since her high school graduation in 2001, she has traveled the world. She's gone from studying theater at USC to visiting the Ukraine (when "Survivor" launched) to teaching English in South Korea.

"When I watched 'Jon & Kate Plus 8,' I got very angry. It seems like every book I write, I'm angry about something," Demetrios says with a laugh.

She has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she says it was this book that got her on the publishing fast-track. Along with "Something Real" — available at local bookstores and online starting Tuesday — her next book, "Exquisite Captive," a fantasy about jinn — characters in Arab and Muslim folklore — set in Los Angeles, will be released later this year. It's the first of a "Dark Caravan" fantasy trilogy.

And she's working on a love story about a young combat veteran and a girl trapped in their small town, both struggling to escape the war at home.

Demetrios says the key to breaking into the young-adult genre is finding ideas that have not already been used in hundreds of other books. There have only been a couple of books written using a reality show theme and the jinn have gotten even less attention.

Demetrios says her passion for writing was fanned by David Menendian, her Advanced Placement composition and journalism teacher at Clovis High. The dedication in the book reads, "For Menendian, who taught me how to write. And for Zach, who always believed I could."

Demetrios always knew she could write, but it was Menendian who pushed her to dig deeper and to work harder.

"He took writing very seriously and had high expectations for us. He's the first person to say to me that I was a good writer but could be better," Demetrios says. "He was always very passionate when he talked about books."

Now, the author wants to pass on some of that passion to young writers. She knows what it's like to think getting a book published is impossible and how discouraging that can be. Her hope is that young potential authors see that she is just "a normal person who went to Clovis High" and realized that the only way a dream to write becomes truly impossible is to not try.

More books of local interest

"Cow without Tail" (Dorrance Publishing Co., $38): Fresno's Godwin Boswell Akubue looks at what connects the Igbo people of Nigeria — customs, beliefs, genealogy, etymology, etc. — to their brethren of the past after the Diaspora, which drove 10 out of the 12 tribes of Israel out of the Holy Land.

He looks at evidence from books, publications, speeches and works of other people who believe the Igbo of Nigeria are descendants of the Jews.

It's available at

"Infantry Lieutenant" (Pacifica Military History, $16): Clovis resident Gid B. Adkisson III recounts how his father found himself transported from the family farm in West Texas to the battlefields of Europe during World War II. The book is based on the war stories his father told him, plus accounts from those who served with him.

You can find it at

"State of Rebellion" (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $11.69): The third book in Summer Lane's "Collapse Series" has been released. It continues the story of 20-year-old Cassidy Hart and her fight for survival in post-apocalypse America.

The 20-year-old Reedley resident has had thousands of articles published on a variety of topics and writes for her website, Writing Belle. Her first two books — "State of Emergency" and "State of Chaos" — made the list of best-selling books at

Also …

John Dear will discuss nonviolence and his new book, "The Nonviolent Life," at 7 p.m. Thursday at the St. Paul Newman Center, 1572 E. Barstow. A book signing will follow.

Dear, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has organized and participated in nonviolent campaigns for more than three decades.

He's been arrested 75 times in acts of civil disobedience against war and injustice.

Admission is free but donations are welcomed.


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at

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