DRAWN Haunt – Do Over!

pumpkinsOn today’s DRAWN Haunt party post, I get a bit personal. I share a time I struggled with my confidence, and talk about having a Do Over. If you ever needed a Do Over, I think you might relate…

The DRAWN Haunt is a month-long celebration for my award-winning novel DRAWN‘s 5th anniversary. All October I’m featuring book-related posts about writing, romance, ghosts, time travel and more. Catch all the spooky DRAWN Haunt posts by exploring the blog, and you can subscribe to this site (see bottom of this post for how).  And for more about my novel DRAWN, click here. 

So now it’s time for your…

DO OVER

How many times in your life do you get to reinvent yourself? To leave behind your past and become the person you really want to be?

For some of us, it can happen when we move to a new place or switch schools.  Or maybe you simply decide that this is the moment when you will make a change in your life.

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I fell in love with the main character… And, she has the good sense to fall for a worthwhile guy, a 3-D character, instead of the cardboard cutouts that are common in so many books…Time travel. Drawings that come to life. Ghosts…The writing and, most important to me—the characterizations—are so well done.
— Whatcha Reading Now?

In my novel Drawn, Michelle longs to escape her past and have a fresh start. As she says in this early scene from the book:

The two of us have only been in England for a few days, yet I’m already convinced it’s the best place in the universe. Not because of the quaint little shops or everyone’s adorable English accent, or even because of this supposedly grand castle on the edge of town. No. This place is perfect because here no one knows that back in New Jersey my family, the De Freccio’s, are called the De Freak-o’s.

Back in New Jersey, Michelle’s mother was an eccentric psychic who suddenly up and left the family without a trace. And her brother was a diagnosed schizophrenic. And Michelle had been friendless, an outcast. But in England, she hopes for a new life. A normal one.

Honestly, while writing Drawn I could really identify with Michelle’s do-over moment. In elementary school a bunch of snotty girls used to push me around during recess, and it crushed my spirit.  So in middle school, where lots of new kids filled the classrooms, it looked like a clear do-over moment to me.

But reputations tend to cling to a person, so it was pretty rocky for me at first.  Those nasty kids still were in my school, even though their power was now diluted. Still I was too self-conscious and too worried about what I said and wore and how people looked at me.

Now looking back I can see the real problem wasn’t those girls, it was what I carried inside myself: the loser image I wanted to ditch, but that on some level I’d bought into.  What if they were right about me?

In the novel, Michelle may have left her past behind, but her insecurities have come along for the ride:

I get that familiar hot burn of humiliation. I always felt it whenever someone back in New Jersey would pull a trick on me, convincing me that I really was invited to a party, or that science class was actually meeting out near the woods on the edge of school grounds. I discovered I was an easy mark. Too trusting, too eager for friends.

I’d promised myself that those days were over. But here, an ocean away from New Jersey, it’s starting all over again. It’s like I’ve got a permanent “KICK ME” note stuck on my back.

Luckily for me, by the end of middle school I did have friends. I was liked. I remember wondering, why? It mystified me. Wasn’t I the same person who was so looked down on earlier?

In the novel, when things start looking up for Michelle, it mystifies her too:

I sigh, realizing I’ve disappointed my friends. I blink a few times, as this all sinks in. I’ve just turned down an “in” with the popular kids. And I actually have friends. It seems that by simply moving to a new place, I’ve somehow climbed out of my social wasteland. I think of all the high school kids in the world who are teased and shunned. They should all have the chance to move and start over—kind of like a witness protection program, but for outcasts.

Actually, I believe there is a sort of relocation program for anyone who needs it. And you don’t need an airline ticket to England to get there. It’s not a place, but a state of mind deep within ourselves. Michelle started to have friends not because she moved but because she had already begun to change inside. To trust others and have more faith in herself. She truly wasn’t that same person anymore.  And that’s what happened to me, too, in a way.  I’d started to genuinely feel good about myself and to open up to people more and that made all the difference.

Of course nothing is simple, and real change doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just wake up one morning and DING! Everything is all butterflies and happy songs.  It takes time to gain inner strength and for those better choices in what you do and who you hang out with to all gel and reshape your days into the life you truly want.  For me, it was a process of feeling better about myself and discovering what was most important to me. It did take time, but by the end of high school I felt like really strong, really happy.

In the book, not all Michelle’s new friends are good ones. And her life is NOT easy, especially after the appearance of Christopher who is either a delusion or a ghost.  This definitely spells trouble for a girl trying very hard to blend in. And it forces her to wonder about who she really wants to be. And what she should truly believe in.

