Has this been the best week ever on Persnickety Snark, or what? I think it definitely was! Here's Gayle guest blog on some things that you might not know about If I Stay. (And if you are wondering about the photo, it is from Gayle's article for Self magazine.)
If I’m tired of talking about myself and my influences I imagine that PS readers are tired of reading about them. So I figured I’d give you guys something different, a kind of behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a writer makes a book, with some tidbits and out-takes (bloopers?) from the writing of If I Stay. So, without further ado, four things you never knew and maybe didn’t want to know about the book
1. Adam used to be named Nick. Nick is my husband’s name and though he is not quite as dreamy as Adam is, the two of them share a lot of traits, the most important being that they are good guys, indie-rock sweeties. As I was writing, I tried to find other names for Mia’s love interest, but every time I changed the name, it blocked something. Calling him Nick allowed me better access to the lovey-dovey feelings. I considered leaving the name Nick, a testament to my love, but when I gave the real Nick the manuscript to read, he found it weird. Considering I’ve already submitted my poor husband to scrutiny by writing a travel memoir, You Can’t Get There From Here: A Year On The Fringes Of A Shrinking World, in which the real Nick features prominently (though he says that he thinks of that Nick as fictional character named Nick to which I say whatever gets you through the day), this time I had to respect his feelings. So I immediately came up with Adam as a solid, good-guy name replacement and did a Change All. Adam was born.
2. Mia is named for Mia Zapata, the murdered lead singer of a once-promising Seattle band called The Gits. I was never actually that in to The Gits but they were this very buzzy band when I was living in Oregon and Mia Zapata was the reason they were so buzzy, so her 1993 murder, which remained unsolved for ten years, was shocking and horrifying. In the original draft of the book, my character Mia isn’t even named until about page 40, so I was well into the book and my Mia is already in the hospital when it came time to finally christen her. So much of the music scene I was writing about in the book was informed by the years I lived in the Pacific Northwest (1991-1996), and the book deals with death, and maybe that’s why suddenly Mia Zapata popped into my head and that’s how I named Mia. Only after I finished the book did I realize how many Mia's there are in YA novels.
3. The original draft had a flashback scene of an impromptu wake at Mia’s house after Kurt Cobain killed himself. But I took this out. A lot of people liked it. Cobain’s suicide was such a historical moment for Gen Xers, but something about that scene nagged at me. For one, Mia’s dad wouldn’t like Nirvana (even in that chapter he didn’t; the point of the scene was four-year-old Mia seeing how enraged her father was with Kurt for killing himself and leaving his daughter behind). Also, there is already a funeral scene in the book when one of Mia’s parents’ friends dies. And I felt like Nick Hornby’s wonderful book About A Boy had already chronicled this moment in history—the Cobain death—perfectly. So, I was on the fence about it, and my wonderful editor, Julie, confirmed my misgivings. So I cut it. But my US publisher Dutton published a limited bound manuscript of the unedited manuscript, so that scene lives on in some version out there.
4. When I started this book, I wasn’t sure it was even a book. I didn’t have a contract, even though I’d published one YA novel. My agent had shut down her shop, so I was sort of in limbo, and the book seemed kind of heavy and I wasn’t sure it was sellable or even meant to ever see the light of day. But, weirdly, I did not care. I just wrote. I sat at my computer and listened to the Once soundtrack and cried and wrote. I finished the manuscript before I even showed it to anyone (including Nick). I write for a living, so generally when I write I am doing so with my heart in the creative process but my brain thinking about the business side of things. Not this time. This time, it was a complete act of faith.
Best. Week. Ever.
If you want to see the awesome If I Stay cake that Gayle and the awesome team at Penguin chowed down on in their private celebration of the novel's release, then click here.