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So dealing with criticism on my writing is actually a new thing for me, not because everything I’ve written in the past was so wonderful, but rather because this is the very first writing I’ve ever done that’s for public consumption, as it were.
And you know that saying about everyone being a critic? If you plan to write, then you need to learn those words, live them, get used to them. Obviously I expected, even hoped for, constructive criticism; I expected to hear that my pacing was off, things dragged, this scene should’ve happened later, stuff like that.
What I wasn’t expecting were comments about my characters’ character, if you get what I mean. Or opinions about things I simply chose because I wanted to, like what outfit my heroine, Birdie, was wearing. Some of it was really strange; I mean, who cared if Geth braided Birdie’s hair? It was a sweet moment, I thought.
Apparently not. It was anti-feminist, it was weird. And that wasn’t the only thing criticized, that’s just one of the extra-strange ones that popped into my head.
And I’ve heard the word (words?) “Mary Sue” bandied about with regard to my heroine. A Mary Sue is a “perfect” character, usually a projection of the author’s own fantasies and desires.
May I say, “Duh”?
I began writing these books (it started as a one book whim, and exploded into a SEVEN book trek) in response to my students’ angst over the impending, open-ended break of a very popular boyband. They were freakin’, big time. So I made a list of things these kids (mainly girls, but there were a few boys as well) would like to read about. Experience vicariously. Fantasize about. Which is what most teen fiction is. I made a point of writing about boys who really, really loved each other. Geth, Ronan, Matty and Theo are brothers in all but blood. And they adore Birdie, which, again, was sort of the point. Is she good at a lot of things? Yeah, but she worked her ass off to get that way, and paid a price for it; she’s in her early twenties, with almost no friends and no social experiences. I think she’s a believable character, taken as a whole. And she cries often. As do many young girls. Even older ones :o)
When you write something and put it out there, of course there will be people who don’t like it. I have not written the next Lolita, unfortunately, though wouldn’t that have been lovely? I haven’t written the next Harry Potter series, either (SEVEN, though lol).
I wanted to write something that young people could read and enjoy, about a young woman who was intelligent, accomplished, a normal weight (this was so important to me!), but maybe insecure in spite of all that, as many are. Living in the Shallows was written to tick a lot of boxes, to be a fantasy wish fulfillment for so many around me who seemed to be craving it. And, truth to tell, once these guys got on paper, they really took on a life of their own; they started doing things, and things started happening to them, that I hadn’t intended when I began, not all of it pleasant, either. What began as a fantasy, pie-in-the-sky dream for girls who want to be with a boyband and fall in love turned into much more, some of it very dark. But I think that’s okay, too. I mean, the point of reading is that it’s a choice. And there are so many, right?
Aileen is a bilingual music student with a chronic case of poverty. She gets a dream job as an interpreter for a boy band making a movie in Japan. Having spent her life as a sheltered, shy only child in the rarefied world of classical piano, she is utterly unprepared for this new world, these boys and their frank physicality and openness. Theo, especially, the known playboy and unrepentant flirt of the group, makes her uncomfortable in a way she's never felt before, and ultimately Aileen, or Tinker Bell, as she's known to the boys, has to decide if she's ready to leave the sidelines and become a participant in her own life.
"No, don't do that, little one, not yet."
"I fell, right?" I asked. "Teddy came in, he was drunk, he said—he said some things, you got mad at him—" I looked up at Gethin, "Matty hit him, then I ran over to them and tripped and hit my head on the edge of the table."
"What?" Matty exploded. "Tinker Bell, Theo hit you! He was aiming for me, I mean, I assume he was aiming for me—" this with another glare at Teddy, "but he took a swing as he was going down and he hit you in the face, bloodied your fucking nose!"
"Dammit, Matthew, of course I was aiming for you!" Teddy shouted. "Why would I want to hit her? You'd just clocked me in the face! She just got in between us at the wrong moment, and I was going down at the time, that's why I swung so low! Don't you think I'd cut my own arm off before I'd hit her?"
"Actually, I think he hit me in the jaw," I said, again reaching for my face. "Could you take a look?" Geth leaned in, turning my head gently so he could see.
"Jesus Christ, she has a cut, just under her ear, along her jawline, a pretty deep one, too," he said, horrified. "Guess we didn't notice it with all the blood from her nose, but this looks awful." He turned and looked at Teddy, and his silence was worse than any words he could have spoken.
"What's wrong with you?" asked Ronan tearfully to Teddy.
My name is Tani Hanes, and I am a 51 year old substitute teacher. Im from central California and am a recent transplant to New York City. The most important things to know about me are that I'm punctual, I love grammar and sushi, and I'm very intolerant of intolerance. The least important things to know about me are that I like to knit and I couldn't spell "acoustic" for 40 years. I've wanted to write since I was ten, and I finally did it. If you want to write, don't wait as long as I did, it's pointless, and very frustrating!
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