Thursday, August 18, 2011

Muses for the New YA Project

As I mentioned on my YA Outside the Lines blog entry earlier this week, I'm having a really hard time getting started on my new YA project. I explain my issues there in depth (and ask for advice on how to kickstart a new project so if you have tips, please go and share them!), but to summarize lot of them have to do with self-doubt, especially after struggles with The Bartender Book and general uncertainty about my career. And I don't know, maybe I always struggle with the beginning of a book, but because it takes me so long to finish a book, I forget how hard it is by the time I have to start a new one.

This time around I also had a really hard time deciding between three ideas, but I'm pretty sure I've settled on my oldest idea. It's something I've been toying with since early 2008, around the same time I started toying with what became The Bartender Book. I've written a few partial drafts and synopses of this idea. It's had two different titles. It's been a contemporary realistic YA story with a metaphor that didn't really work and then it was a paranormal YA story that almost worked, but something just wasn't right. I also took input from too many people without trusting my own instincts and it became this Thing That Was No Longer Mine. But the idea at the very core is one I've been obsessed with such I was a teenager, actually maybe even younger, so I felt determined to reclaim it.

Through working closely with a couple of trusted writing buddies (I love you Kaz and Vanessa! Also Jenny and Jeri!), I think I've hashed out a plot that will actually work this time. I've been inspired by books that blend realistic fiction with fantastical elements like IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma. (Such an amazing book!!! Seriously, click that link and get it now. You will thank me!) It seemed like that sort of touch is exactly what this book idea needed. I want to straddle the line of reality and fairytale so that readers feel like maybe I'm telling a story that could actually happen or maybe I'm creating my own modern fairytale. Because fairytales, myths and classic stories from my childhood are where the center of this thing is. I've always been fascinated by girls who get lost, wander off the path, are taken or that someone tries to break and what becomes of them depending on the choices they make.

So, I've been plotting and brainstorming for the past month and a half (and how I hate that it has taken that long, gah!!! One of these days a book will just pour out of me. Hopefully the next book because I am due.) It has often been very frustrating, but I think I have a general idea and usually a general idea is all I need. But as I mentioned in that YAOTL Blog, I'm having a really tough time diving in. I'm leaving to Seattle on Saturday and hoping that my six-day trip to my favorite place on earth will give me clarity and peace of mind so I can come back ready to dive in.

Because I figure I may need it, I thought I'd put together the things that stirred up this idea for me in some way so I have them in one place to feed my muse. This will also give you hints about what I'm working on, as many hints as I'm willing to drop at this point at least. Like last time I am still not comfortable sharing real titles though I do have one, but I think in order to officially make this a Work In Progress rather than a brainstorm it needs a project name like The Bartender Book. For now I will call this The Modern Myth YA and here are her inspirations:

I will start with music because music always comes first for me. This is one song that has stayed on my playlist (which has changed names and dropped and added songs every time I change titles). It contains the quote I have at the front of the manuscript right now, which is pretty much my driving idea for the story:

"How we survive is what makes us who we are." - Rise Against, "Survive":

But when I was trying to reclaim this story and figure out how to change it so that I could actually write a full book on it, I tried to listen to my old playlist and I wasn't feeling inspired by it. I was actually ready to give up because if I don't have the music for a story idea, the idea just isn't going to work for me. Then I landed on this song. I listened to it 10 times in a row as I started to sketch out new ideas. It's all here. "I Am A Revenant" by The Distillers is my main character. It showed me how she feels, how she acts, what she does, what she looks like. It gives me a glimpse into her heart:

At that point, I realized that The Distillers are my band for this project. I have no idea why it wasn't obvious before. I dumped almost half of their catalog onto my playlist. Two songs that particularly stuck out to be were these. It's strange because in my own life, "Hall of Mirrors" and "The Hunger" were break-up songs, forever they have reminded me of the end of a painful 8 year romance. My story isn't centered on a romance, but I still hear my character in this song.

