Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Haunted Me at 17--a celebration of Nova Ren Suma's new book, 17 & Gone

Nova Ren Suma’s new novel, 17 & Gone, comes out this week on March 21, and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, she’s asked some authors she knows to join her in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? To see all the authors taking part, be sure to visit her blog distraction99.com.

I've raved about Nova's first YA novel, Imaginary Girls, all over the internet (including in this review on Rookie) and I am eagerly awaiting my copy of 17 & Gone, so I was thrilled when she asked me to take part in this event.

Okay... what haunted ME at 17?

Well, that's actually quite a list. See, this is me at 17:

And I would look even more haunted a few weeks after this photo was taken when I dyed my bleached hair jet-black to match the lipstick and eyeliner that I'm wearing there.

17 was the year I started listening to Joy Division, Nick Cave, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Bauhaus and The Smiths a lot more than the grunge, riot grrrl, and punk bands I'd been listening to. Disintegration by the Cure had taken the place of In Utero by Nirvana as my favorite album. (Not that Kurt Cobain's lyrics didn't still haunt me and so did his suicide which had been haunting me since 14.) My favorite movie was City of Lost Children, a French film about a mad scientist, who kidnaps children and steals their dreams.

I felt like my dreams had been stolen.

I had a lot of nightmares.

Two were recurring. In one, I ran an obstacle course supervised by anthropomorphic cartoon animals--pigs, cows, bears, like something out of a Richard Scarry picture book. Except they were evil. The pig stands out in particular. He wore mirrored shades like the stereotypical asshole cop. (Oh, pig... cop... Yeah, I guess my nightmarish subconscious had a sense of humor at least...) He yelled at me as I tried to go through the obstacles, my limbs too heavy like they always are in dreams when you have to move quickly. At least in my dreams. That cartoon pig berated me, laughed when I fell. I would never make it through. I would never reclaim my stolen dreams.

The second nightmare was about Him. In it, he chased me through an old house. It was even harder to run from him than it was to do that obstacle course. Like slogging through quicksand. So he always caught me. Caught me and stabbed a big needle into the bare flesh of my thigh. The place where I carved his initial when I went to the bathroom one day during study hall. I carved it and then I X'd it out. With a razor blade. Lots of blood. I felt like I was going to faint, but instead I put pressure on it until it clotted and then I went  back to class.

Yes, He haunted me most at 17. At 16, too. And 15, when I met him. The boy who stole my dreams. The boy who'd turned me angry, then sad, then both. The boy I loved, then hated, but still loved... Memories of his long eyelashes haunted me. His smell. The mixture of unwashed hair, cigarettes, and a deodorant that I couldn't identify by brand, but sometimes even now, more than fifteen years later, I'll catch a whiff in a crowded room of someone wearing it, or someone whose scents combine like his did. My heart will race. I'll panic. I'll feel sick.

He didn't always make me feel that way though and that's part of what haunted me at 17. That I still liked to wear his pajamas. That I could remember exactly how he looked during that weekend he stayed in our guest room because he'd been kicked out of his house. His black hair against my old E.T. sheets.

But the rain--the rain I'd always loved--it haunted me at 17 because it reminded me of the day that haunted me most of all. April 11, 1995. I still remember the exact date almost 18 years later. The day I told him, No. And then he ignored me, tormented me in the subtle, emotionally abusive ways he'd perfected. My friend convinced him to go into a room and talk to me. He only wanted one word, though. Yes. I gave it, and he didn't even notice the tears in my eyes.

Then, in the weeks that followed, there were lunch "dates" in that dirty bathroom by the baseball diamonds at Ridgeland Commons. It had a brown door. A grate in the floor that would imprint on my knee when he told me to get on them, acting like this was sexy, adventurous. With my back to him, I could cry.

That bathroom, which smelled of piss and him and me, that haunted me a lot at 17. Before I left town, I wrote his name in blood on the brown door. And the R-word, even though I wasn't sure I was actually allowed to use it because technically, I'd said yes. Without realizing it, I'd given a blanket Yes that very first time.

That first time was pretty. It was us stripped and sweet. It was Urge Overkill's "Bottle of Fur"  on the stereo. Saturation was the album. The album that haunted me so bad at 17; that haunts me still. I've never really been able to listen to it again.

