First, I'm participating in this MEME Blog Hop hosted by Christine Rains, C. Lee McKenzie, Tara Tyler
to encourage, inspire, and amuse you all. I accidentally posted my post a week early. Oops! So I'm posting it again in case you missed it. As many of you know, I've been going through so many changes over the last few years and I hate change. I thought I'd share part of an article on attitude from the newspaper that I taped on my fridge to help me through it. I'm not sure who the author is. Hope it inspires you too!
The longer I liver, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
. . .
We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and this is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.
Today I'm excited to have debut author Melanie Conklin here with her agent Peter Knapp to share about Melanie's new MG contemporary COUNTING THYME and creating memorable characters.
Here's a blurb of COUNTING THYME from Goodreads:
When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.
After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.
Now here's Melanie and Peter!
CHARACTERS TO LOVE
One of the things Pete and I have in common is a deep love of having our hearts crushed by great characters. We regularly commiserate over books that left us flat on the floor (hello, ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES!). We both love stories with characters that come to life, the kind of people who jump right off the page and demand to be heard. That’s not the easiest thing to write, so as an author it’s something that I study closely. How do you craft a character that readers can relate to? What makes that feeling tip over into love? For me, it’s honesty. Your character must bare their soul to connect.
Yes, and I think pulling off honesty is tricky because real honesty is complicated, sometimes ugly and often contradictory. Something that immediately grabbed my attention about Counting Thyme is that our narrator, Thyme, is both hopeful and guilt-ridden; she wants desperately to move back home to San Diego, but it makes her feel terrible since returning home implies that her younger brother's clinical drug trial has somehow failed. The result is a sense of shame, which is a feeling that I think underlies a lot of the middle school experience. I think part of growing up is coming to terms with the fact that our emotions are in constant conflict with each other.
I wonder if maybe I haven’t finished growing up yet? Seriously, that middle school shame still hangs over
Yes! I love a story that unearths the hidden lives of its characters. This process of discovery is such an important part of Thyme’s journey because by finding out other characters’ secrets, she is forced to confront the gulf between what she knows about herself and what others know about her. Early on in the novel, Thyme tries to control this by compartmentalizing her life a little: she keeps her brother Val’s illness a secret from her classmates as a way of claiming some identity apart from the heartache of having a sick family member. On the one hand, I don’t think she’s entirely wrong to do so, and I think there is great value in this; on the other hand, that’s just now how identity works, at least in my experience. The different parts of our lives don’t fit neatly into separate boxes. It’s more like a plate of spaghetti.
As you can see, Pete likes conflicted characters as much as I do. I love it when I read a passage that stuns me with its honesty, especially if the character’s admissions aren't the “right thing” to say. The truth is, we all arrive at our choices by experiencing the full range of emotions. To make your characters real, they need to exhibit the full range of emotions—even the ones that are shameful or embarrassing. One of my favorite authors who is an absolute pro when it comes to characters with depth is Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Carley from ONE FOR THE MURPHYS is in a tough spot, having been placed with a foster family after domestic violence in her home. Some of the thoughts Carley has about what she deserves in life are absolutely heart-wrenching. But they ring with truth. I still wonder about Carley now—how she’s doing, where she lives. The more flawed you allow your character to be, the more I love them.
I feel like all of life is about coming to terms with uncertainty! Or maybe that’s just my life. Either way, that’s why I love writing through the middle grade lens. It’s a time when the wonders of the world are just opening up to our characters, and they are busy trying to find how they fit into that picture. Maybe that’s why middle grade is so accessible. The best books give us characters that we love getting to know at any age.
Melanie has generously offered an ARC of COUNTING THYME for a giveaway and Peter is offering a query critique. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through March 12th. If you do not want to be included in the query critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. The book giveaway is for U.S. and the query critique giveaway is international.
Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the other participating bloggers on her blog.
Here's what's coming up:
On Friday I'm participating in the Lucky Is Reading Book Giveaway Hop.
Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Janet Summer Johnson and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY.
On Wednesday next week I have an Agent Spotlight Interview with agent Patricia Nelson and a query critique giveaway.
The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Andrew Brumbach and his agent Danielle Chiotti with a query critique giveaway by Danielle and an ARC giveaway of Andrew's MG historical adventure THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT.
Hope to see you on Friday!