Today I have the great honor of introducing you to Stevie Mikayne--woman of many, many hats. Not only is she a great advice giver and Senior Editor at Evolved Publishing, but she is also an amazing writer (I'm in the middle of reading Jellicle Girl and loving it). This guest post hits home to me. How is that a fictional character can feel SO real? I have this same problem too, Stevie. Some characters will stick with you, as a writer, a lot longer than most. Maybe they'll stay with you forever. If so, THAT'S an amazing thing to have happen. I'm truly grateful it happened to me.
Make sure to check out her giveaway below.
Sometimes I wonder if I should be insulted that readers like the secondary characters in Jellicle Girl more than the protagonist. After all, I obviously thought Beth was the most interesting character, otherwise I would have written the book about someone else....
Really, though, I'm flattered that readers like anyone enough to take sides—that the characters who live and breathe (and occasionally swear), eventually worm their way into the lives of the people flipping the pages.
Readers tell me all the time that the Jellicle Girl characters feel so real. "Are they real people?" Sorry—you'll have to read another blog post at EvolvedPub.com to find out the answer to that question. Here, I will just say: to me, they are.
Dr. Nancy Sullivan was someone I'd go to for therapy. Lizzie played on the tire swing at a park near my house. And I'm pretty sure Beth flipped me the bird on a subway once.
And this may be why I'm having a little trouble moving on and writing other books. Why I've been only too happy to push the publication date of Weight of Earth back... ahem... four months. Part of me doesn't want to say goodbye to the characters I spent ten years getting to know. And another part of me is afraid I won't ever know other characters well enough to make them as real as Beth and Dr. Sullivan and Lizzie—and that readers will be disappointed.
Now that I have publication deadlines for three books a year, I worry I won't have time to have coffee and chat with the people whose lives I'm writing about—that my characters somehow won't seem as complete.
Will I have a chance to deliberately carve out good points and irritating points in equal measure? To find interesting and creative character flaws for each person? To look closely enough to find out what each character will go to the wall for, and what they would do in their worst moments, despite wanting to be decent people? Why someone loves that character despite the traits that drive others away?
As a writer, I think I owe that to my characters and my craft. This seems reasonable to me. I take a couple years to get to know a friend really well... why not a character?
So after I finish polishing and editing and publishing the eight novels sitting under my bed, maybe I'll be down to one story every year... every two?
Characters are the heart and soul of a story, so I spend a lot of time researching them—delving into the psyches of the people who will push the story to the brink and back. While I'm looking into the time, place, and climate of the story, I imagine the protagonist along for the ride, providing a running commentary on her surroundings.
I look at the old Georgian buildings in downtown Toronto and imagine Dr. Sullivan sitting in the bay window of her office, wondering how she'll be able to get inside when she eventually needs a wheelchair.
I imagine Lizzie on the car ride home with her mother, hoping and praying she'll get to stay with her family this time, while deep, deep down, she wishes that when she gets taken away again, it will be soon enough to come back to Beverly.
I imagine teenage Beth picking up the phone and staring at it—realising that there's no one she can call to help her. Her mother wouldn't answer. Her father is globe-trotting and doesn't have a phone number. She's dropped all her friends except Jackie, and Jackie's gone.
Dr. Sullivan stands up and forces herself to walk across the room and back, holding onto the furniture even when her knees start shaking and she almost falls....
Lizzie tries to melt into the background of her life at home, escaping to the garage when her father starts drinking.....
Beth turns on the coffee machine and cranks the television up to drown out the silence.....
And then the book begins....
Don’t forget to stop by the Evolved Publishing pre-holiday blog hop. We’ve got 20 autographed books up for grabs! From thrilling young adult adventures to suspense nail-biters, thought-provoking literary novels, bright and cheery books for children, an uplifting memoir, and hot-and-steamy romance, we’ve got something for everyone on your holiday-shopping list.
About Stevie Mikayne: Stevie Mikayne never dreamed of flying. She dreamed of writing stories that would one day be on library bookshelves. She graduated from Lancaster University (UK) with a Master's in creative writing, and immediately pinned up a quotation from Margaret Laurence to deter her from giving in to the temptation of a day job. "When I say work, I only mean the writing. Everything else is just odd jobs." Stevie is both an editor and author at Evolved Publishing. Jellicle Girl is her debut novel. Look for Weight of Earth, coming soon!
About Jellicle Girl: When Beth met Jackie, she was fifteen and shy, living in the shadow of her mother—talented artist Heather Sarandon. Jackie, wilful, cheeky and confident, made Beth see things in herself that she never imagined, and do things she never thought she would. As memories of Beth’s last night with Jackie grow more like waking nightmares, Beth does everything she can to forget the girl who was so much more than a friend.
Beth has a self-destructive ritual she swears she’ll keep secret, even from the psychologist trying to help her. But Dr. Nancy Sullivan doesn’t have time for secrets. In fact, she doesn’t have much time at all. She’s been charged with helping Beth break through the barriers of her past, knowing very well that her own demons might end her career before she can get through to the stubborn young woman.
Meanwhile, a young foster child with a wicked sense of humour and a devastating past reminds Beth that secrets seem powerful, but can destroy the person who holds them too close. Jellicle Girl is a powerful coming-of-age story about redemption, identity, and learning to let go of secrets that scar.