Where Did I Get The Inspiration For BLUE?
I’m always curious about story origins, and I thought I’d share a bit about this book. BLUE was a blend of two real-life things.
First, I had a friend who went through a horrible event. On Christmas Eve, she was driving home from her closing shift at her retail job, it was dark and she was on a rural road. A young man who was intent on ending his own life threw himself in front of her SUV. She couldn’t stop in time, and ended up striking and killing him.
She was physically unhurt but it really messed her up with PTSD. To make things worse, the young man’s family tried to sue her even though the guy had a history of mental illness, left a suicide note, and a security camera at a local business captured the whole thing on video (which she had to watch in court). They were unsuccessful with the lawsuit, but it took a huge toll.
She quit her job, moved back in with her parents, and got good, professional counseling. A year or so later, she decided to go to college and work on a degree, as a new direction for her life. Her first day, first class at a nearby university, she walked in the door, and there was the guy’s sister in her class. Long story short, they eventually ended up friends, despite the horrible thing that tied them together.
I always thought that might make a good story, but as I began writing it, it just never evolved well. I picked that idea up and worked on it a dozen times over the years, but it was just missing something.
Then my daughter became a teenager, and quite out of nowhere, life decided to rain misery on her in her junior year of high school. A confluence of outside forces hit her from a few different people and situations, and despite all the support I could throw at her, the support of her teachers, and the help of a really good therapist, she just seemed “stuck” in her bubble of misery.
I felt so helpless and frustrated – none of these things that were making her miserable were what you’d call permanent things, and I wanted her to realize that all of it would pass, and she just needed to push herself through it. Perspective is a lot easier when you have decades of life experience to draw from, and honestly, in her seventeen years of life these were the worst things to ever happen to her, impermanent as they were. She did push through, and I’m fiercely proud of her for it, but it was heartbreaking for a while there.
I finally realized I wanted to write a book about perspective, and the original story was never going to work for that—not without devoting a significant portion of the book to suicide prevention and discussions of mental illness. So I changed the circumstances of the accident, made Blue an unwilling bystander. I hit her with a few other miseries until she was deluged and wallowing, then connecting, understanding and redefining to a much better place, mentally and emotionally.
BLUE became a journey from hopeless to hopeful, from feeling like everyone was trying to rewrite your story to realizing nobody really knows anyone’s story, entirely. I love how it evolved, and these characters will always have a piece of my heart.
This book is fantastic. But I’m curious: why did you self-publish? Surely this didn’t make the rounds in traditional publishing & get rejected.
What a lovely comment – thank you! I did indeed query this manuscript, with two frequent replies: “But you’re a fantasy author” came up a few times, or the editor wanted the story to center on racism and white privilege, with the character of Maya being much more economically challenged. BLUE is a book about perspective, so while there are very real conversations around racism and privilege, that isn’t the theme or focus of the story. I stuck to my guns and took it out of circulation so I could stay true to the story.
I so appreciate you sticking with your principles and making this the story it was meant to be. I will be fan-stupid here and tell you that I cried at the end of Chapter 31.
I have been heartened by your awards. I’ve always thought of independent publishing as a place that never gets much traction in MG and YA books, and you have proven that otherwise. Thank goodness you did not succumb to what seems to be “pressing books into the mold” in MG and YA.