Today YA author Deb Vanasse joins us to talk about her and Gail Giles’ new book, and the way they both drew on their own experiences and emotions to write it–the way I think most writers do. I respect and love Deb and Gail, and I love Deb’s honesty here, so I’m happy to have her share with us today. Take it away, Deb!
Humor and Hurt: We All Have Our Demons
When YA novelist Gail Giles suggested we team up to write a part funny, part serious series about a boy band that accidentally invites the devil to help them get famous, I wasn’t sure what to think. After more than twenty years, I’d just left an evangelical church, and I knew plenty of people who believed that demons were no laughing matter and that kids shouldn’t read about them.
But I trusted Gail. To the deepest, darkest stories (Shattering Glass, What Happened to Cass McBride, Dark Song), she brings the right mix of humor and hope. So we plunged in. Though menacing, our demon turned out not quite as you might expect. Neither did the devil, once our boys lure him up top.
After she finished the book, one of our early readers wrote, “My first impression was, how on earth do you think of these tales? Magic tricks, conjuring up the devil, dialogues between 13 year old boys–you must have a different part of your brain at work.”
Maybe our brains are a little, um, weird. But mostly what we do—what all writers do in one way or another—is grant ourselves access to the places where we feel most vulnerable, and write from there.
So when you read in our book No Returns about Pod’s deepest longing, to find his mother who disappeared one Halloween night, it won’t surprise you to learn that my own mother disappeared for thirteen years. And when you see Manny’s deeply conflicted feelings about religion and how he wants to be accepted, you’ll know I’ve been there, too. Becca with her clipboard, a little bossy for her own good—guilty as charged. Flaco mind-melded with his abuelo¬—that was me, too, certain my grandparents understood me when no one else did.
Gail brought her own longings and conflicts and memories to the story, some more conscious than others. She also brought humor, which she does like nobody’s business.
Our demons took shape. A little scary, yes. But we found places to laugh out loud. The demons didn’t go away—how could we write if they did?—but we knew who had the upper hand.
Gail Giles is the author of six young adult novels. Her debut novel, Shattering Glass, was an ALA Best of the Best Book, a Book Sense 76 selection, and a Booklist Top 10 Mystery for Youth selection. Her second, Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters, was an ALA Top 10 Quick pick and a Book Sense 76 selection.
Deb Vanasse is the author of more than a dozen books for readers of all ages. Her debut novel, A Distant Enemy, was a Junior Literary Guild selection and is featured in Best Books for Young Readers, as was Out of the Wilderness. Follow her at www.debvanasse.com and www.selfmadewriter.blogspot.com.