I wrote the following post in 2008 just after I finished my second revision for my editor at Penguin. Oh, my. I've got some stories to tell you about that, too. All in good time.
from "Storm's Story," Tues., May 13th, 2008, my original website
Now, where was I? Leesie. Full name--Aleesa Hunt. Poor Leesie. She had a rough time coming in to her own. She started out getting saddled with way too much me.
Every character I create has a part of me in them--my emotions, experiences, understanding, and imagination. That’s all I’ve got to work with. But a character that is too much the author can’t become a unique individual and grow with the other characters. Autobiography isn’t fiction.
When Ron Koertge (STONER AND SPAZ), my first advisor at Vermont College, commented that, “a sharp young editor in her black DKNY dress isn’t going to warm to this,” unless I gave Leesie more backbone and spunk, I got busy and changed her up. I gave her a retro leather jacket that the most styling girl in my Seminary class wore to church. Then I gave Leesie long, gorgeous hair--like my sisters had. And most of all, I stopped trying to force all my most hideous high school experiences on her in the first thirty pages.
She stayed a Mormon, though. Ron encouraged that from the very beginning, and I’m grateful. If I know anything, I know Mormon teenagers.
As I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve come to believe that writers do much more than write what they know. They write what intrigues them, what they love, what they believe, what they are passionate about. For me, that’s my faith. I don’t write about my faith. That doesn’t work in fiction. I write from my faith. Mormonism forms my artistic core--the well I draw from. With an LDS character, I can go really deep. Give my readers an intimate journey of the challenges she faces when she falls in love with a boy outside her faith.
And I’d set myself a much harder task than I realized with Michael. Sure, I know lots of scuba talk and can stuff his mouth with that. I have the voices of my teen sons in my ear. But how could I even begin to fathom the intimate workings of an elite breathe-hold diver who survives a hurricane that kills his parents? A sexually experienced guy who believes in the ocean instead of God?
The more I wrote and revised, listened to mentors, critique pals, and editors, the closer I got to Michael. My editor helped a lot, too. I think I’m finally there.