Today we have Merrie Destefano at The Book Pushers to talk with us about her first YA release, Fathom. Merrie, take it away!
When Imaginary People Take Over
Imaginary people shouldn’t influence your life. But if you’re a writer or reader, they definitely do. Case in point: Me. I was working on my second novel, Feast, when this character appeared out of nowhere. She wasn’t in my current novel, she wasn’t in anything I’d ever written before. I tried to ignore her but I just couldn’t, because oh my gosh, did she ever have a voice and a story to tell.
She haunted me. Until I stopped working on my current work-in-progress long enough to write down her first chapter. Ten pages later, I’d fallen in love.
She was Kira Callahan, the main character in Fathom, my debut YA paranormal novel coming out on October 1. And that first chapter is almost exactly the same as the day I wrote it. If you’re curious, you can read it here [http://www.merriedestefano.
Oddly enough, the appearance of this new character not only temporarily stalled my second novel—it changed my writing career. Up until then, I’d been the author of adult novels only. While Afterlife and Feast can certainly be read by teenagers—there’s nothing in there they can’t handle—those books are definitely intended for mature audiences, with themes and plots that deal with some heavy issues.
But now I was suddenly an author who was writing young adult stories.
And I was loving it.
I had already discovered that I loved reading YA. My shelves were lined with tomes like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Forests of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Tithe by Holly Black and The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. I just never expected that this fascination with young adult literature would lead to me writing it.
While it may seem like YA is a simpler genre, and that it’s both easier to read and to write, that’s not necessarily true. I soon learned that YA contains deep themes, just like adult books. At the same time, YA often has a literary edge not often found in adult books. I think it was this combination of beautiful writing and powerful coming-of-age stories that hooked me. There’s a universal appeal found in a tale written about first love, for it both embraces and transcends the teenage market.
But I wasn’t thinking about markets or universal appeal when I started writing Kira’s story. I was traveling back through time, walking through the halls of high school again, reliving that feeling of never quite fitting in, of never being pretty enough or smart enough, of feeling awkward and insignificant. It was a painful journey—all writing is, if done well. Without even realizing it, I chose a play list that I listened to when I was 16, a fact that surprised me when I discovered what I’d been subconsciously doing. I’d been allowing the music to take me back to my raw teenage self. Some of those songs I’d never been able to listen to as an adult—they brought back too many unpleasant memories.
So, apparently, this imaginary person—who appeared out of nowhere—changed my writing career and then led me down a path likened to deep therapy. I walked over glass-embedded ground toward a hazy future. Following after someone who wasn’t real.
In the process, I came to know myself better. I discovered that teenage me was stronger than I’ve given her credit. Like Kira, I survived some difficult situations and came out of them determined. And just like Kira, one of the things that helped me along the way was writing poetry.
I stopped working on one book to write down the story of an imaginary character who was haunting me.
Perhaps, if you read her story, she will haunt you too.
Turning sixteen can be hell, especially if everyone in town thinks your mother killed herself and your sister. All Kira Callahan wants to do is swim, hang out with her best friend, Sean, and ignore the kids who torment her at school. That is, until one day when she gets invited to a party. For three minutes her life is wonderful—she even kisses Sean. Then somebody spikes her drink and some girls from out of town lure her into the ocean and hold her underwater.
Kira soon discovers that the group of wild teenagers who have come to visit Crescent Moon Bay are not as innocent as they seem. In fact, nothing is as it seems—not the mysterious deaths of her sister and mother, not her heritage, not even her best friend. And everything seems to hinge on the ancient Celtic legends that her mother used to tell her as a child.
With twenty years’ experience in publishing, Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as the editor of Victorian Homes magazine to become a full-time novelist. Her first two novels, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles and Feast: Harvest of Dreams were published by HarperVoyager. Fathom is both her first YA novel and her first indie published novel. When not writing, she loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time. Born in the Midwest, she now lives in Southern California with her husband, their two German shepherds and a Siamese cat. You can find her on her blog, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.