Photo credit: bloodybee
The next novel I wrote was called The Follower.
Unlike my first two efforts, which were geared toward middle-schoolers (ages 9 to 12), this one was aimed at young adults.
Teenagers, in other words.
I tried to incorporate all of the advice Jennie, the literary agent, had given me for Walking Distance and The Bridge, particularly: 1. Let the main character — in this case, the strong and resourceful Libby — drive the story, and; 2. Keep asking and answering the question, “And then what?”
I have never worked harder on a novel than I did on The Follower. I wrote it at a Caribou Coffee shop, sitting day after day at the long table by the front windows, alternately staring into space and typing, if not madly, then methodically.
As I wrote, I pantomimed the characters’ body language. I didn’t want to say how they felt. I wanted to show how they felt by describing their voices, mannerisms and movements.
For example, during a pivotal scene, Libby kisses the cheek of this geeky guy she has a love-hate relationship with. The guy’s name is Matt, and I searched for a simile that would show the significance of that kiss. So as I sat at the long table, I lowered my head and began kissing the back of my right hand.
Eventually, I got it. The kiss sounded like a small lock springing open!
With my first two novels, my main character, Rachel, was modeled after my daughter Mara, and her nemesis and ultimate ally, Kyle, was modeled after her big brother Max.
I used those novels to explore Mara and Max’s complicated, real-life relationship.
With The Follower, Libby was mostly modeled after me, and I used the novel to explore my complicated, real-life relationship with my adopted parents.
Which is why Libby’s family is absent and Matt’s is cruel.
I also tried to imagine what the world was like for my son, who is on the autistic spectrum and is fiercely intelligent. How would he react when the less-than-logical concept of love was on the line?
I thought Jennie would adore The Follower because, in addition to taking her aforementioned advice, the novel didn’t focus on family, as did Walking Distance and The Bridge, but solely on the main character, who emerges from a physical and metaphorical forest fire knowing her true worth.
In July of 2009, I sent Jennie the manuscript.
Then I waited.
To be continued . . .