Since Maggie graciously invited me to be a guest blogger, I have been struggling with what to write. As a new novelist, and really a soon-to-be newly-published author, the idea of the validity of my voice is daunting. In other words, it is surreal that people care what I have to say. I am a middle child—I am sure this is something most of us would struggle with!
And yet, what an opportunity! To contribute to a blog that continues to impress me each and every time I read it. So I feel like I must work through my own insecurities and lend my words. This does little to contribute to my concern and questions over what to write, though.
I have it now, though. As the press and pre-pub activities for my novel Max and Menna begin to pick up and get busy (and my are they ever getting busy!) maybe I can answer a question that I am frequently asked. It’s a simple query (and one I would pose to Maggie as well): why do you write?
My hometown paper ran an article on me and the book this Sunday, and my blubbering, half-intelligible response to this very question was a focal point of the article. In trying to read it objectively, I was struck by a simple and somehow frightening understanding. Why does she write… she doesn’t know.
And I am rather fuzzy on the general reason, though I do have a good sense. Specifically, why did I write Max and Menna, a novel hurdling towards its pub date? For that one, I haven’t the foggiest. I remember why I started to write it, but why I latched on to an idea when I was so young (I began it at the tender age of 17)and allowed it to carry me through some of the toughest and some of the best times of my life remains a mystery.
To sound totally goofy and cliché, Max and Menna started as a dream. At the tender age of 17, hormones raging I am sure, I had a dream about kissing a boy. We were in the attic of the house across the street from my grandfather’s house, and we were quite innocently kissing. This boy had long, dark hair and strong arms, and he made me feel calm (which, trust me, was not a familiar feeling to me at that age). Those who have read the book might immediately recognize this dreamy man as the impetus for Nick, the tertiary character in the book, and the man (albeit fictional) who has held my heart longer than any other in my life.
Yes, I know Nick is fictional. Trust me, no issues accepting reality,
I woke up from this dream in early September of my junior year of high school, right as fall began to descend. I have always found fall to be exhilarating and thrilling. It is my favorite season, and I emerged that morning for school to find the perfect day in front of me. Nonetheless, the sadness of the end of summer made me yearn for June, for the days when…the sun seems to melt from the sky like butter.
Over the course of the short walk from my house to the bus stop, my sweet but innocent dream mixing with the inspiration I felt from the onset of fall and a torrid wish for the freedom of summer, Max and Menna Soother were born.
I wrote the first draft of the short story between then and Christmas, and added on and on and on to it until, when I reached 29, it was finally done.
There is a non-answer for you if ever there was one!
In general, though, I did say one thing very truthfully to my hometown paper this Sunday—I write because I have to. I am typing out this post from seat 28F on an Airtran flight from Orlando to Baltimore. I have been on the road and completely swamped for six days. When I boarded the flight (half an hour late) I realized that I was more anxious than usual.
And trust me, “usual” for me is pretty anxious.
But we taxied (forever) I began to think of some changes and additions and deletions I wanted to make on my second novel, and I began to feel a bit calmer. Now, even constructing something as informal as this blog, I can feel my shoulders loosening and my mood elevating.
I write because if I don’t, the emotion that grows inside of me pushing me to write makes me very, very nervous. If I have an idea and go more than a couple of hours before I can pour it out from my fingers onto a hard drive somewhere, I feel a panic like I cannot describe to you. I will throw in a terrible analogy—its like a helium balloon reaching capacity. I have to take some of the pressure off, or surely it will pop.
Again, I am so grateful for the opportunity to lend my voice to this page. I have probably accomplished little besides convincing you all that I am a nut case, but I hope that Maggie’s readers will find a copy of Max and Menna and see if they like the story this nutcase has to tell!
Thank you so much for your time and insight, Shauna, and congratulations on your first novel. I hope to have you back someday! You can find Shauna Kelley on her blog, and keep an eye out for Max and Menna from Lucky Press, releasing November 1st of this year!