Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How I started writing YA

Once upon a time... in a genre far far away... was a cynical newbie writer who scoffed at the Young Adult authors of the world. Yeah, that was me. I thought, who'd want to write about teens as an adult? I didn't get it as I was too wrapped up in my grown up Women's Fiction world. It bugged the crap outta me that these authors were getting all the mad props. For what? Writing about angsty teens with their mouths forever gaped open? So, I decided to read Twilight. And I loved it. Damn.
Then I became the parent of a teen. A female one. Double Damn.

Such strange creatures I tell you. With every sullen stare, heavy sigh, and roll of the eye I remembered those days where I too was an eye rolling, angst filled, temperamental bitch with zits and body image issues.

I've wanted to strangle my darling teen on more than one occasion. Always ridden with Catholic Guilt after such murderous thoughts I call my mom and tell her how sorry I am for being such a horrible teenage witch and that I love her so very much. I figure if I give a heartfelt plea for forgiveness the gods will change my fate and give me a teen who does all her chores and hugs me often.

That hasn't happened yet. God, I hope she doesn't grow up to write a tell all Mommy Dearest about me...
So, what did I do with all that rage filled parental woe? I plotted out a story where a mother tries to kill her kid, fails, gets self killed, and then haunts kid for the rest of her days. Yes! Revenge by pen is oh so sweet.

The more I brainstormed this macabre tale the more I liked it. The more I loved this teen with a scarred face and wounded heart. One day on the El-train I took out my handy dandy notebook and scribbled some musings. 250 words. A possible opening. I took said scribblings to a Writers Conference and read it aloud to my crew of fellow geniuses. They loved it. With all their praise and encouragement I knew I had write this tale. It took a year to flesh out the full story before writing a single word. (I did this in between writing another novel.)

I pulled together other story tid-bits I had collecting dust in my brain, ideas I thought would make good fiction one day. A haunted house reality show had this little girl who'd been haunted for years by the shadow of a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt, just hovering over her bed. Creepy. And it stuck with me. A little girl forever haunted. What if the person haunting her was her mom? Even creepier. The movie THE RING totally freaked me out. Those big eyes, gurgling sounds, and jerky body movements of that long haired thing inspired my ghost mom.
Other stray thoughts weaved their way into my tale; a friends true story of almost dying when she was ten, a local school for the blind where students worked side by side with kids who could see, and the Spielberg movies I'd grown up with -those tales of an eclectic group of kids defying the odds. Marty McFly and his oh so fly two-toned jacket. (I had to write a tale where I could have hammer pants and two toned jackets!) My inner-city Philly neighborhood is a character in itself, with its graffiti speckled skyline and the diverse people who live in it. I wanted to give it a voice and a place in the literary world.

My brother's death in the end is what truly inspired this tale. The what if factor. What if he lived? What would've been different? If I could go back would I change his fate, knowing it may and probably would forever alter my own. My annoyingly awesome teen may never have been born. Such thoughts once bombarded me. Regret and what-ifs have their place in the grieving process. But I can't play in the world of make believe with my real life. I wouldn't be me if one thing were different and I couldn't live with that. So, the what ifs I'll save for my fictional world.

The final and most awe inspiring inspiration for my tale came from the 2012 Cold Play Mylo Xyloto Concert. I need a soundtrack to write and this tale had yet to find one. The days before the concert the teen and I listened to a contest winner on the radio gushing for tickets. We both agreed how awesome it would be to go. Two days later I got an email; someone had two free tickets. Wurd to ya mutha! Squee! Woot! Now, I'm bad with song titles. I just jam in my car and on the El to work not knowing those important details. I knew very little about the tour and their current album but was stoked either way. I LOVE Coldplay. Who doesn't?

Teen and I get there and gush as they give us bracelets. How cute, a souvenir. Then we see the set and its a graffiti laden paradise, glow in the dark even. My muse perks up and feels a soundtrack coming on. I peruse the interwebz for the set list and apparently the Back To The Future theme is part of the show. Were the writing gods trying to tell me something?
Then the show starts. My hearts leaps inside my chest. It is the single most amazing show I've ever seen. Ever. And I've seen a lot of shows. The bracelets light up and are part of the concert. They blink to the beat of the music, each different color in tune with their own rhythm. And I got to share this with my kid. That teen who drives me to murderous fantasies.
A Touch In The Dark is nearly finished its first rough draft. It's my second novel and I'm plotting it out like a good girl. No pantsting for me this time around. I've wasted far too much time doing that. So, yeah, I'm writing angsty rolly eye ridden YA and loving every second of it.
Here's an amazing clip of the concert. Charlie Brown is my favorite and the first song on my soundtrack. It's where I envision Rori riding her bike through the streets of Frankford... my tale playing out like the opening scenes of a movie... Enjoy and maybe you too will be inspired.