UPDATE: The winners of signed VAMPED bookplates are: Nicola, Suzette, Celeste, Brindle and Isabel. Please send your physical addresses to contests @ knightagency.net (remove the spaces in the email addy).
When Jia gave me “America’s sweetheart” as a topic, I had to laugh. I suppose if I had to label myself, I’d be a closet goth. Not cool enough for the full title. Too cheerful for one; too geeky for another. Yes, I adore vampire fiction and have an affinity for skulls, hence my near miss with graduate school for forensic anthropology, but I tend to wear all that on the inside.
So, as you can imagine, the thought of America’s sweetheart makes my teeth hurt. Saccharine overload. The likelihood of cavities and dentists and all that rot. But here’s the thing…nothing is ever as it seems. Authors and screenwriters have gotten a lot of mileage out of the fact that nobody’s perfect (think the film American Beauty). Inside we’re all closet geeks or addicts or outsiders laden with fears we hide away from the outside world. Things that are either too precious to be exposed to ridicule or too certain to invite it. And the teen years are the worst, as kids often try to direct attention away from their own perceived weaknesses by pointing out those of others.
Like my character Gina from VAMPED. Okay, she doesn’t have any insecurities that she’s aware of. She’s coasting along fairly certain that she’s at the absolute top of the food chain. Until she wakes up dead. No reflection, no way to apply lipstick or fix her hair and make-up. Now that’s horror. And that’s why I had so much fun playing with her. In order for Gina to become a fully-realized person, I had to knock her off her pedestal. Take her from head of the fashion police to low girl on the vampire totem pole. That’s the true test of a person’s metal…whether they wither in adversity or put on their big girl panties and deal with it. Well, Gina is not the type to take her reversal of fortune lying down, especially once she discovers that not only is her geek-boy sire in danger of being stolen away by his vampire vixen progenitor, but her classmates are being turned to the dark side to serve as cannon fodder in some war not of their choosing. First of all, if anyone’s deserving of merry minions, it’s Gina. For another, well, she’s starting to develop some of those warm and fuzzy feelings she was always able to fend off when she lived and breathed.
So, I guess what I’m saying here is that the idea of America’s sweetheart and all that accompanies it (perfect beauty, manners, behavior…ack!) is just that, an idea, an ideal. The truth is that the beauty is in seeing what has to be done and doing it, in accepting yourself and others for who they are and in hosing the sugar-coating from our ideals and facing their realities. I think we’d all be so much happier in a world where people were prized for saying and doing what they feel is right rather than what they’re told is acceptable.
To me, that’s part of what’s so appealing about young adult fiction. It’s subversive. So much of the text and subtext is about a) being true to yourself and b) not buying into the preconceived rules and notions of authority. We’ll never change the world by accepting the status quo.
That’s my two cents.
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