Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Led You To Your Novel

Someone on Zoetrope posed this great question..."What has led you to your novel?"

The first novel, the one I've finished, Giving It Over, lots of things. I was adopted, and I was a teen mother. My first daughter was conceived the same year that abortion became legal. I gave birth to her when I was fifteen. Those elements of my past give me a great interest in adoption, as an institution, and teen pregnancy.

I was grappling with some ideas for a YA novel and had a whole idea formulated in my head, but I couldn't seem to get into it. I don't remember what led me to this realization, but I discovered that my problem resided in the fact that I didn't care about my protagonist. I didn't love her or hate her, so I couldn't breath life into her. I asked myself what kind of character I could care about.

Around this time, Lynn walked out of the mist and started telling me about herself. By mist, I mean that mysterious place where characters come from when writers least expect it. Lynn was fifteen, pregnant, and was living in a house for pregnant girls who were going to give their babies up for adoption. She talked, I wrote. The story was just there. All of the characters were just there.

I get pissed off when people assume that this story is autobiographical because it deals with the subjects of adoption and teen pregnancy. The stories of the girls at Harbor House are not my story. Yet each of the girls is a facet of me in some way. Lynn the whimp, Melody the sassy jr. dyke, Lupita the silent one, Rebecca the hard-assed slut, Jenny the healer. They're all me. They're all teenaged girls who are pregnant and are among the first to make a choice about whether to terminate or complete their pregnancies. They're all part of the big County system that existed to harvest babies before abortion became legal.

So, I almost feel like I can't take credit for that novel because it didn't feel like I wrote was just there, waiting to be plucked from the branches.

The biggest part of me that's in both of my novels is my idealism, or hope maybe. I want to believe that love is a force underneath all the bull shit, and that it can prevail in our lives if we just summon up the courage to let it in.

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