People who meet me these days think I’m sweet. (Or at least that’s what they TELL me.) Truthfully it kind of cracks me up. Not that I consider myself evil or immoral, not really, but sweet isn’t a term I’d ever use to describe to myself. I do consider myself thoughtful. Empathetic perhaps. But sweet. Hmm. I’d prefer quirky. Unique. But mostly I get nice. Sweet.
For one thing, I don’t drink. Most of the people who are in my life now have never ever seen me drunk. They don’t know how lucky there are. I make fun of it, but honestly when I did drink I became a different person. It was the dark side of my soul. I’m one of those people who has a personality make-over under the influence. And so not a good one.
But the thing about moving (and leaving some of the ghosts behind) is that most people I know now, don’t know that about me. They assume that I don’t drink because I’m a) a prude b) deeply religious c) no fun at all.
It doesn’t bother me anymore. Well that’s not true. It bothers me when everyone around me is drinking and I’m the only one who realizes that the conversation isn’t really that funny. ;) When I’m the one not drinking now, people often assume I’m boring or conservative and probably a little bit lame. But I get over it. And I really like waking up without hangovers.
But I digress. I think I find the need to explain that I am in fact, not sweet, and one way is to come clean about the drinking thing. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to contemporary teen fiction. My troubles with drinking started in my teen years. Actually you can read about it over at DearTeenMe, if you are so inclined.J
I am the type of writer (and parent) who believes that teens know dark sides. They see them or learn about them every day on the bus or in the schoolyard. I don’t believe that not talking about issues will make them go away. I want my son to be aware of some of the things he will be facing as he hits middle and high schools. Drinking. Drugs. Sex. I believe knowledge can lead to better choices. I know that there are going to be adults, parents, even teens who don’t like that these issues are in my books. Diseases. Abuse. Addiction. But I have a hard time writing any teen stories without some of the characters dealing with these issues. All the kids I knew growing up had skeletons.
The thing is, kids screw up. Not all of them do, but it happens. I’m not trying to judge and certainly not glamorize bad choices. But here’s what I believe. Teens are surrounded by harsh reality. But all teens that drink AREN’T going to end up alcoholics. The ones who have sex aren’t all going to end up pregnant or corrupt. But bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. And people usually learn to deal.
Actually one of the things I LOVE about Tess, the main character in I’M NOT HER, is that she doesn’t drink, nor does she feel she has to. She doesn’t like to lose control and I totally admire that about her. I actually like writing characters like Tess, characters who are struggling or insecure but learn to deal without abusing food or alcohol or drugs or sex. They learn to sift through and make it on their own. They find out who they are and what their strengths are over the storyline.
I love hope and the books I write usually leave most of the characters with a chance to make it, no matter what they’ve done. I like to believe even the most flawed characters have a chance to one day become boring and old and maybe even to be considered sweet by the people who meet them.