If we're being completely honest here (and by "we're" I apparently mean "I'm," because I'm not in conversation with anyone right now), I'm not entirely in love with this book. Whereas I love the Complex and want to marry it, I don't feel that way about this book. Mainly, there were a lot of hiccups in the editing process, and at some point I just sat back and said, "Screw this, I don't want to write anymore."
I sort of got over it and cleaned things up and published it. I don't want you to think that I just leaned back one afternoon and said "F*ck it," and then just hit the publish button. A lot of thought and stress and anxiety went into the publication of this book, and I don't take any of it lightly. However, I don't love it.
Reasons why this book is challenging to me:
1) I needed to include romance, and I knew most of my readers would be confused by that.
One of the things that bugs me about my readership is that to my knowledge, only like, three YA girls have ever read my books. Before I come off as an ass, let me say, I appreciate and value everyone who has taken the time to read my book and I feel honored that you considered me worthy of your attention. I do, however, just kind of shrug when I get criticisms that say something to the effect of "these books move too fast for adults, these books are too short for adults, these books are too trivial for adults" because frankly, I didn't write them for adults. As I was writing Severance, I told myself that I was going to keep my target demographic in mind and write it for them. I have a good sense of what young teenage girls like to read and I know what they want to see. Whereas when I wrote the Complex I held back on romance and things like that, I wanted to include that in Severance.
Then, I was told that my book was becoming too Twilightly and I got extremely insecure about it. While these romantic elements had no place in the Complex, they are pivotal elements to Severance. While adults can look back at their teenage years and laugh, teenagers cannot. When I was a teenage girl, my attentions were divided quite evenly between school and boys. That's really normal. I didn't have a job, didn't have to worry about money, had a nice home life, and therefore, I was entirely consumed by these really trivial things. At the time, they weren't trivial to me--they were important--and many decisions I made were swayed by teenage hormones. In Severance, Helena is no longer in a point of tremendous discovery in her life, and as a result things like romance can weasel their way into her life.
Ultimately, my insecurity about this book is the fact that I know that my dad is going to buy a copy, read it, and furrow his brow at how silly it all seems to him. My aunts and uncles will probably do the same. My mom and brother and sister too. They might read it and wonder why I've delved into some things that might be better suited from an episode of Degrassi. At the end of the day, I did it because under all the things that occur in her life, Helena Linx is a normal teenage girl, and I wasn't about to deprive her of this normalcy. She's not a butt kicker, she's not particularly independent, and she's not wise beyond her years. I intentionally wanted her to be really regular (because at this point, being a super special and unique girl in a YA novel is actually a huge cliche). In my mind, a normal girl like Helena should not be expected to realize that teenage boys are not worth stressing over. I don't want to isolate these books from adults and I know that adults can enjoy them. However, there is a reason why romance is so central to 98% of YA novels--teenagers pretty much have nothing better to think about.
2) I needed to get rid of this character.
Spoiler alert: someone from the Complex and Severance doesn't exactly show up in book 3. I won't say who--it's probably better if you read the book to find that out. I knew when I started writing the Complex that one day, this character needed to be removed from the equation. I needed to find a way for Helena to change, and her changing was very much dependent on this individual no longer being a presence in her life. As I was writing, this character quickly became one of my favorites and I really reconsidered what I had to do. Ultimately, I went with my gut.
I anticipate a lot of people being disappointed with what happens to this character, but I swear to you, you will not be disappointed with how things ultimately wrap up in the Helena Linx universe. When I first got feedback on Severance, I was told that this character's demise seemed like a waste. After I threw a tiny bitch fit, I knew that I had done the right thing. I hope that you'll feel a sense of sadness when this character is gone, and when the implications of this character's destiny come to light, you won't hate me as much as you do when you read about what happened to him or her. I assure you, his or her downfall is not a waste at all.
3) Things are not at all what they seem
Lame. What a cliche. But, I do have to admit, that all but two main characters will go through a severe character flip as I end this series in books 3 and 4--and not so much a flip--but they will reveal their true selves. Their actions may irritate you now, but ultimately, it's all going to make sense.
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