Now that I’ve completed the heavy lifting with respect to my upcoming novel, Novelista Girl, I can take a break from writing. Right? Wrong! I’ve already begun my next project—a prequel to the Blogger Girl and Novelista Girl series. I took a slight genre leap when I wrote How Do You Know? as it was somewhat deeper in themes than my previous novels and more contemporary women’s fiction than classic “chick lit,” but I was still dealing with grown-up characters (maturity levels notwithstanding)! In my new project, I’m bringing Kimberly Long and part of the gang from Blogger Girl back to the tenth grade which sets the book squarely in the Young Adult genre—quite a genre jump. The novel is already close to seventy pages and while I am truly having a blast with it, it is not without its challenges. For instance:
- I’m writing this novel from the first person perspective like I did with my last five novels. (Can we stop and take a moment to let that phrase sink in? My last FIVE novels. I’ve written five novels. Holy crap! I’m still astounded that I wrote one! Ok, pause over.) However, unlike my other (FIVE) novels, I am writing this one from the perspectives of two (very) different characters. Although I know the character of Kim very well, having written two other novels with her at the helm, this time, I’m getting inside the head of high school “mean girl” Hannah Marshak. She’s not that bad. She’s not that good either but…just wait. So far, I’m not having any trouble keeping their voices distinct, but alternating back and forth is not always a smooth transition.
- Anyone who has read even one of my books knows that my characters do their best bonding over wine, prosecco, beer etc. Since my characters are now fifteen-years old, I need to come up with different ways for them to drown their sorrows, share their secrets etc. So far, eating ice cream and plotting revenge are working well. But no spoilers.
- My characters in the past have also liked to curse and have sex. A curse word slips in every so often in this novel, but not as freely. And my characters’ sexual experience is limited compared to their curiosity. One of the reasons I took them back to fifteen instead of seventeen or even sixteen was because I wasn’t comfortable bringing sex into the equation. My characters are definitely more Gilmore Girls than Gossip Girl.
- If you’ve noticed, all of my characters until now have worked in the law firm environment. I have two paralegals, a legal secretary, and a legal marketing manager under my belt. Unless I was planning to write a Doogie Howser-type prequel where Kim was a fifteen-year-old legal secretary, the law-firm setting wasn’t going to work. So, the setting is high school. Being that I haven’t been in high school in over twenty years (almost as scary as the fact that I’ve written five books), I had to wrack my memory (and search the internet) to remember there were eight periods in a day and each period lasted forty-something minutes. I even searched trigonometry and earth science terms to make the classroom scenes authentic.
- With the exception of Just Friends with Benefits, all of my novels take place in New York City. It’s become part of my brand. It’s weird to not describe the bustling restaurants, and tourists-filled streets of the Big Apple, but since Kim grew up outside of the city, I have to write the prequel with a suburban setting. So far, most of the scenes have taken place either within the walls of the high school, or Kim and Hannah’s respective houses.
- Since this was a prequel set fifteen years in the past, I obviously couldn’t write the book in the present day. Since Kim would be turning thirty in 2015, I set the book in 2000 to make her 15. I had no idea what it was like to be a teenager in the year 2000 since I was already in my late twenties (another scary fact). Thankfully, I have several younger friends who were generous enough to share some of their memories from back then—their favorite books, movies, televisions shows, celebrity crushes, fashion preferences etc. They also guided me with respect to technology and lack thereof, although watching back-to-back episodes of Gilmore Girls is also helping in that regard. But it’s a very interesting writing a book where no one checks his/her iPhone or is on Facebook. I quite like it!
- Parents, particularly mothers, have always played a significant role in my books. However, none of my characters lived under the same roof as her parents during the course of the book. The parents might have bestowed advice (solicited or not), but they never imposed a curfew or were needed to chauffer my characters to and from their friend’s houses, the mall or the movies. Remembering to include family dinners and typical teenage angst with respect to parents is something I’m not used to, but remember all too well from experience.
Thus far, the above are the differences that spring to mind when comparing my process of writing a chick lit/women’s fiction novel to writing young adult. What’s interesting is that my reading preferences have shifted somewhat along with the writing of this book. I still love reading women’s fiction and chick lit (as well as suspense novels and thrillers), but I’m definitely reading a lot more young adult lately as well. I devoured Jenny Han’s To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You books, re-read The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell (also a prequel to a women’s fiction novel), and have already pre-ordered Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming novel. I’m also quite addicted to the aforementioned Gilmore Girls on television. It has become the light to the darkness of The Walking Dead, which is another addiction of mine and decidedly not young adult!
I will probably not be sharing too much more about the prequel at least until after Novelista Girl is released, hopefully later this year. Stay tuned, however, for the blurb and cover reveal of Novelista Girl —coming soon.