Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm Not Afraid. To Take A Stand

I’m a fan of Eminem. I can’t resist him for reasons that are probably buried deep in my soul. (or not so deep depending on the day) It’s weird. I mean, you wouldn’t think I’m exactly his target audience. (forty*cough* something me and all) On the other hand, maybe I am. 
I’m a mom. And he always expresses deep love for his kids, (albeit not always appropriately). He’s angry.  I may or may not have anger issues of my own.  
Anyhow, to me Eminem is incredibly conflicted. He has obvious talent, guts and ambition but seems to fight an incredible self-sabotaging gene. As if he’s afraid he doesn’t deserve the good things that happen to him, so every now and then he has to f*(K up to balance it out.
But I love him. Despite that or perhaps because of that. Even with his potty mouth. Maybe it truly is a mothering instinct. Or maybe it’s my writer’s instinct. He would make an amazing character in a Janet Gurtler book.
For a couple of weeks I’d been wondering what to write when it came my turn to blog about what YA Outside the Lines means to me. Then it hit me. On the treadmill. At the gym. Eminem’s song came on. I’m Not Afraid To take a Stand  
“Holler if feel like you’ve been down the same road.” Eminem
Well. I have been you crazy rapper, you.  And I realized for me, that’s where the core of my writing comes from.
My characters always come with a fair amount of baggage, because to me, that’s truth. Everyone has issues. Or challenges. No one’s life is as perfect as it may seem on the surface to others looking on. Everyone has things they try to hide from the world. Maybe the pretty cheerleader has a dad who drinks too much. Or a bi-polar mother. The bully. Well. What’s bugging him?
The lines of acceptability are blurry to teens. What’s acceptable to adults and what’s acceptable in the world teens live in may not always be congruent. Teenage years are about trying desperately to fit in and find one’s place in the world, but also trying to define who we are and how we can escape the roles and expectations heaped on us by ourselves, our family and society in general.
So I write about the things I think teens deal with in one way or another. Things I struggled with. Addiction in myself and those around me. Health issues. Self-destructive inclinations. People making mistakes.

Sometimes I’ve really wished I could, and I’ve even tried to write “inside the lines.” Or what some people might consider acceptable. Fun, light stories! (which I am in no way putting down or saying are not wonderful books that I enjoy reading-- they just don’t flow from my soul)
But as light as I try to go, my characters always seem to reveal flaws in themselves or those around them. Things outside the acceptable lines. Drugs. Sex. Infidelity. Anger vs. pride, self-loathing vs. overconfidence. People don’t always do the right thing.
And yet. In the end, like Eminem, (in his own messed up way) I hope my writing is not hopeless, rather hopeful.  Some of my characters may fall outside the lines of what some people consider acceptable, yet outside the lines of acceptable behaviour is often where people find themselves. To me the beauty is finding the strength to come back.  
Janet Gurtler, Author of  I'M NOT HER, Sourcebooks, April 2011
“I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.”
“I’m not afraid. To take a stand.”
Eminem

Janet Gurtler

I'M NOT HER, Sourcebooks Fire, April 2011

11 comments:

  1. Hi Janet :)
    Thank you for the wonderful personal post.
    All the best,
    RKCharron

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  2. The fact that you're writing about what's NOT acceptable, is what makes you so much acceptable as a writer who speaks her mind.
    Anyway, these are the kinds of books that have given me hope. The ones that fall beyond the 'accepted' norms.

    Looking forward to 'I'm Not Her'. Great title.

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  3. Love this. I am an Eminem fan also (at forty something). I often write about deeply flawed characters. No one is perfect and if our characters were, they wouldn't be very interesting. :)

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  4. Thanks for the comments and the title love! This is a new title, the book was formerly known as Weight of Bones! The change is still in process!

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  5. Great post, Janet! I'm a little bit (ahem) older than you & I like Eminem, too. I can't imagine writing any place except outside of acceptable lines. My teen years were very conflicted, not just personally, but societally, too (the 60's were a time of major turmoil, politically, sexually, racially - yeah - it was all there.) Of course it leaks out into one's writing - it HAS to - don't you think?

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  6. Janet, I love this post!

    I've also been giving Eminem a lot of thought as my kids love his songs. And I agree with everything you said.

    I'm taking your characterization insight and using it to think through my current WIP. Thanks for the weekend inspiration!

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  7. Janet, what a fab post! And I so hear you about Eminem, even though I'm not a big fan of his music as a whole (I'm super, super picky about rap and hip-hop), however, I think he's one of those who is really trying to say something-- to be a modern day poet or bard-- with his work, which is why I think he's endured when so many have gone by the wayside, despite his self-destructive gene. (It's like, "Marshall, man, keep it together-- you're too smart for this!")

    I also see his love for his kids-- I think the one thing that really stood out to me was in an interview, he was talking about how he doesn't allow any kind of swearing in his house, including himself. And when his kids as about his music, he says that it's for performance purposes, that he's talking about a life he's left behind. And I found that a fascinating insight. He's definitely an interesting cat--

    As for how you approach writing and your character-- characters with flaws and imperfections are infinitely more interesting than those who coast through life unscathed. Let's hear it for the Island of Misfit Toys. *g*

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  8. Great post, Janet! I love how you probe beneath the surface to see where your characters are really coming from. All those flaws and fears and the struggles we all are fighting. So many people see the outside and never think about going "in." Or are too afraid of what they might find there. Brava!

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  9. Great post, Janet! I write characters with baggage too because it is real and it's all about how you survive and deal with that baggage. Admittedly, I'm not an Eminem fan, but I bet I am going to be a big fan of yours. I can't wait to read your book!

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  10. I. Love. This. Post.

    As an adult I am living with regrets that on some days swallow me whole. If I had read authors like you when I was a teen I might have followed a different path. This is why I am such a huge advocate of authors such as yourself. If, at any moment, you doubt what you are writing, remember that there is someone out there who NEEDS to hear what you have to write. It may just mean the difference between a life of sorrow and a life of contentment. The authors that I respect the most are those who stay true to their characters, no matter where the content leads. Shed light on the difficult choices we face in our young lives and be someone's saving grace!

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  11. Lovely post. I also love Em, and I am really excited to read your book. I am a teen librarian and feel a little guilty loving Em as much as a I do, when sometimes he such a "potty mouth".

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