Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why I wrote my #PitchWars novel

When people ask me why I entered my YA magical realism manuscript, FALSE START, into Pitch Wars, the explanation is a no-brainer. Pitch Wars is a well-known writing contest for novelists. It's hosted by Brenda Drake, an incredible author who dedicates countless hours of her time every year to advancing the careers of rising authors. She's a prime example of why I adore the writing community. I knew entering Pitch Wars meant getting a shot at working with a mentor who could help me fine-tune my manuscript, before sending it out into the agent world. I was both shocked and thrilled when I was picked from a pool of more than 1200 entries. 

Check out Brenda's website.

When people ask me why I submitted to Kes Trester, specifically, that's easy to explain, too. I cyber-stalked her extensively prior to the Pitch Wars submission window, and knew I'd love to be mentored by someone with a working knowledge of bringing words to life. After all, she's worked in Hollywood for years doing just that. She's an award-winning producer, and has critiqued many feature film scripts. Since she's a YA author as well, I knew she'd be an expert on tone, voice, and honing a high-concept idea. (Added bonus: she's funny, smart, and has fantastic hair. I had to know what kind of shampoo she uses. I won't give away her secrets, but let's just say that good genetics trump products.) I had confirmation I'd made the right decision when her vision for my story paralleled my own, but with revisions that made it sing. It feels like fate, because I don't know that I would've had the same connection with any other mentor. Kes gets me. 


But when fellow mentee C.M. Franklin had the genius idea to organize a mentee blog hop, explaining why we wrote our Pitch Wars novels, I panicked a little bit. How could I explain my journey to writing FALSE START? 



Writing is a very personal thing for me. It's therapy...cheaper than shrinks or defense attorneys, as I recently joked to friends. Characters and stories who've not yet found the page swirl in my head at all times. Most everything I write is drawn from personal experience, or things I see and hear that speak to me. 

I first got the idea for my setting in FALSE START last December. My best friend flew in and surprised me for my birthday. That weekend, we visited Old Town Spring. It's a cutesy little tourist town a little north of Houston. We had a blast perusing the boutiques and visiting the old-timey restaurants, funnel cake stands, and railroad running through town. It felt whimsical, like something from one of the many magical realism novels I'd been devouring for years. I thought to myself, This place has everything but a year-round carnival. 


www.oldtownspring.com

That was the moment the wheels started turning. I knew I wanted to write a story with a place like Old Town Spring, but it would have to have a year-round carnival. Because who doesn't love to eat funnel cakes and then get on spinning rides, amiright?



As we made our way back to the car that day, we passed a shop that gave me another puzzle piece for my story: Crazy Mama's, a pheromone perfume bar. 

I'd never heard of pheromone perfumes, but it reminded me of things I'd seen on trips to Cherokee, NC when I was growing up. As a nurse, and as someone with Cherokee heritage, I've always been fascinated with herbal remedies. Standing there in front of Crazy Mama's, reading descriptions for perfumes with mystical properties,  I knew my fictional town would have to have a character who made potions derived from nature. 



I jotted notes in my phone and emailed them to myself that day. I'm a plotter, so I had to wait for the muse to speak to me before I could start outlining. As time went by, I jotted more notes. It would be set in Texas. It had to have football. (I'm a Friday Night Lights fangirl.) Maybe it would be set near Enchanted Rock (which is a real place west of Austin, with tons of mystical history). Maybe it would have coyotes, because coyotes terrify me. And then...oooh! Maybe I'd name it Coyote Park! I had lots of setting details, but no story to tell. Not yet.



In early spring, a dear friend of mine went through a rough time. After years of dating all the wrong guys, she had finally found the man of her dreams and fell in love, but her family wouldn't accept him because of the color of his skin. A group of us encouraged her, offered our love and support, and insisted that her family would come around. Some of them did. Some didn't. It was (and still is) a heart-wrenching thing to watch. It boggles my mind that, in the year 2014, we are still dealing with these kinds of prejudices as a society. Some people refuse to evolve from ignorant ways of thinking. And the sad truth is that you can't change those people. But you can speak truth and kindness loud enough to drown out the negativity. And that's exactly what my friend chose to do. Her experience helped inspire my main character's story.




Since magical realism contains only blips of questionable magic, I'll let the reader decide what's false within the boundaries of Coyote Park. But you know what I think? I think real magic exists in being true to yourself, in spite of all the naysayers. That's why I wrote FALSE START.




Be sure to check out the other mentees' posts!


Tracie Martin: WILD IS THE WIND

16 comments:

  1. I love this. I want to read your story for so many reasons. I love that there's a mystical element to it. I love inter-racial romances. I love year-round carnivals. Good luck in the agent round. I hope this finds its way to my shelf.

    Funny true story - my next book centers around something akin to a pheromone perfume. Nothing mystical about it though. Just good old fashioned chemistry.

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    1. Well if you are in the market for more CPs... ;)

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  2. I love the way you combined all these elements into such a wonderful story! It sounds MAGICAL!!

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  3. Oooooh, love all the elements you've described here! Sounds both magical and deeply rooted in such a special reality. Good luck!

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  4. Well, he-hem *adjusts fake tie*, I am lucky enough to be one of Jen's CP's and friends, so I've read this gem and can tell you, from the get go, I was hooked. The girl can suck you in and keep you flipping pages like you don't have 5 kids and a dirty house. ;) But seriously, this story is as amazing as she is. <3 you, Jen. All the luck, sweetie! Mwah!

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    1. You are the best. I love you like a fat kid loves cake. ;)

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  5. Reading about your friend's heart-wrenching experience when she fell in love really pulled me in. I've been there, too. Wishing you the best with your story!

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  6. Well, I just wrote this incredibly long comment and it's gone. Blogspot ate it up, I think. Blast.

    Short version: I MUST READ YOUR BOOK NOW.

    Good luck in PW....TOMORROW, GAH!

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  7. This sounds absolutely amazing! I think it takes a very deft touch to write magical realism--can't wait to read this one day.

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  8. OMG I am all in on this book. Friday Night LIghts? You've got me hooked. Add in spinny rides and I'm dancing in my chair. Can't wait to see your book on the shelves!

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  9. I love this concept! Especially the bit about pheromone perfumes--I feel like my nose leads me around more than I care to admit, so I love the idea of working this into a story! Good luck.

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  10. This post is beautiful. And your book touches on one of my soapbox issues. Racism makes me nauseous. I look forward to reading your book one day.

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  11. Fellow FNL fangirl here. *waves* I want to read this yesterday--it sounds SO GOOD. Good luck!

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