She comes to learn she can’t control how others feel, only how she feels. And in the end she must choose whether or not to believe in Christopher, a spirit who may or may not be a murderer. Who may or may not love her back. His life, their love, and Michelle’s hope all hang in the balance.

Michelle does a lot of incredibly brave things in the book, but to me, she is most courageous when she owns up to this:

Maybe I am a fool. Maybe Christopher doesn’t love me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not in love with him…

It’s a huge risk, trusting that this is enough. And it propels Michelle into a life threatening struggle where she puts everything on the line. But in the end, trusting her own feelings opens Michelle up to true friendship and to true love.

Taking risks and believing in yourself.  It’s the bravest thing you can ever do, and what do overs are all about. So believe!

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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On Personal Stuff, Sunglasses and Submissions

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and didn’t eat TOO much.  Judging by the crowd at the local Y lately, I think I know the answer to that one… Why the Santa pooch picture here? Because AWWWWW!

Anyways, over the past two days, while I’ve been continuing to eat turkey in all its incarnations, three different fabulous blogs have posted different interviews with me.  One post probes into how my life experiences affect my writing, the other delves into the romantic and fun details of my works, and the last has me wearing my literary agent hat (which, I imagine, is large and has some feathers) to give out some manuscript submission tips. Check ’em out. They might make you forget about all those holiday gifts you still haven’t bought!

Mindbending Memoir Questions

Jerry Waxler in his Memory Writers Network blog is great at asking me those “I never thought of that one before” questions. Risky stuff like: Do I write about lying teens so much because I was such a huge liar as a teen? And: When I create my novels, what sorts of real life experiences do I pull into them? Yikes! Is Jerry looking at fiction with a memoir-writer’s angle, or is he just really nosy?  To find out, click the following to read Part I of this interview and Part II. And you might also want to check out his post on coming of age in YA fiction, which highlights my novel OVER MY HEAD by clicking here.

Revelations from the Land of Chicklit

Author Heidi Hall approached our interview with questions posed from her point of view as a romance and chick-lit author… Questions like: Did you ever wish you lived your character’s life? (Um, YES!)  And: Sunglasses: designer or drugstore?  Check out this fun interview at her WriterGurl1 blog by clicking here, and if you’re looking for some great reads for the holidays, definitely check out Heidi’s books such as A Dose of Reality!

Why Some Pretty Decent Manuscripts get Rejected

Writer Kerry Gans posted a piece featuring Five Reasons for Agent Rejections of Manuscripts over at her group site The Author Chronicles. This is a great craft-oriented blog, and this post highlights five common reasons why manuscripts I read are rejected, even if they have merit. Literary agents WANT to find great work, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to get excited by a piece only to have to turn it down because it didn’t live up to its promise.  I’ve been an assistant literary agent for the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency for a few months now, and it’s amazing how many times I see these mistakes EVERY DAY.  So if you’re in the process of trying to get an agent, definitely check out Kerry’s post by clicking here.

Thanks to all these great bloggers for including me on their sites!

Marie

Book Review: Doing It by Melvin Burgess

Haven’t seen this book on your library shelf? Or in the high school classroom?  Well, that’s a shame. But I’m sure it might have something to do with the controversial language and content. Yeah, the content of Doing It by Melvin Burgess (Henry Holt) is “mature,” but this is a phenomenal read, one that I recommend to teens and to adults who used to be teens. It’s so well put together, that I’d even call this novel a “must read.”

I’d also highly recommend this novel to young adult authors who want to read a great example of author’s “voice.”  The voice in this piece seizes you right from page one.

When I say “I couldn’t put this book down,” I mean it.  I was glued to the couch and read it from start to finish, and was sorry when it was done. I laughed, I gasped in horror, I bit my nails with worry. Not many novels do that for me.

The book shares the mindset and voice of the incredible British TV show SKINS. So much so that I was convinced Burgess was a co-creator of the series, but this seems not to be.  (Actually, the TV series Life as We Know It was based on this novel.) Like SKINS, Doing It follows the lives of a group of Brit teens as they obsess about themselves and about sex, as they lean on their friends, and muddle through life dealing with some serious issues as well. Parental infidelity. Adult manipulation. Character scarring events. Plummeting self esteem. Heartache.

You can’t help but be drawn in by the shocking language, and brutally frank thoughts. So honest. So spot on. And, I might add, not at all vicarious. This book isn’t one of those stupid shocker tales. It’s brilliant and witty. And it shows how teens really are, at least at times.

This is a book to share among friends, so please do! Like I said, because of the content, you might not find it on a library shelf or in a classroom, even though it so deserves to be there. Seek this title out, devour it, and enjoy!