People often say to me, "As a first-time novelist with a book only moments away from publication, do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers with dreams of following in your footsteps?" Of course I reply, "Tell them to abandon their useless dreams." The Young Adult world is already too crowded. I certainly don't need to be encouraging more competition.
But the events of the past week have caused me to reflect on that question. And now I have an honest answer. If you are, like I was, writing your first novel and you're tempted to take short cuts with your character descriptions or you want to instill instant familiarity into your reading audience, don't do what I did. DON'T USE POP CULTURE AS A CRUTCH.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not self-hating here. I unreservedly recommend Hottie (available to purchase: April 2). In fact I'd go so far as to say it's better than any book with a unicorn on the cover. But I did two things that I want to pass on to you aspiring writers as examples that should not be followed.
Example A: The superhero(ine)'s love interest is a guy called Tommy Hull, universally known as T. He's the Junior President of Beverly Hills High. He volunteers after school with the L.A Fire Department. He's handsome, athletically-inclined and socially aware. Because I was reluctant to spend too much time detailing the dreaminess of a male high-school student, I boiled down his essence to two words.
I wrote Hottie over a year ago. For over a year, there could be no more flattering comparison for a male character than Christian Bale. Not anymore. Even though he's apologized and called his outburst out-of-character, you and i both know, he's going to be forever branded the shouty guy.
Example B: In one of the few moments, Alison Cole, the hugely popular Beverly Hills High student who will soon become the after-school superhero known as Hottie, isn't at odds with her jealous, insecure best friends, they bond over their shared adoration for a style icon who is, in their eyes, flawless and untouchable.
I still maintain Rihanna's the gold standard as far as pop stars go but flawless and untouchable aren't the first things that spring to mind when you think about her now.
So, first-time writers, learn from my mistakes. Go the extra mile. Don't fall back on pop-culture. It moves fast while publishing goes at a crawl.
Never let it be said I don't take my own advice. I handed in the new draft of Hottie 2 yesterday. Nothing in that one's gonna come back and bite me on the ass. I mean, it's not like we're all gonna forget about Tatiana del Toro a year from now, right?