Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
I once told my wife that if I were Suzanne Collins, I'd write a prequel to The Hunger Games to tell about how Panem came to be.
No, scratch that. If I were Suzanne Collins, I'd roll around naked on a huge bed of money.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
There was a lot of good about the story--vivid details, drama, etc. But it was missing something, and there was not enough pulling the stories together. And it didn't flow as well as I would have liked. The part that worked best was the teen character's section, and it inspired me to write a whole story of a Russian-Jewish girl told in a teen's POV. The final product--Inconvenient--did not have any of the same characters as VOG, but the book served its purpose. I learned a lot from VOG--from story structure to pacing and more.
For a long time, I never thought I'd want to go back to VOG. I had no clue how to fix it or where to begin. If I were to rework it, I don't think I would be able to keep any of it, and that's always been fine with me. Lately, though, I'd been thinking about that story more and maybe seeing if I could rewrite it. Then, I read Jodi Picault's The Storyteller and had a lightbulb moment.
She wrote a multi-generational story with multiple character arcs. She also used a fairytale to pull the whole thing together. The more I read the book, the more I realized that she did with that novel what I couldn't figure out how to do with VOG. I thought I'd feel jealous, but it actually inspired me. I started to realize how to fix VOG! Right now, I'm in the middle of a few projects, but eventually I'll go back to VOG and this time, I'll be armed with fresh ideas.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
|Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron|
I even wrote an article for NPR books about it, where I described it as a story that acknowledges “that it's awkward to be an introvert in a world of extroverts; that the teen years are usually not the best years of our lives, despite all hype to the contrary; and that it can be terrifying to reach out for the things we want.” It’s exactly the kind of book I would love to have written. Failing that, I continue on my mission to get as many people to read it as possible.
I write contemporary, realistic novels, and the books I wish I’d written often fall into that category as well. A bunch of them occupy one of my Goodreads shelves, including:
(If you have trouble reading any of the titles, they are K.L. Going's Fat Kid Rules the World, Jackson Pearce's Purity, Emily Horner's A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, Sara Zarr's Sweethearts, and David Levithan's Every You, Every Me.)
My favorites often tend to be on the darker side—dealing with loss, illness, danger—but many of them also have a rich vein of humor, and of course there is hope. They are bittersweet, just like life itself.
Then there’s this one:
|First Day on Earth, by Cecil Castellucci|
It starts like a contemporary realistic YA, with the strong voice typical of that genre. But when the character begins talking about being abducted by aliens, you wonder: is this really science fiction? Or is the character just delusional?
I can’t write any of these books, but I'm glad other people did. I take them as examples to enjoy and learn from … and to urge other people to read.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
Anderson's stories include a cast of recurring actors or characters, a group of outsiders living in the same universe. This is similar to the way dreams sample and remix our memories. We might recognize a familiar face in a dream. Or snippets of dialogue cut and pasted from real life. In a way, the dream world feels “more real” than our waking lives.
My Anderson-esque book would come with its own soundtrack—classic Rolling Stones, British Invasion, ala the Kinks, the Who…and something familiar, remixed in a new way (like David Bowie in Portuguese)
And it needs at least one epic scene in slow motion (on the page, this moment reads as stream-of-consciousness).
Anderson’s newest film is a postmodern story about storytelling. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, life often seems bleak and futile. But the storyteller (and the hotel concierge) gives it logic and meaning. Not because it exists. But because they choose to make it so.
The storytellers are the true heroes in Wes Anderson’s beautiful films. They are forever optimists, escaping the drudgery of a world that will never keep up with their dreams.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Nancy, Edward, Harry, Adam, and Roarke -- to all the characters I wish I'd created (by Patty Blount)
It all began with Nancy Drew. She was the first protagonist I'd ever read by myself, the first chapter book I ever checked out of the library on my own. I was in second grade and insisted my mother buy me 'pumps' and take me out to 'luncheon.' Nancy was everything -- brave, smart, uber-talented at everything she tried. In second grade, it hadn't yet registered that she was too perfect. Reading her stories encouraged me to be braver, willing to try new experiences. It's almost four decades since second grade and I still fondly remember solving mysteries with Nancy.
After Nancy Drew, I turned to romance and cut my teeth on those old Harlequin paperbacks and later, Barbara Cartland stories. You know what I remember about them?
The heroines all needed to be saved in some form or another and the heroes all obliged. I can't remember a single character.
Not so with Edward of Twilight. Say what you will -- he's a creepy stalker, he's self-obsessed -- there is something oddly compelling about a century-old character trapped in a teen's life forever. I love that Bella forced him to face the contradictions he'd wrapped around himself -- courtly, gentlemanly and then suddenly, jealous and controlling. I love that Bella was the one who saved him.
