Happy 2011, Damsels readers! We took a much-needed blogging break over Christmas and have decided to ease back into our routine slowly, starting with write-ups of our current works in progress, hereby abbreviated WIP. For each Damsel, our current project is different than the one we were working on when we started this blog. And, shockingly enough, none of them are historicals! Not a single one. Not that I have finally agreed that historicals are too hard to sell right now or anything, but personally, I needed a break after living with one foot (sometimes more) in the 1940s for over four years.
My WIP has the working title I Will Never Leave You. It came from a few different sources, starting with my soft spot for books like last year’s Newbery winner, When You Reach Me and Madeleine L’Engle’s fantastic but oh-so-human adventures like A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Holes by Louis Sacher fills this niche for me as well. They all involve real people, real places (more or less with L’Engle, but they at least start on Earth), and real emotions, but there are things that happen that push the story forward that no one can quite explain but seem to come from deep human needs. A lot of them involve history repeating itself, either literally or emotionally. I’m not explaining this very well, but the ah-ha moments in these books are some of my favorites ever. Write what you love, right? So why can’t I write something like this?
Enter two of my best friends. One was my roommate for a year in college, but my best pal all four years. We’ve been close ever since, even though we live many miles apart, and visit when we can. The other lives here in greater Seattle and is about 2/3 girlfriend and 1/3 “West Coast Mom.” See, this friend is forty years older than me. Most of the time we don’t notice it, and in fact we’ll say things like, “I started reading Harry Potter in high school” that throw the other one for a loop. I love both of these women dearly. One day my local friend was typing something and her computer suddenly rebeled. The way she talked to the computer, trying to get it to do what she wanted in a voice like one might use on a toddler, was one I knew I’d heard before, but I couldn’t place where.
Then it hit me: my college dorm room. It was my roommate’s voice, coming from a woman of another generation who’d never met my roommate. And I realized that was part of what made me love my local friend so much–she filled the niche in my current life that my roommate had filled in college. It was like being friends with the same person at different stages of their life, but at the same time.
Then I thought, why not take it a step further? What if a present-day teen found herself bonding out of loneliness with an older adult who reminded her of her best friend? And what if their other people in both generations had similar traits, so much so that an episode the older generation wants to forget is playing out in the younger one, but not in a way that’s immediately obvious?
Such is the basic set-up of I Will Never Leave You. It’s been a fun break from historical fiction, though a challenge as well. Little things, like the word “like,” which I used very sparingly with my 1940s British narrator, need to be worked back in to this new story. Communication via texting, social networking, Skype, and even just phone calls without a party line are fabulous after years of writing letters in chapter two that wouldn’t be answered until chapter ten. But if you noticed the intergenerational premise, you’ll see I couldn’t keep all the past away.
Still working on the rough draft at the moment, and I already know of several changes I will make to the beginning. I am having a lot of fun with this book, though, and I hope someday, someone else will, too.