Loving Him haunted me. I shouldn't have. I shouldn't still miss the good times, I thought at 17.

Hating Him haunted me. The anger it took over my life, so all-consuming that it cost me friends.

My scars haunted me. My nightmares. My stolen dreams. My blood. Almost every thought in my head haunted me at 17, but the thing that haunted me the most was that I had no idea who I was anymore. No idea where I was going. Everything had been consumed by the love/hate/sad/angry/nightmare/stolen dream.

The only thing that didn't haunt me were the words, though. The words the poured out of me into black-and-white composition books, on to the keys of the typewriter I'd decided I wanted more than a computer, into my short stories, into my 'zines. The words were ugly sometimes. They reflected everything that haunted me.

But, somehow, they set me free.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

GCC Presents: Jessica Brody!

One of my lovely gals from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit has a new book out that sounds amazing. So I wanted to say a big CONGRATS to Jessica Brody on the release of UNREMEMBERED and tell you all about it, so you can check it out!


The only thing worse than forgetting her past...is remembering it.

When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find a single survivor; which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating amid the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe. She has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories…period. As she struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is, every clue raises more questions. Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?

Set in a world where science knows no boundaries and memories are manipulated UNREMEMBERED by Jessica Brody is the first novel in a compelling, romantic, and suspenseful new sci-fi trilogy for teens.

About the author:

JESSICA BRODY knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples and electrical tape. She is the author of 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, My Life Undecided, The Karma Club, and now, Unremembered. Her books have been translated and published in over 15 countries. She currently splits her time between California and Colorado. www.jessicabrody.com

The Interview:

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

JESSICA: A few years ago, I read a newspaper article about a teen girl who was the sole survivor of a plane crash. I was instantly fascinated by the story. Namely because they had no idea why she survived when no else did. I started brainstorming reasons as to why she was so lucky. One particular reason (a rather intricate, science-fiction-inspired one) stuck in my mind and refused to leave. It continued to grow and blossom until I had an idea for an entire trilogy. A trilogy that starts with a mysterious plane crash and a single survivor.

Q: The main character of my first book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, is the kind of girl I wanted to be (a rock star!), the MC of my second book has a lot more in common with teenage me. Is your main character someone you wish you could be, someone a lot like you, or your total opposite? How so?

JESSICA: Oh, did I have fun creating this main character! Talk about living vicariously through her! Although I wouldn’t want to wake up among the wreckage of a plane crash with no memories of my life, I definitely would love to have some of Seraphina’s abilities. She can speak multiple languages (something I’ve always wanted to do), she can read a full book in under 3 minutes (I’m a slow reader, so this was definitely aspirational) and she’s superhero strong (I have trouble lifting my carry-on suitcase into the overhead bin!) So yeah, Seraphina is kind of an idol to me.

Q: In addition to writing books, I also write for a website for teens called Rookie, which has a regular feature called "Literally The Best Thing Ever," wherein we write about a thing that we think is super mega awesome (even if it is the type of thing that others might call a guilty pleasure, we believe there is nothing guilty about pleasure!) and explain why we think it is literally the best thing ever. It's generally a kind of unexpected thing, for example I wrote one about the soap opera, One Life To Live. I don't expect you to write a whole essay obviously, but can you briefly tell us what either you or your character (or both!) would say is "Literally The Best Thing Ever" and why?

JESSICA: My main character has no memories of anything when the book opens. Not her name, not her past, not even her favorite color. So when her foster mother asks her what her favorite food is so she can cook it for dinner, Seraphina doesn’t know what to tell her. The foster mother decides to cook the ultimate comfort food: A grilled cheese sandwich. And this is essentially the first experience Seraphina has with food. The experience is overwhelming for her. The flavor explodes in her mouth. She is so in love with this grilled cheese sandwich. It is literally the best thing she’s ever tasted!

I chose a grilled cheese sandwich for a reason. I wanted something that felt very “every day” for you and me, but was world-exploding for Sera, so that I could emphasize just how out of touch with modern day life she really is.

Q: What are you working on for us next?

JESSICA:I just finished writing book 2 of the Unremembered Trilogy, which is called UNFORGOTTEN. And I’m gearing up to start working on book 3, which is called UNTITLED. Haha! But seriously, I’m thinking of keeping that title. What do you think?