Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brenna Speaks

Interviewers have asked me about themes and what’s my message for teen readers. My tendency is to listen to my character and figure this out later, more of a self-awareness thing that reflects on what’s important to me. I want to experience my characters and their world organically—and not force any underlying “message.”

My character, Brenna Nash, is a piece of work. I often felt like I wasn’t writing about her as much as she was telling me her story and I was only her scribe. I loved being inside her head. Below are a few lines that stood out in my mind, but there are so many others that readers have sent me—lines that touched them. And wow, do I love hearing from readers. Reach me on my website CONTACT page.

Excerpts from “In the Arms of Stone Angels

• Derek got in my face, close enough for me to smell his bad breath and get a zoom on his zits. One on his chin was ripe. The dude seriously needed to harvest.

• Why is it that the people who love us most can hurt us so bad? I had a terrible feeling about coming here. It didn’t feel right. I really wanted my mother to see that. I wanted her to realize she’d been wrong and to stop me before I went inside. I wanted her to foresee the future and warn me. But that didn’t happen.

• Apparently, honesty was now a real showstopper in Chloe’s world. She clammed up and wrung her hands like I’d asked her to scoop cat shit with her bare fingers.

• I wanted to say that I was sorry, but not for the obvious. I was sorry that I had turned out to be such a big disappointment. Sorry that I couldn’t make things better. Sorry that everything I touched turned to crap. Seeing Mom cry had torn me up until she finally said, “What happened to your hair? Did you do that?” At that moment, I hated Britney Spears.

• I didn’t care what someone like Jade DeLuca thought. She was a total waste of perfectly good skin. And three pounds of brain matter was about two pounds too much for what she used it for. I didn’t respect her, so why would I care what she thought of me?

People sometimes ask me what advice I would give to my teen readers. I never had kids so I’ve never been accused of being a “good example” for anyone. That’s actually a very scary thought. In my adult books as well as my teen books, I tend to write about themes that are important to me—things I want to explore for myself—sometimes I’m not even aware I’m doing this. But if there is any advice from me, it’s up to the reader to find it in my words and my characters’ voices. I never want to be preachy about anything. Teen readers are smart enough to get their own meaning out of books.

For Brenna, she has experienced something horrific that no kid should have to see in a lifetime. It changed her forever. To make matters worse, she faces it alone, confronting practically the whole town. The bigotry portrayed in my book was meant to be ugly because it is. Being part Hispanic myself, I was like White Bird, straddling a line between cultures that wasn’t always easy. I didn’t always know where I fit in. And I’ve seen and heard things that slice like a knife. But being different doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

The beauty in Brenna was her willingness to accept herself eventually for who she is—embracing her weirdness as being unique and special—and realizing that those who are most critical of her are people she doesn’t respect anyway. Any advice I would give would come from Brenna. She’s who I still hope to become.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Slice of Me

I suppose it says a lot about me that the battery to my fart machine is wearing down from use. When I first saw this little gem of a toy, I bought every one they had in the store, making sure my friends and family were equally armed. These machines made their first appearance at a family outing, honoring my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. (Nothing says I love you like a…well, you know what I mean.)

This machine has many uses. It makes a fun DOG TOY. And of course, anyone would bring this bad boy to a restaurant, but try sneaking it into a hospital for a real laugh riot. (You think I’m joking, don’t you? HA!)

I’m outing myself here because it occurred to me that in my fiction books, I often write about incidences that happen to my characters that may also have been inspired by a real life experience.

No, I haven’t found the right book yet to launch this little innovation on the literary world (like there IS a right book for techno-toots.) I’m waiting for the right op to spring my 50-ft range remote controlled tooter that can operate through walls and boasts 6 different kinds of “sounds.” Yes, SIX. (Some of you are saying, “Only six?”)

In my YA book – In the Arms of Stone Angels (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011), I wrote about my character’s first kiss. This scene is below:

“Can I kiss you?” White Bird asked.
My eyes opened wide and my breath caught in my throat. I nearly choked.
“Ah, no.” My mouth said it before my brain knew what was happening.
“No?” He smiled and cocked his head in question.
I looked down at my watch. “In two minutes, okay?”
When he grinned and looked down at his watch to count down the time, I turned my head and spit out my gum. It shot out of my mouth like a pink cannonball.

A first kiss rarely happens smoothly. My first kiss was from a guy who wrote me poetry, the coolest boy in my elementary school. But the above scene had been inspired by my more laughable first French kiss. I was so shocked, I pushed the guy away and said, “What the hell are you doing?” A mood killer, but I still laugh about it today. If I had known what was coming—and that I’d need a drool rag after—I would have given him a two-minute warning and run the other way.

Brenna’s “screw you” toes are a family trait that manifested in my twin sisters. Their middle toes jut out and say, “Salute!” This was my way of saying, “I love you” to my sisters.

And a not so funny inspiration was the first argument my character Brenna has with her mom where she has an out of body experience with her rage, seeing the fear in her mother’s eyes as if she could look down on everything. That really happened to me. It made me see what I was doing to my mom yet I couldn’t stop. I wanted to capture that moment in my book…for me. Not every teen goes through something like this—thankfully—but for those of us who have, blinding rage is no fun and is definitely out of control.

Bottom line is that authors often write about things they filter through their life’s choices or experiences they’ve had or hear about. It helps to make the book more real. Some are funny. Some are heartbreaking and not easy to write about.

And some are purely fictional.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Texas Library Association Conference - Teen Day April 14

This week I will be at the Texas Library Association's Conference in Austin, Texas on April 14th for TEEN DAY. It will be my first official Young Adult event since the launch of my first YA - In the Arms of Stone Angels (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011). This event is HUGE!!!!

I'm being sponsored by the TLA's Young Adult Round Table (YART) and will be signing 2-3:00PM. I'll be giving away FREE BOOKS while supplies last. And look for me before my signing. I will be handing out bookmarks as well as a promo flyers for my Chills & Thrills Teen Book Tour in May where I will join a great group of Texas YA authors. HERE is the link for our promo blog that will give the deets on who, what, where, when. Hot new titles for cool summer reading.

If you're in Austin for the conference, please stop by and say "HOWDY!"