I wasted a lot of good years writing depressing poetry about life’s gloomiest and/or wackiest topics. Teenagers meandering down the highway of life searching for answers. My fear of spiders. Lonely old women who drink too much beer. Seriously. Some of it even got published. When I started my first book, a historical romance, I learned something important about myself and, in the process, found my true, authentic voice.
In the beginning, Castle Ladyslipper had the most dreadful, dark and dreary plot one could imagine. Sir Garrick of Hawkwood, my hero, was emotionally damaged, thanks to all the conniving women in his life, starting with his mother. (Why is it always the mother who screws up the son?) The opening scene was an epic downer. As my heroine, Emma, scurried across the bailey, she heard William, her brother, calling to her from an upstairs window. She looked up to see the poor lad plunge to his death, a victim of over-enthusiastic waving. Is it any wonder I could barely drag myself to the computer each day? When my output dwindled to nada, I finally realized I was fighting my nature and consequently hated what I was doing. I ditched the first scene and came up with a new recipe.
Step 1. A dash of magic in the form of a crystal, a curse and a ghost.
Step 2. A castle full of strong, opinionated woman.
Step 3. A hunky, chauvinistic knight who believed women were basically large children and should be treated as such.
Step 4. Mix thoroughly and see what rises to the top. I started to have fun, found my voice and completed my first book.
What does this have to do with YA fiction? Only everything. Kids can spot a phony faster than the time it took William to go splat after his plunge from castle window to cobblestone. I try to remind myself of that fact each time I sit down at the computer. As writers, as human beings, we all have to be true to our natures. When we aren’t, we’re fighting a losing battle that manifests itself in stress-related illness and depression as well as incredibly bad writing.
Because I believe in keeping it real, I often use the names of people I know in my books. Long-time friends appeared in Moon Rise as a fabulously wealthy couple who built their own planetarium for Star Seekers. In the same book, my Canadian friend became an American citizen and a FBI agent. Would you like to see your name immortalized in print? I’ve just begun writing book 4 in the Unbidden Magic series.
All you have to do is leave a comment. If I draw your name, it’s possible your 30 seconds of fame may be right around the corner. Your name will not only appear in my book, I’ll send you a signed copy when it comes out in 2011. Don’t know what to say? I’ll make it easy for you. You can choose: (A) I want my character to be good (B) I want my character to be baaad (C) Surprise me!