Saturday, July 28, 2012

Monsoon Season: Inspiration

My first novel was published last week and I wrote the following for a guest blog, Confessions of a Bookaholic. I wanted to share it here for anyone who missed it the first time.
The inspiration for this book, and for any of my books, is the characters. Monsoon Season is my first book and I probably spent a good year walking around thinking about it before I sat down and started really writing.
Before this book, I had written mostly short stories and it was quite daunting to imagine having enough to say to sustain a book-length project. The first part of that was feeling like I had a main character that was compelling enough to make a reader want to follow her for 200-some-odd pages. So I spent a lot of time thinking about Riley. Who is she? What makes her special? What’s her story?
Which brought me to the second part: the plot. For me, the story isn’t really about abuse. It’s about Riley and that’s just one of the obstacles in her path. She’s also negotiating her relationship with her parents- separating from them while finding a way to stay close. I think that’s a really tricky balance to strike when you’re in your early twenties, becoming your own person. She’s figuring that out with all the relationships in her life- how much to lean on people without being needy. I find that broader struggle in my own life, in this culture generally. Needing people is part of what makes us human and yet we so often fight it.
There is a feminist undercurrent in my writing and as much as I try not to hit readers over the head with THE MORAL OF THE STORY, I think the scene that best explains my intention in using an abuse element in Monsoon Season is the phone conversation between Riley and Jack. Riley’s suffering from a broken heart and trying to let Ben off the hook because what she’s experiencing doesn’t feel like what she’s been taught to look out for. And I think that’s the danger in those made-for-tv-movie/after-school-special depictions of abuse. It’s such a black-and-white stereotype that it seems different from real life. Real life is so much more complicated and filled with grey areas.
Ben is not evil. It would be so much easier to dismiss him that way and move on. But I want my reader to have compassion for him, to understand why Riley is still in love with him. If the reader is also hoping Riley will break free of him, that’s okay. I think those two ideas can exist simultaneously. That’s how life is and, hopefully, what makes the book resonate with readers.
More book reviews can be found here.

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