Getting All Serious for a Minute, Sorry

Hello lovely readers!

I figure I better squeeze in an April post here before the month completely vanishes.  How did that happen?  Let’s see: revisions, April school vacation, visiting relatives, and a particularly wonderful baby’s first birthday (awww).  🙂  Oh, and of course, the fair amount of total craziness happening right in our neighborhood recently.

I won’t go into details about how close we live to the scene of the shootout and manhunt — just that it was close enough to be worrying but not close enough to be terrifying.  We were in lockdown all of that Friday (along with pretty much all my Boston friends), but the hardest part of that was keeping two small boys entertained while trapped indoors all day, with Adam and I darting off to check Twitter feeds on our laptops whenever we could.  We have a no-TV policy for the kids (I know, we’ll see how long that lasts!), which means no TV for us while they’re awake, either — and certainly we wouldn’t have wanted to explain the news to Jonah anyway.  They were absolutely lovely, though, especially considering they must have been able to sense our distraction.

[Warning: some introspective serious stuff ahead; apologies in advance, and feel free to come back tomorrow for a more normal-me blog post instead.]

So, that whole day, I just kept thinking that somewhere very close by, that teenager — a guy who was at his prom less than two years ago, right? — was hiding, probably wounded, scared out of his mind, knowing how many people’s lives he’d ruined and how many people hated him, and knowing, I think, that he’d run over his own brother to escape the police, which surely has to change your whole understanding of yourself.  It was a really surreal feeling.

Listen, my books are about dragons and vampires and puppies and bad-tempered unicorns, because I like all those things and I want to write funny, happy books.  But one of the biggest reasons I write at all is to get inside someone else’s head.  I think everyone is at the center of their own story, and I always wonder about how other people see the world . . . how two people might experience the same event in completely different ways.

That’s why my first novel (This Must Be Love) was a retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the girls’ perspectives — basically because as I read the play, I kept thinking, how did these two feel about being interchangeable pawns in someone else’s hilarious romantic experiment?  It’s also why I loved writing Nellie Oleson Meets Laura Ingalls, because I got to rethink the events of Plum Creek from Laura’s enemy’s point of view and try to find a sympathetic way to see her.

It’s why my Pet Trouble books criss-cross characters and storylines, so you can see what’s happening in the other character’s life when you hop over to their book, and maybe understand a little more about each scene and each person once you read their own story.  (And my favorite of those is Oh No, Newf!, where you get the secret scoop on “bad guy” Avery.)  And that’s why each Wings of Fire book focuses on a different dragon, so that hopefully by the end of book five, we’ll really understand all the dragonets (and hopefully there’s also a little bit of humor in the way we discover they see each other, too).

So I’d say that’s a pretty fundamental driving force for me, when it comes to storytelling.  In the stories I tell my three-year-old (he calls them “once upon a times” — and gets quite outraged if you dare try to start the story any other way than “once upon a time”!), I usually cast him as the hero.  I strongly believe if you see yourself as brave and kind, you’ll try harder to be brave and kind.  But I also hope I’m laying the groundwork for empathy in the stories I tell from his little brother’s perspective, or the stories told by the characters who need his heroic help.  Who knows if it’s working, but it shouldn’t be surprising that I put a lot of faith in the power of storytelling to shape our own real-life character.

Anyway, to circle back to the awfulness last week — so that whole day, I kept hearing the beginning of a novel in my head.  The boy hiding in the dark, his fear and guilt and blood.  I could picture how it would start there, and then flashbacks would show us how he got to this place.  At the same time, it would have to be interlaced with another perspective: someone who was out on a beautiful Monday to celebrate the joy and strength and perseverance and community and everything the marathon represents.  Someone who has to find all those things again after something awful happens.

It’s all there in my head, but I can’t see myself ever writing a book like that.  I don’t think I could do it justice and I wouldn’t want to do it wrong, and I feel sure that someone else will write the right story to react to this, which would most likely be a completely different book than mine.  Most of all, although I could perhaps imagine what the guy felt during the manhunt, I don’t think I can ever get myself inside the head of someone at the moment when they’re dropping a bomb next to innocent people.  (Nor do I really want to.)

And after all, I would still much rather write funny, happy books.  And funny, happy blog posts, too, so sorry about this one!  It just really wanted to be written.  I’ll come back tomorrow with some fascinating links about night owls and then again later this week if I can, with favorite picture books — the blog post I meant to write a couple of weeks ago, which got a bit derailed by events.  Hopefully there will even be joyful baby pictures, if my camera and I can achieve some kind of concord.  🙂

But I hope you are all well and wonderful and ready for May!  I know I’m very ready for sunshine and playgrounds and spray parks and pools and picnics and outdoor concerts, hooray!  Plus, only a month until book 3 of Wings of Fire!  🙂  Yay!

Quote of the Day:  “Rabbits . . . are like human beings in many ways.  One of these is certainly their staunch ability to withstand disaster and to let the stream of their life carry them along, past reaches of terror and loss.”  — from Watership Down, by Richard Adams (one of my favorite books of all time)