Below is my guest post on Patricia’s Particularity. To see it there and explore the rest of her site, go to http://www.patriciasparticularity.com
Hi, everybody! I feel so honored to have The Boy From The Basement receiving so much attention from Patricia’s Particularity. I hope you’re all enjoying it.
So how did I come to write this book? Why this topic?
A person who was on my mind when I began the story was a friend in a hellish situation. He saw no way out of his mess, and I felt badly for him. There was nothing I could do to help, but perhaps Charlie’s story came from my wish that there was something I could do, something I could fix. Maybe that wish combined with other flotsam and jetsam swirling around inside my head, and it formed something new. Not sure. A story undoubtedly has many points of origin that come together with the right circumstances. But one thing—when I write a story, I’m usually trying to fix something. What it is, I’m never sure at the outset.
The afternoon I began The Boy From The Basement, my husband, John, and I had spent a couple of hours in Valley Forge Park, near where we live. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we walked through the park, admiring the landscape and the Schuylkill River as it flowed past the bank. We talked, we were silent, we were peaceful. It was a good time.
Then we returned home to the normal chaos of our lives. John got things started in the kitchen for dinner while I sat at my desk on the other side of the dining room from him, hoping to find an idea while the children came in and out with needs and questions and remarks.
I had been having trouble finding the next project after Black-eyed Suzie, which had only just been released. For months, nothing was happening storywise except me writing random words that went nowhere, but there must have been something about our time in Valley Forge that day that cleared a lot of the clutter from my mind because at the very inconvenient time of five o’clock, without a whole lot of lead-in, I wrote the following words: I’m sitting in a basement smelling of old cigarette smoke. Empty and raw, no feeling of ease or well-being. Just being.
With those few words, I knew I had a story. Sometimes I can just tell, and sometimes I can’t. This was one of those times I could. The story resonated in those few words. I didn’t have any idea what it was about or where it would go or even where those words came from. I didn’t even know the main character was a boy until he had to pee off the back porch.
But wow! With those opening words. Look—Wow!—a story!
I kept writing, one word flowing after the other, writing as fast as I could because I knew dinner was about to be ready—I can still smell it when I think of that beginning—we must have been having scrapple that night—and I didn’t want to lose the sense of the story when I had to leave it. I wanted to get as far along as I could so that the path I’d started would be findable when I came back.
And Charlie’s story emerged.
And yes, for you observant people, I did revise the beginning. Cigarette smoke became old burnt furnace oil because cigarettes meant someone else had been down in the basement with Charlie, and that didn’t work with the rest of the idea. A smoker in the basement along with Charlie would have meant a different story. But you never know. I could still write that one. Who was in the basement smoking? Where did he go? Would he come back? Was he another prisoner or what? Hmmm.
So I’ve got five YA’s out there: Black-eyed Suzie, The Boy From The Basement, Safe, One Of The Survivors, and Tunnel Vision. Five YA’s out there, and many more on the way. Read ’em all and let me know what you think at authorsusanshaw.com.
I love my readers!