Welcome to the latest Story Secrets, where YA authors dish about the secrets behind their YA novels. Today, I'm really excited to welcome Lisa McMann, author of WAKE, FADE and GONE (just released this week!), to talk about the secrets behind trilogy.
People often ask me what inspired the WAKE trilogy, and I always answer with the same thing in person as what I have written on my website – I had a dream that I was in my husband’s dream, watching what he was dreaming about. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I wrote down the dream, and in the morning when I woke up, the idea didn’t suck. So I explored the possibilities and began writing.
Truly, that is what inspired the plot. But the inspiration for the characters came from another place, layers and layers deep. It took me a year and a half of booksignings and interviews to really get to the heart of it.
When I was a kid, I’d go to the Herrick Public Library in Holland, Michigan every Saturday with my mom and I’d check out fourteen books. I read two books a day. I remember in fifth grade our school did a month-long Multiple Sclerosis read-a-thon fundraiser – a statewide school event. Our school did so well we came in third in the state.
Whoever read the most books in the school got to go to Lansing to pick up the trophy, and also won a wristwatch. Well, I had read 66 books that month…and nobody believed me. They accused me of making up titles so that I could win. I was crestfallen, because I really did read that many books. Still, I got to take the trophy home.
Anyway, as you can tell, I loved to read as a child, and I still do to this day. As I really pondered what inspired the WAKE trilogy, I realized that there was a lot more inspiration to my books than just a dream I had. The inspiration for my characters came from other characters I’d read and loved as a child.
There was a certain kind of character I adored and I soon realized that I gravitated toward the same types of characters, whether they were in sci-fi or fantasy or realistic fiction. I loved, with all my heart, the characters that were underdogs. The down-and-outers. The ones who were worse off than me.
Little Women. Four young women with their mother, during war time, their father away, and trying to survive and just live their lives as best they could on so little. Amy and her precious limes, scorned because she borrowed and couldn’t pay back. I loved it. They were poor, strong women. Survivors.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie Bucket. Oh, how I loved and absorbed the misery of the Bucket household. Little Charlie, living with his parents, his father trying to pay the bills on a toothpaste factory worker income. His four ancient grandparents, pinched and starving, all in one bed. Not enough food in the house for a meal, much less a day or a week. Oh, I loved their suffering. Yes, I probably need psychological help.
But I loved Charlie and I wanted him to survive. He was strong and smart and he had absolutely nothing to lose. And he had it worse than I did.
In my own personal dramatic life, there was hope for me.
And so, perhaps you can start to see where my characters come from.
Janie, a seventeen-year-old girl, gets sucked into other people’s dreams. She can’t control it. She can’t tell anybody about it, or they’d think she’s a freak. So she lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.
But that wasn’t enough for me. Oh, no. Not only was Janie cursed with this ability, but I had to go and make her mother an alcoholic and her father non-existent. And she and her mother are on welfare.
But Janie, like Charlie Bucket, like the March girls, is strong. So when Janie gets sucked into the nightmare of a mysterious guy named Cabe, who dreams of killing someone, and also about kissing Janie, you know she’s tough enough to see it through.
I can definitely relate, Lisa - Charlie and Jo are among my favorite characters in literature - and love how you pinpointed the draw of the underdog. Thanks for stopping by and telling us your secrets!