I love an old-school Livejournal style meme, so I was pretty psyched when lovely mystery writer Kristi Belcamino tagged me to do this Next Big Thing Blog Hop one, where I get to answer a series of questions about the current novel/work-in-progress/book/creative thingie in my life. So it is, and here I am, and here is the story behind my skater werewolf romance.
What is the working title of your book?
While I was writing it, I called it THE WOODS in my head because everything exciting in the book took place in the strange, spooky forest in the small Midwestern town in my novel, and I liked the oblique reference to the occult and the mystical. But now I call it LOVE AND CONCRETE, because, duh, it’s a love story, and double-duh, it’s about skaters…who do have a bit of the occult and mystical about them, though that bit is missing from the title now. So I’m not entirely sold on the title. If you come across a word that implies “mystical concrete,” please let me know and I’ll change my title again so that it captures everything!
What is your book about?
It’s about a steely, lovely girl named Lily, who first falls in love with skateboarding, and then with a skater named Kieran. But Kieran, she discovers, is a werewolf. (Of course he is! All skater boys are wolves!) He’s a wonderful boy despite this, and he and Lily are soulmates in the truest sense of the word — refuges for one another in their gritty, grey hometown, a place where everyone goes to church and rails against heavy metal, demons and Satanism. But as it turns out, there are actually demons of a sort in this world, with shapeshifters like Kieran right in the middle of an ancient war — and Lily caught up in the crossfire.
What genre does your book fall under?
It is fiction: it is a love story for young adults and those youthful in spirit, and it has supernatural/fantasy elements. It is slightly “urban fantasy” that way, probably because my characters spend a good amount of time in Chicago.
Where did the idea come from?
I was eating a McDonald’s ice cream cone in Union Square in New York on a hot summer night, enjoying the dusk behind the skyline and watching the skaters do their thing in the busy public square. I was watching this one group in particular — they seemed like a tight-knit crew and kept to themselves, like they were in some kind of conspiracy together. I was instantly struck by how they moved — they had the same kind of hunched-over loping, loose-kneed walk. One of them — a really beautiful boy, I remember — turned to say something to his friends, and then all of them looked off in the same direction at the same time. Like a pack of wolves, I thought to myself. That’s where the idea of skater werewolves was born. It proved too irresistible to write about, and so it began.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Right now the manuscript is in a limboland between agents and publishers. It’s a bit like how I imagine Catholic limbo, but for books instead of babies. I’m aiming for it to find representation and a publisher at some point. In the meanwhile, I’m in the middle of a blog-to-book project (that I’ll tell you more about later) that will be my first official foray into self-publishing, because it’s a brave new world for authors and publishers and I’m feeling adventurous.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in the movie version?
For a former movie industry person, I find this question really hard to answer! Maybe because I know how hard casting is, and trying to find someone with an essence that is close to the character you’re seeking for is very difficult.
My main character, Lily, is someone’s who is fierce but incredibly self-conscious at times. What intrigues me about writing teen characters — and why I keep going back to them again and again — is how grown-up and strong they can be in some ways, but so uncertain in others. Lily’s a star diving champion — it was so fun to write a lady athlete who wasn’t a stereotypical jock — and on a diving board she’s so incisive and focused. Even with skating, which she’s much newer at, she’s intensely dedicated and hard-working — she has true power in her body and strength. But when it comes to boys and flirting and crushes and relating to people in general, she’s so unconfident and quiet and shy. I like the contradiction of someone who seems so self-possessed on the surface but is really roiling underneath. I don’t know: someone like Mia Wasikowska would’ve been great, someone with a kind of innate apartness and self-possession and ability to be compelling in her quietness.
For Kieran, there’s really no young actor I could see in the role — the character carries a basic latent power and even violence within him, but also incredible sensitivity and solitude. I don’t see a lot of young actors now who have both, as well as a kind of black Irish handsomeness. They should find a hot Irish skater somewhere and make a star out of him.
How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
4-5 months. I wrote it after I graduated from film school. The revising took forever, though — I’m guessing about a year, year and a half, maybe even more. Agonies of agonies! I am a fast drafter and slow reviser. Revising novels is no joke.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I had been thinking about love, relationships and romance for awhile in a very searching, holistic way — just how we learn how to love, where we get our ideas and expectations around love from, the power of reverie and fantasy when it comes to shaping these. And then I realized: there weren’t a lot of love stories out there, for me at least, that modeled lessons or ideals that would’ve been helpful for me to take into my adulthood. I don’t remember reading any as a teenager that really imprinted themselves in me as a signpost of love’s true possibilities. I feel like we need love stories that aren’t retreads of tired old emotional models — we need ones that explore envision new ones, while still savoring the pleasures of romance.
So I wanted to write something that I would’ve loved to have read when I was 14, 15, 16 — an entertaining, modern love story that was full of heat, tenderness and some wisdom, with a touch of punk rock and a dose of fun. The challenge was to keep the arc of classical grand romance but create a more modern relationship within it. Whatever my foibles in the writing or plotting, I feel really proud that I created my two characters and feel like their love is something I really believe in: it’s based in devotion, the idea that two people in love bring out the fullest, most authentic selves in one another, and it is very, very sexy. It’s not perfect and Lily and Kieran both make mistakes, but I feel proud that the moment when they catch one another’s eyes, they’re both at their rock-star apex of strength and talent — but when they fall in love, it’s at their most vulnerable moments, and they only fall deeper as they unfurl their deepest selves towards one another. That seems just about right to me.
What else in your book might pique a reader’s interest
And though the element is muted, there’s a very “birth of alternative culture” feel to it as well. It’s not the focus of the book, but it is very late 80s/early 90s, so if you are into grunge/punk nostalgia, this could also be for you! But the core of the book is really first love, and that’s something that transcends time.
Thanks again to Kristi for tagging me! It was great fun to delve a little deeper into why I wrote my book and devoted so much time and energy to this story. Passing on the baton, I would love to hear more about the latest projects by longtime Internet bud and super-talented fiction writer Lisa Ko, as well as more from Eleanor Callott Whitney about her upcoming book. I would love to see my former blog compatriots Elizabeth Barker and Laura Jane Faulds fill this out as well! I’d also ask Teri Vlassopoulos, but she already did it!