At the risk of sounding like a jaded, middle-aged crone, I'm taking a break from writing dark, family dramas for grown-ups. And it's not that I don't love reading them, it's just that I'm taking a hard look at my primary New Year's Resolution--invite more whimsy to my life--and realizing that I need to change something fundamental in order for whimsy to actually SEE the welcome mat.
What I've discovered, after miles of walking in the woods, is that the things that were so important to me as a girl, the things I either loved, or were familiar with, or comforted me, are not readily accessible when I'm a cynical, surly adult whose every other word is fuck.
There are few common denominators. When I was a girl I loved animals. Horded them. Everything from salamanders to 17-hand horses. If it weren't for these critters: cats, hamsters, dogs, ponies, bunnies, gerbils, even, for a short time, a goat, I never would have made it through childhood. Another factor was setting. It changed every few years: Austria, Massachusetts, Long Island, San Diego, Upstate NY. Just as I got proficient in appropriating one accent, off we fled, to another corner of the world. I loved this. Absolutely loved it. But my very first language was German, and I lament having abandoned it so early.
Boys. Yup, couldn't do my greatest childhood hits without mentioning the extra-curriculars. As with critters and locations, I found boys necessary, enchanting, and ultimately perplexing. I emulated the way they moved in the world. The way they smelled. What they wore. I loved the shorthand of boys, the economy. They didn't waste time on embellishments the way girls I knew did. They were simply bad as opposed to conniving. What you saw, was what you got.
I have just finished a book written for the YA market, and I plan to write at least two more, and for some reason, I still feel I need to apologize for this. Explain it. At least to myself. The impetus was to find a way in to a story I'd been trying to tap into for several years, but quickly became something else after I realized that I was beginning to re-engage with a part of myself that I miss. The me who was filled with wonder, whimsy, questions and daydreams.
The series of connected books I'm writing are set in Bavaria, Austria and Oregon and have lots of critters and boys in them. There is magic, too. Magic that allows for revisioning history and explores the "what if" in the "what about" --which has opened a door to some fantastic metaphors. The power of words, for one, and the responsibility a person has for exploiting truth. And, most interesting to me, how the very nature of truth itself shifts with consciousness.
I know this all sounds super nerdy, but the other thing about me as a kid besides critters, settings and boys was, I was the most ditzy of all nerds. An oxymoron that I'm hoping will finally be the thing that compels whimsy to pay me a permanent visit.