I intended to write this post shortly after the announcement went live that my YA speculative novel, SONGBYRD, had been acquired by Jolly Fish Press. That was a month ago now. You can see how easily I fall behind. The struggle is REAL, y'all.
However, the upside is that I've been spending my spare time on revising said novel in order to bring my readers the very best work I can. For those of you who've read OTHERBORN and/or ASTRAL TIDE, this novel will be somewhat of a departure from the Anna Silver you're used to. SONGBYRD has a contemporary setting and characters, but it boasts the kind of fantastical twists and turns that are turning out to be my calling card. I really can't wait for you to get to read it!
Already brainstorming cover art concepts, I've been struggling to settle on one image or one concept to represent this novel full of complex characters and circumstances. And I guess some of that may be because I'm still revising, and the work is shifting under my fingers, taking on a new, final form that still has yet to fully reveal itself. It's exciting to watch this final version of SONGBYRD emerge, but also a little frightening. I never know exactly where a novel is going to take me, or how the characters may surprise me along the way. And I know it sounds crazy, but I often feel, once I reach a certain point, that I have very little control. Yet I know editors, critics, readers--everyone will hold me responsible for the words and actions of my characters. As I grow as a writer, I bump into this quandary more and more. I have a desperate, almost feral, need for the work to be free. To feel uninhibited in my writing. And at the same time, I feel a growing sense of responsibility for what I put out there. This is my voice. This is my opportunity to make a difference. Especially because I'm writing YA. I might be molding young minds *shivers uncontrollably*.
I feel a growing empathy for other authors who have been targeted and criticized for work that falls short of the high ethical ideals we think everyone should be writing about, or who have been treated as condoning the behavior of a character of theirs simply because they wrote it. (I'm not naming names. NOTICE, I DID NOT NAME ANY NAMES.) And I empathize with the critics as well. They're not wrong to point out some of the things that they do. I don't think there's a hard and fast line in the sand for us to follow. I think the waters we authors are swimming in are so murky we're lucky to venture back out alive and in tact ... mostly.
I know for myself, I write characters who intrigue me. And the characters who intrigue me most are troubled. They're complex, neither good nor bad. They muddle with all sorts of conflicted emotions like self loathing. They often make terrible choices. I know, I watch them do it in my head. It's like watching an old horror movie. You tell the cheerleader in her pajamas at summer camp not to go into the boathouse alone at night. You shout and scream and throw popcorn at the T.V. screen. But you know this character. And she is determined to meet up with that hot counselor from Cabin B, even if it means she has to bleed out after being carved up by the machete killer who's been stalking the camp grounds. There really is no stopping her. SHE WANTS TO DIE.
Anyway, this was not the particular rabbit hole I planned for this blog to go down, but here we both are. I hope when SONGBYRD comes out that it challenges you in unexpected ways. And I hope when that happens that you don't overthink it. I hope it's fun, and juicy, and keeps you up at night. Please don't emulate my characters. Love them, hate them, read them. But never, ever emulate them. Learn from them. From their mistakes. Let them raise questions they can't answer. Nor can you. And when that happens, don't come to me. I usually can't answer them either.