I’ve scared away the sweet old man again.
Explaining why nice people flee me seems like a good way to introduce myself. I’m Kim Savage, and I write psychological thrillers for young adults. My novel AFTER THE WOODS will be released by Farrar, Straus & Giroux/MacMillan in 2015, and a second, stand-alone thriller, CELLOPHANE SISTERS (working title) will be released in 2016.
You see, when I write, especially first-draft stuff, I look like a keening witch doctor. I sway as I type, and whisper, looking for lyricism. Working my way into a trance, I tap with grand, oversized strokes, closing my eyes to envision scenes. I read dialogue in character, making sure it sounds authentic. Sometimes, I model my characters’ actions. What does Deborah look like when Shane shows up in Liv’s hospital room? Does she draw in her chin? If so, would her waddle flatten and spread? Wait, I can check this on my mirror app! Oh yeah: major spread. It all adds up to one freaky scene, made worse by the fact that I write in my public library. Choose another table, sweet old man who scans the Globe every morning. Vodoun priestess is in da house!
The magic started when I stalked my dream agent, Sara Crowe, at a Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators retreat and signed with her a month later. She sold my book in a pre-empt to Janine O’Malley at FSG, which I’m pretty sure is entered through pearly white gates inlaid with gold. Next time I’m in NYC, I’m checking that out.
I live with my husband and youngish kids just north of Boston. I’ve spent most of my life as an introvert in disguise, because extroverts have more fun. Though I’ve had careers in journalism and development, writing fiction is the only thing I’ve truly wanted to do. So I shake my head over the fact that I get to write, tics in full force, every single day.
I’m starting to suspect all this conjuration has sparked some supernatural mischief. Because during the last few weeks, my novel has been haunting me.
By way of background: in AFTER THE WOODS, a man tries to abduct Julia and her best friend, Liv. One year later, everything is turned upside down. Liv freezes out Julia, whose terrifying flashbacks of the attack make reassimilating to high school life impossible. When Liv’s risqué new habits include Shane Cuthbert, a violent addict whose temper Liv cultivates, Julia realizes she must remember what really happened that day in the woods before she loses Liv forever.
Back to the magic. Recently, while watching the news, I saw my opportunistic reporter, Paula Papademetriou—not all of her, just her man-hands—attached to a local newscaster.
Last month, I was eased off the road by Shane Cuthbert’s matte black muscle car.
On the same road, I pulled over to send a text and saw the house my predator, Donald Jessup, lives in with his mother. The brown vinyl siding, the yellow mail exploding from the mailbox, the frayed lawn chairs were all there.
I think I know what’s up. I’ve been going hard at Novel Two, and my first baby will not be ignored. The doppelganger body parts and suspiciously similar settings are just Novel One’s way of reminding me it’s there. After all, you can’t summon magic and expect it to stay dormant (see “Frozen”).
AFTER THE WOODS began with flipping a question. Would you sacrifice yourself to save your best friend? Then: would you sacrifice your best friend to save yourself? What follows isn’t easy. Neither are my characters. I’m with Clare Messud when she asks, “The relevant question isn’t ‘is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘is this character alive?’ ”
I want readers to care as deeply about Julia and Liv as I do. About them, if not for them. Understand their hard choices, then agree, or disagree. Ultimately, I hope my characters come alive for readers, which would, in fact, be a little bit of magic.
I’d love to hear from you, especially about your favorite “tough” YA characters. Tweet me @khsavage
|Kim Savage is the author of AFTER THE WOODS, a debut psychological thriller for young adults coming in 2015 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux/MacMillan. She is working on CELLOPHANE SISTERS (working title), also with FSG/MacMillan, her second thriller for young adults. Before writing fiction, she worked as business journalist, pitching stories along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You get the idea.|