Thursday, May 29, 2014

Real People are not Clichés

"The character is dealing with the death of a parent or sibling. That's so cliché."
"Another story with an alcoholic family member. How cliché."
"Yet another tale dealing with abuse. Cliché."

I understand that readers get bored of seeing the same things over and over again in fiction. But let me tell you a story.

One day, when discussing a novel, a student lamented the fact that she had just read yet another novel where the character was dealing with the death of a sibling. "That's so cliché," she said.

And the girl next to her flinched. Cliché girl had forgotten that her fellow student had lost her brother to suicide just the year before. How convenient. I promise you, the student who lost her brother won't ever forget. And reducing down her very real conflicts to a cliché is harmful.

I've been a reader for a very long time. It's easy to forget that new readers are born every single day. What we've seen often, they're encountering for the first time. But many of them, unfortunately, may actually be dealing with the day to day reality of the events we only know about through books.

In my experience, literature leans in and whispers in my ear. I understand. I've been there. It's okay. It's one of the reasons I read. And things become cliché because they are true. So before we easily dismiss something, we should remember that while it may not speak to us, it probably speaks to someone.

It illuminates a truth he has never heard before. It reminds a reader she is not alone.

We must never make a person feel cliché.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

FAQ: RECLAIMED is not an Autobiography

"Is this book about you?"

Contemporary writers get asked this question a lot, I assume more so than other writers. I doubt J.K. Rowling has been asked whether or not she is secretly part of the wizarding community. (Though many people did assume Harry was based on a real person.) It seems that some readers have a hard time believing that characters, and their situations, are actually fictional.

But they are.

I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, and I've lost count of the number of people who've told me they tried to figure out who my characters are in real life. My characters are based on no one and everyone. I've never modeled a character after anyone, but I have used what I know about the world to hopefully create dynamic characters.

I wrote a guest post about this back in October, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. Pops is not my grandfather, and I don't write my students into novels.

But characters are real, in the sense that readers make them so. And isn't that the best part about reading?

Sunday, May 4, 2014


RECLAIMED won Silver in the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Young Adult Category!

Also honored to learn that Reclaimed has been named a finalist for the 2013 Foreword Book of the Year. See the full list of young adult fiction finalists here.