As I said yesterday, I always end up with stories that, one way or another, are not light and fluffy. Well, here’s one bound to make you use tissues. It’s such a delicate, private topic, and I feel like dropping the hat to the author for facing it.
I also had the pleasure to speak with Adrienne, and we talked about one of the struggles she had to face for this book. But first, here’s what the story is about.
What happens when the person you love most in the world suddenly becomes a stranger?
Adam and Jenny’s world is falling apart. Their dream of attending college together away from home quickly becomes a nightmare when Adam begins hearing the voice of the Snow Queen. Adam’s startling transformation from popular drama student into a withdrawn, suspicious stranger leaves Jenny frightened and confused. How can the person she loves most in the world suddenly become someone she doesn’t recognize? As Adam drifts farther and farther away into the Snow Queen’s mysterious world of ice and snow, Jenny believes she must fight to bring him back or risk losing him forever.
Vividly narrated by Adam and Jenny, the struggle to understand the impact of Adam’s mental illness, forces both characters on a journey of self-discovery that leads to understanding about life’s uncertainty, the power of first love, and the pain of letting go. Drawing on elements of The Snow Queen fairy tale, Losing Adam is a unique combination of drama and romance.
The challenge of writing about the recent past
Why 1994? The question most people ask when I explain that my YA/NA novel Losing Adam is set at a college campus in 1994. The agents and editors who expressed interest in the manuscript early on, were particularly concerned that the ‘historical setting’ would put off readers who preferred stories set in the here and now.
I listened carefully to these concerns, but in the end, I chose to move forward, or backward if you like, with 1994. The setting felt right for several reasons. First and foremost because I wanted to create a setting with a timeless, romantic feel, free from the technology shorthand that dictates the way modern teenagers communicate with one another. I wanted my characters to express themselves in letters, rather than through texts, and to do this I had to set my story before smart phones took over the world. While I don’t consider myself old-fashioned, I do long for the lost days of letter writing. I believe letters allowed people to reveal themselves in ways that texts messages just can’t. For those who claim that today’s teens don’t care about letters because you can’t miss what you never had, I think that for some, the past always holds a certain amount of fascination. Especially for those who might sometimes feel disconnected from the modern world. No matter what age you’re living in, I think there is always a certain amount of nostalgia for lost things.
My second reason for setting Losing Adam in 1994 is because that’s the year I started university. The first year of college is different for everyone, but there is a kind of rhythm and emotional language that’s difficult to recreate the farther you get away from it. The advantage of setting my novel in 1994 is that I would be familiar with the music, world events and pop cultural references relevant at that time. When it comes to music, many of the bands I reference in the novel including, The Clash, The Cure, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, are still popular in 2018.
The more I talked to the young adults I work with, the more convinced I became that setting my novel in the recent past wouldn’t affect the novel’s ability to find readers. Just like in 1994, or at any other time in history, there are always teens who feel out of touch or disconnected from their generation. What matters more than the time period is the emotional connection readers feel to a specific character, and my hope is that readers will feel pulled into Adam and Jenny’s world. The adage, ‘the more things change the more they stay the same,’ holds true in the way that although our ways of communicating with one another may change, a lot of the emotional baggage stays the same. The struggle for self, for understanding, for compassion, for love, are eternal concerns. But don’t take my word for it. Take a journey with me in Losing Adam to the recent past and tell me what you think!
Student Health Services: Please come in, the sign on the door said. Had that been there the last time? Come in – come in, come in, come in. The words circled slowly in my head without coming to a stop. The receptionist handed me a blue form. Please record your name and student number it said in tiny black letters. The words to an old Clash song rang in my head: Should I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double…
The receptionist took in my unwashed hair and dirty jeans. “Don’t worry, all of your information is kept strictly confidential.”
I rolled the pen back and forth between my fingers. “Does that include my parents?”
“Yes, of course. We won’t release your personal information to anyone without your permission.” I wasn’t sure I believed her, but I filled out the form anyway and headed towards the waiting area. There were a couple of other students there coughing their lungs out, so I sat down as far away from them as possible.
“Adam Kane,” the nurse read off a shiny plastic clipboard. The way she said my name made me feel like I had burs underneath my skin. I didn’t want anyone looking at me and wondering why I was there.
The nurse looked expectantly in the direction of the waiting area. Stand up! My body responded to the command in slow motion. Finally, I raised myself out of the chair and followed the nurse down a long hallway painted pea soup green. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. I counted fourteen cracks in the linoleum floor before we stopped in front of a small office. The nurse waved me towards two squat looking plastic chairs. I sat down in the one closest to the door and watched the nurse arrange a sheet of crinkly white paper on the examining table.
“She hates you,” the static whispered. “She wants you to die.”
“Stop,” I said.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?” the nurse asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “It’s nothing.” Didn’t she hear it? Of course she did, she’s just pretending. That’s why she was looking at me like that; disgust seeped from the pores on her face making her skin shiny, almost wet looking.
The nurse pointed to the crinkly paper. “If you’ll hop up on the table for me please, I’m going to take your blood pressure.”
“Don’t do it,” one of the voices whispered. “It burns, it burns,” said another.
The nurse patted the table like you would a puppy. “It’ll just take a minute.”
I moved towards the table, but when I tried to climb onto it, my arms and legs turned to Jell-O. The nurse grabbed hold of my arm and hoisted me into place.
“There now, can you raise your right arm please?” Her voice was pointed and sharp, like the needles lined up on the table across from me. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to push the voices back into the static. At first that’s all they’d been, a fuzzy kind of humming, like when the TV cable went out, except that the sound was coming from inside of my head. But then the static began to take shape. Tiny pieces of black fuzz slowly bonding together until the voices were strong enough to make themselves heard over the steady hum in my brain. I hated the voices. Keeping them quiet sucked the energy from my body until I felt as thin and weightless as a shadow.
My short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, The Storyteller, A Fly in Amber, New Plains Review, Silly Tree Anthologies, and in the e-zines Les Bonnes Fees, The Devilfish Review, Rose Red Review and 87 Bedford. An excerpt from my forthcoming YA novel Losing Adam won first place in the Young Adult category of the Seven Hills Literary Review contest.
- $50 Amazon gift card