Speaking of saviors, let's talk about Harry Potter. I first heard about these books on the news when critics were trying to get them banned because of anti-Christian themes, satanism, witchcraft and so on. Book-banning insults me so naturally, I sought out and read the first three stories that had been published at that time. I adored them. I fell instantly in love with the poor orphan boy and found myself plotting out his next adventure. Anyone who calls these books anti-Christian has clearly never read them; Harry is a Christ figure who must willingly sacrifice himself for the good of all. But aside from all that, Harry as a character is sheer brilliance. A child raised in a unloving environment probably should have become a criminal, a sociopath, but he found his own way, surrounded himself with good strong people who would, eventually, become the family he'd always hoped for. While he was the Chosen One and the Savior, Harry was also very much a human boy, learning to be not only who he was meant to be, but who he wanted to be.
This summer, I've circled the date on my calendar for the movie premiere of If I Stay, by Gayle Forman. I've been Team Adam since I read that book several years ago. I love Where She Went even more, the sequel to If I Stay, told entirely from hero Adam Wilde's point of view. Adam is a rockstar wannabe (who reaches that goal by the second book) and falls for a classical cellist. His character is so strong, I could practically hear the music he played.
Finally, we reach Roarke, of Nora Roberts/JD Robb fame. Ah, Roarke... Christian Grey, Gideon Cross -- all the billionaire heroes -- none of them sizzle for me the way Roarke does. Earlier I mentioned contradictions -- no character I can think of walks a finer line between extremes than Roarke. Ruthless and dangerous, he's also vulnerable and almost ripped in half at Eve's hands in many of these novels, not just the first.
I can think of no greater tribute to an author than for our characters to live in our readers' heads long after they close our books... and hope someday, I am capable of such a feat.
Friday, May 16, 2014
I'm not going to lie, it would be cool to see my name on a best-selling and/or critically-acclaimed book.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by... Jody Casella
The Fault in Our Stars by... YES!!... Jody Casella
But I agree with what Tracy Barrett said in her recent post. I'm content writing what I write and I will let JK Rowling and John Green write the books that they write. (I am sure the two of them would be so relieved to hear that.)
I've been thinking about this topic a lot, though, because there are definitely books that resonate with me, that hit me viscerally, that strike something in me and make me think that, okay, maybe I couldn't have written this book, but oh my God, this writer gets me.
This experience only seems to happen with YA books.
Let me say here that when I was a teen, I NEVER had this experience. The YA pickings were slim way back in the 70's/80's. I devoured books like Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews and Forever by Judy Blume, but I didn't FEEL anything beyond an intense desire never to eat powdered donuts again and a strange fascination that there might be guys who gave their um, penises, nicknames. (Ralph, in case you don't remember.)
These days, I read a lot of YA books. Some, I like. Some, I don't. Some, I think are pretty freaking brilliant and moving.
And then there are a few that from the very first line I am catapulted back to my teenage years. Something about the story, the characters, the voice, the world of the book, hits the part of me that I thought I had long buried.
It all comes rushing back. The angst and fears and loneliness and frustration. As I read, my heart is racing and I am sweating and shivering. I've traveled in a time machine and found myself sitting in my high school cafeteria, alone, because my group of friends has turned on me, and I'm trying to act like I don't care by pretending to do my homework, and I hate how I look, how crappy my hair came out that day and how knobby my knees are and how I have a pimple in the middle of my forehead and I don't have money for lunch and those girls across the room are laughing and I know they are laughing at me.
Yeah. Those books.
They're not books I wish I'd written.
They're the books I wish I had back then. Reminders that I was not the only one who felt alone and angry and depressed. I was not the only one who made stupid choices, who was bullied and who did a bit of bullying, who loved, raged, cared, lived and wanted to die.
It's an incredibly personal thing, the books that break me, the books I wish I could give to my old sad self slumped over in the cafeteria--but here they are, in no particular order:
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Anyone who knows anything about me saw this one coming. Francesca Lia Block is THE reason I write YA. I wish I could create worlds like she does and I really would just love to hang out with Weetzie. Also, the image above is from Rookie's "Secret Style Icon: Weetzie Bat" in case you'd like to look like Weetzie since you can't write her or be her.
Uses For Boys not only tells an important story that I loved, the language is so poetic, so precise. Erica Lorraine Scheidt cuts straight to the heart. She can evoke an emotion so intensely in 50 words when it would take me 50 pages. I want to be able to write that way.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Saturday, May 10, 2014
I'll also admit to some wistful moments about wanting readers to love my books as much as the Harry Potter series (I'm also pretty sure JK Rawlings could book a nice long trip anywhere in the world…). Last summer, my daughter dedicated a few days of summer break to rereading all of Harry Potter for the seventh, eighth time? Why not me? I'd wonder while watching this re-reading process.
Until I had my Harry Potter epiphany.
On a hot July afternoon, my family emerged from an over-airconditioned movie theater, having just watched Harry Potter fight dementors, and I felt that jealous pang, why didn't I think of that?
But then I looked up--and saw this: