Thursday, January 17, 2013

What We Saw At Night Blog Tour: Guest Post by Jacquelyn Mitchard

 The Book:

Allie Kim suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosum: a fatal allergy to sunlight that confines her and her two best friends, Rob and Juliet, to the night. When freewheeling Juliet takes up Parkour—the stunt-sport of scaling and leaping off tall buildings—Allie and Rob have no choice but to join her, if only to protect her. Though potentially deadly, Parkour after dark makes Allie feel truly alive, and for the first time equal to the “daytimers.” 
On a random summer night, the trio catches a glimpse of what appears to be murder. Allie alone takes it upon herself to investigate, and the truth comes at an unthinkable price. Navigating the shadowy world of specialized XP care, extreme sports, and forbidden love, Allie ultimately uncovers a secret that upends everything she believes about the people she trusts the most.

 The Author:

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, the very first Oprah Book Club pick, as well as more than twenty other critically acclaimed books for adults and teens. A nominee for several national and international awards, she served on the 2004 Fiction Jury for the National Book Award. In addition, she is a longtime journalist and regular contributor to Real Simple and Parade magazines.
The Guest Post:
Maybe there are storytellers who can decide to write a book about … well, gender inequity or something. But for me, whatever else a book is about, the story comes out of one thing that won't leave me alone. It starts with one image. A sentence. An overheard conversation, a scent, a sight, a dream. It could be whatever possesses you -- for example, with WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT, it was the image of someone in the dark, wearing a miner's headlamp, and jumping off a building. I didn't think of that as Allie Kim, or Juliet or Rob. I didn't even know it was a teenager. I just saw this person in space, and everything that comes afterward is to try to get readers to see that person, as I did. You write a whole book to be the song that plays the chorus in your head.
This old folk-rock singer, John Sebastian, was in a band called 'The Lovin' Spoonful,’ and he wrote an immortal song called SUMMER IN THE CITY. This whole song is played anywhere anyone ever celebrates summer, but the whole song was based on one little chord progression, and you only hear it at the beginning of the song and in the middle. He wrote this whole song to display that one little thing he played at the piano. John Lennon wrote 'Here Comes the Sun' to display that one little bit in the middle he played with Paul McCartney. Anyhow. I didn't mean to go savage there. But … Martin Amis said when he wrote his bestselling book, MONEY, that he just saw this hugely fat guy in his head. And he had to write a whole story based on it.
So, with WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT: human beings are not supposed to own the landscape of the night. It's against nature. If they do, there has to be a reason that is both perverse and elegant. Why would that person be on a roof in the middle of the night? My son said to me, what if she had no day? He had been reading about kids with Xeroderma Pigmentosum, and how, if they are very, very young when this genetic defect is diagnosed, they can grow up pretty much like a normal person, except literally as a creature for whom the moon is the sun. Everything clicked then. I needed a dominant person who was also very sympathetic, who could be articulate about being a freak without looking like a freak, and from that came Allie Kim, a loved daughter, a very cute and ordinary teenager except for the one thing that makes her different from anyone else. Her mother grew out of that, because Jacqueline Kim's stern character is based on her absolute refusal to surrender her daughter to the dark. She gives Allie that chance to be outward bound in a way that no kid with her disability should be, so that Allie can go wild, and fall in love, and take risks because, although she may have a fatal illness, her mother believes that Allie will live forever. Nothing else is acceptable. Then, the story unspools itself. This girl is bold and brave and funny and admirable, and insecure, and shy, curious and vengeful and terrified. It was all there.
Enter the villain. To go up against a girl with a dark side that is literal, but with magnificent self-confidence, it had to be a monster of extraordinary blandness and cunning. This is where the writing gets to be fun. You kick out the spokes. Garrett Tabor is all bad things, and ironically defined by the fact that he is a nurse—a murderous psychopath nurse—the scion of the most powerful family in the region. His only enemy is a kid with a disability who is probably crazy, and who nobody believes.
At that point, I could have written that book forever. I never wanted it to end. When a writer is just past the halfway mark in a book, clichéd as it might seem, it’s like a race or a birth. There is no way of ever going back, because back is a closed road, more than a defeat, a wilderness of broken glass; you have to go forward. I lean hard on the characters then, and put them into the deepest jeopardy, and see if the people I've created are of enough substance to go the distance. In this case, Allie Kim was. She was the right stuff. I think of her as one of my three favorite ever characters, the others being Ronnie Swan and Vincent Cappadora. You could hang the book on those great shoulders.

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