As most writers do, I like to draw on my own life experiences to bring characters, events and emotion to life in my books. I’ve found this is particularly true when I’m writing teen fiction. That time of my life was so very fraught—everything mattered so very much! I suspect this is true for most teens throughout the ages and it’s one of the things that makes writing YA fiction so fun for me. I love being able to put so much raw emotion right on the page while still keeping it real. All those countless hopes, dreams, fears and humiliations of my own teen years find their way into my books—in particular my Starstruck series—in various guises. For instance:
Do you remember your first real “crush”? How about your first huge embarrassing moment? Were the two linked in any way? Mine were!
I was 13 years old, a freshman in high school, and totally infatuated by the cutest guy in the whole world (to my 13-year-old sensibilities, anyway). I mean, I obsessed about this boy! He had these dreamy blue eyes and wavy blond hair… I was sure the Carpenters song “Close To You” was written just about him!
I went as stalker as a girl without a driver’s license could go, even convincing my mom to drive past his house once or twice (since he didn’t live within biking distance).
When I discovered that he went to the gym to shoot hoops near the end of his lunch period most days, I started sneaking down that hallway every day and peeking through the window in the gym door to watch him play…in a sleeveless shirt! Oh! Be still my newly-awakened heart! I wove endless fantasies about the two of us, fantasies about how he would suddenly realize I was the one he’d been waiting for all his life. How all the other girls would be jealous when they saw us holding hands. How we’d happily start planning our future together. Okay, maybe he didn’t actually know my name yet, but I was sure it was just a matter of time before he woke up to the fact that we were Destined to be Soulmates.
(If you’ve read the first chapter of Starstruck, you now know what inspired M’s little fantasy about the gorgeous-but-unobtainable Jimmy Franklin…)
One day after lunch I made my customary stop by the gym to spy on him playing basketball…but he wasn’t there. I stood outside the door, disappointed and undecided. I peeked, then peeked again, hoping he might make an appearance after all. Finally, despondent, I gave up and turned away—only to see him coming down the hall toward me!
Someone cool would have just nodded, smiled and walked on her way, pretending she had somewhere much more important to be. Alas, I was not even the teensiest bit cool. Instantly assuming he knew exactly why I was there, I was beyond mortified. So mortified that, instead of trying to pass it off as no big deal, I turned away, pressed my face into the corner and quite literally tried to melt into the wall. Yes, really.
He walked past me into the gym without a word and I hurried away, never to spy on him again. He never did learn my name, to the best of my knowledge, and none of those wonderful fantasies ever came true, but to this day I still remember my first crush and the horrible embarrassing incident that pretty much ended it.
Sometimes I wonder if he even remembers that weird girl who acted so strangely outside the gym that day. I guess I’ll never know. And…maybe that’s just as well.