Monday, April 12, 2010

Trouble... Trouble, Trouble Trouble Trouble...

Now Playing -
Trouble, by Ray Lamontagne

Life - 
Work. Lots of it, and I keep doubling back, so close one night, leaving for work at 2pm, arriving home around 11:15pm, then I leave for work at 7 am and arrive back home around 5pm. The problem is that I can't go straight to bed after work, I have to goof around and eat and shower... maybe read a bit, so I don't usually hit the pillows till closer to 1am or so. Bah to that. My new store is full of well meaning but poorly trained people that I will soon have to change.

Writing - 
Speaking of trouble. I'm becoming concerned about my book. All modesty aside, I love it. I think I would have read the crap out of it as a child. It has fun characters in it, like Smith himself, who is shy and embarrassed about it. He's the son of two renowned explorers and scientists, yet his bravery hides behind the covers of books. Uncle Cannon, who never met a story he couldn't turn into a better lie. The sweet and understanding Aunt Grace. Birdsey - librarian, historian, quilter and kook. The cousins extraordinaire. Trouble makers, twins, pranksters. Their older brother Beckett, who collects treasure after storms and pines of leaving the tiny village for bigger things. And of course, Smith's friend Noelle Carniveau, who is smart and funny, confident and daring - everything Smith wishes he could be.

But that may be my downfall. I've become afraid that Smith is the product of an earlier age, a fictional world that has faded into obscurity while a snarkier, crasser, modern class takes the stage. I intentionally designed the village of Moonstone Bay to have a timeless quality about it. There are no cell phones and when Noelle goes missing, they have to call the state police to get help combing the area. I wanted it to concievably exist in the 1950's as easily as today. There are modern conveniences of course, the twins have video games and Cannon's boat, the Luna Sea has radar and GPS mapping, but I wanted the feel to be there.

I was hoping to evoke the tone of the classics I read as a kid, the gothic drama and mystery of the John Bellairs books, the secret nights of Something Wicked This Way Comes, where anything can happen. The whimsy and clever humor of Roald Dahl and Donald Sobol. And I think I did pretty well.

Unfortunately, I'm not totally sure that today's reader wants that. I've been reading a few Middle Grade books lately that are more contemporary and they've made me question my choices a bit. Percy Jackson, for example, is sarcastic and, for lack of a better word, kind of bitchy. A few others keep that tone, and with the exception of a few british authors, I'm not finding much with the feel of my novel.

Is there room in this modern world for an innocent story about ghosts in the forest, exploring creepy houses and making new friends?

Man, I hope so. I have, more than once, considered re-writing The Whispering Ferns as a more modern story. I wrote a few chapters in first person, with Smith more sarcastic and knowing, and it did let me show off a bit more. He could be humorous and still lovable. (I think) But it didn't feel totally true to the story I wanted to tell. The more worldly I make him, the less convincing it is when he's worried about making friends, or nervous about trying to rescue Noelle by himself.

What say you, people of the world wide web? Is there room in a modern, texting, Family Guy universe for an innocent series about ghosts, buried treasure, family and friends?


Jonathon Arntson said...

I just love reading your blog, it's so the oasis I need each week.

Steve at Random said...

I thought it was great from the beginning, but I have to agree with Randy that a villain probably would prop up the tension in the story. Of course, the one thing I don't need it more tension. I have to agree, however, that the characters are quite lovable...especially Smith and his uncle.

Sherry said...

I totally think so. I think that as long as the book is well written, then you should have little problem in getting it out there. Personally, I like characters I can relate to and like. Bitchy ones tick me off. Having said that, I don't read a lot of 'modern' literature. The newest book I read was either 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter,' or 'The Thirteenth Tale' (I forget which is newer...). Neither is terribly new, but both don't have that modern feel you are talking about. As it's been said before 'what's old becomes new again,' so, if you have to, just wait a bit and then get it published once your kinda story gets back in vogue...or just get it published now so I can read it!! I like option 2 better, just so you know! I'm even willing to pay Japanese prices for that book, so hurry up! Payday's next week.

randymeiss said...

I think you should stay true to your original story. I know I wouldn't like it as much if the characters were more "modern" as you say. The timeless feel to it was what kept me reading.

Other than adding some conflict like the twins getting into trouble or another character to play an antagonist role, I wouldn't mess with your original characters. Something will have been lost if you do.

Blythe said...

Are you nuts? This sounds like the book I wish I'd written when I was sitting talking to a friend's child. She reads like crazy. And this would make her thoughtful, quiet little heart so happy.

Amanda said...

Hey Kris! This kind of reminds me of when you're taking a test, and you read a question and write down an answer. Then, later, you come back to it and think to yourself, "No that can't be right. I must change it." Then you get your test back, and your first answer was right and you're super mad at yourself for second guessing yourself. So, er, long story short: I say go with your first instinct! Cause if you erase it and write something different, you might end up kicking yourself.

P.S. I haven't seen any part of your book since that first chapter you sent me months ago. Can I get new stuff? Please?

P.P.S. Have you read the Fablehaven series? They are for a similar audience, I believe, as your story, and the young characters are not snarky or jaded. I've read them all!