This one has lines that speak of her journey: "There's a highway to the edge/Once a night you will find yourself there/At the end of the road you will find the answer/At the end of the road you will drink the fear":

And The Hunger which is may be my all-time favorite Distillers song has that pure raw scream of anguish, that "Don't Go!" even though you know you have to let go and "Hold on to the memory, it's all you got":

Then at one point I was listening to "Live Through This" by Hole and realized that most of that album should be on my playlist, especially "Violet" because that whole "I'm the one with no soul, one above and one below" line is perfect as is the whole "Might last a day, Mine is forever" part of the chorus:

Oh and this next song. This has been on the playlist all along, but I didn't realize exactly what it would mean to the project until very recently. This song and fireflies in general are really symbolic for me in surviving my own depression and dark times when I was in high school, something which I talk a bit about in this vlog I made a couple of years ago. Yeah, this song, major part of The Modern Myth YA's theme:

Corin Tucker is the singer of Heavens To Betsy and also of Sleater-Kinney whose song I got the title I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE for. It seems she is always a huge inspiration for me because songs from her album 1,000 years with her latest band, The Corin Tucker Band are finding their way on to my playlist as well. In fact I might name a character after this song, although my Riley would be telling my main character, "What you've been through is rough. Just keep going, don't let it get you down for too long." And I love this video too:

In addition to music I am also drawing a lot of inspiration from this:

Yes, wild girls. Definitely.

But books and music are common inspirations for me. What's surprising is I've always been drawn to a lot of imagery as well for this one. These are probably what will give you the most insight into what I'm writing about.... Maybe.

Here's one I just saw yesterday. Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love is about to turn 19 (today I think! Happy Birthday, Frances Bean!) and there have been some really beautiful images of her that were taken recently. I've got to say that as the daughter of the two people I idolized most as a teenager, she intrigues me, but beyond that she is just really pretty and photographs quite well in that you can see a story in the images of her. Is it her story? I have no idea, I wouldn't be so presumptuous to assume that. What I see in this photo is my story though actually. It's something about those branches that appear both behind her and on her chest and the way she is partially shadowed and lit up. Though my main character looks a lot different than Frances does here, I see her in this image. Also one of the tiny little hints I will give about my story. My main character is the daughter of celebrities and the book is set in LA. Modern myth, there you have it.

Then this is an image from a graphic novel that has stuck with me since high school. There are certainly elements of The Crow in what I'm working on.

And finally we have these paintings:

That's "Demeter" and "Persephone" painted by Jeanie Tomanek. Yes, elements in my myth for sure. I'm going to remain mum on how and the only reason I even posted these is because I saw them during my research (thanks again, Kaz!) and haven't been able to stop looking at them or the rest of this woman's artwork, which you can check out here. Especially this one, which speaks to me in sort of the same way as the Frances Bean photograph (but sadly comes out much too big for me to post directly here.) I've admitted before that I am usually totally dumb when it comes to art. I have no idea what I like, but now I have found it. I love love love this. It's exactly the mood I hope to capture in my book. And if I actually manage to write it and it sells, I may reward myself with one of Ms. Tomanek's brilliant paintings.

So yeah, those are my muses. If you've seen/heard/read things that you think may inspire me, by all means post away. And I hope these various elements intrigue you about what is to come from me. Most of all I hope that after my vacation, I can get my ass in gear and create it!

Also last minute thought.... I probably don't need another online distraction, but as I compiled this, I thought maybe it would be easier to just get a tumblr to compile all of these things as I come across them. Any tumblr fans out there? What do you think?


Karen Mahoney said...

Tumblrs are great for posting images/inspiration. You wouldn't even need to explain what the images were (just reference them, obviously), because it could almost be a 'private' space for you and the project. I've been thinking of doing something similar.

Also, I'm so glad Jeanie Tomanek's work has helped you!! I love this image ("Handless Maiden") which helped so much with The Iron Witch:


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

That's a great point re: Tumblr being a space for me and the project, Kaz. I love it. And thank you for helping me find Jeanie Tomanek's work. Yes, I love that "Handless Maiden" piece as well and immediately thought of your book when I saw it!

marina said...

I would most certainly tumble-stalk you (and I don't even have a tumblr.. haha). =D Also, I love that you're using so much of The Distillers on this book playlist; they're one third my favorite.

Katherine said...

Some of the rest of Sleater-Kinney is now in Wild Flag. I love their song "Romance":

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Bean, you can tumble stalk me over at now though the posting won't happen much till I get back from vacation. Yes, Distillers are major inspiration for me now and always.

Katherine, thanks for the heads up on Wild Flag. Loved the video and asked my record store to preorder their LP for me!