Wednesday, April 01, 2009

YA Spring Break Week: Lucienne Diver Tackles America's Sweetheart...Begrudgingly

UPDATE: The winners of signed VAMPED bookplates are: Nicola, Suzette, Celeste, Brindle and Isabel. Please send your physical addresses to contests @ (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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Blogger Celeste said...

Things that are either too precious to be exposed to ridicule or too certain to invite it.

Great post! I think the sweetheart is best as a character when she knows deep down her packaging is fiction at best. So many possibilities. Vamped looks fun :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 8:52:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always enjoyed seeing the opposite side of America's Sweetheart. That's part of what I like so much about Alyson Noel's Evermore - the protagonist is a cheerleader type ... and then her family dies and she choses to become a social outcast. Good stuff!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 8:56:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Danyelle L. said...

Woow! Nice thoughts! I think the best stories are those where even the protragonist has flaws--and gets to grow over the course of the story.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Suzette said...

I see America's Sweetheart as someone who has to live up to the high standard we as people place on them. Personally, too much pressure.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rebecca L Sutton said...

Great way looking at this character type using your own style.

I love your take on a vampire being concerned with not being able to see her reflection mostly because she can't see her hair and makeup. Can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Lucienne said...

Suzette, that's an interesting take, about America's Sweetheart having so much to live up to. And very true. I guess we all have expectations imposed on us and the question becomes to what extent we accept them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 11:08:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Aubrey said...

Great post Lucienne! There is a reason why I refer to you as a genius!

Could you have a sweetheart character whose flaws are external more than internal? Such as the girl who has it all, but has a few extra pounds so she is overlooked? Would that count as a sweetheart? Or is that more the girl next door?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 11:19:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Cursing Mama said...

What a wonderful post; very insightful.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 11:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Lucienne said...

Aubrey, thanks so much! I think if a character gets overlooked, she doesn't fall under the sweetheart heading, but, as you mention, maybe the girl next door. America's sweetheart implies to me that a character is seen as beloved by all, even if it's not quite true. The pressure part of that, of course, is that if you draw all eyes, you're constantly on display. To me there's a certain comfort in anonymity, which is where we get all the great prince and pauper stories, with both sides finding out that the grass isn't necessarily greener.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 11:42:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Brindle said...

This is a wonderful take. I find sweetheart characters are often too bland. They are loved, yes, and so the author often tells us this, rather than showing. It is how the other characters react to the sweetheart character that defines the strength of one. IMHO.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 12:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jessica Love said...

Great blog! :-)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 12:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

Hi Lucienne. Great post. Your book sounds great.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 12:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jamie Grey said...

I loved this post - expecially about the closet goth comment - you're not the only one :) And you are absolutely right about all of us having a side we try to keep secret. We just never think of it that way, since we're so focused on ourselves. Vamped sounds fabulous btw. I'm going to have to run out and buy myself a copy!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 12:41:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol closet vampire

That actually describes me perfectly! Vamped looks pretty good :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 12:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deborah Blake said...

Ha! Great post. And now I know what to say when someone asks me what I want for my birthday on the 28th: Merry minions! Yes, I too deserve merry minions! (Can they be male and naked, while we're at it?)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 1:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger donnas said...

Great post. Very thoughtful. Vamped sounds very good I will have to keep an eye out for a copy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 2:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Man Candy Fans said...

Can't wait for Vamped to hit the shelves - must buy one for myself and one for my daughter (otherwise, she'll *borrow* mine, permanently).

P.S. Love the cover!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 3:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gerb said...

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.

Ha! This is so true - and I love the way you put it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 3:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger sbjames said...

I second Gerb and Deborah. "Merry Minions" and "Big Girl Panties"

LOL! Thanks for taking the saccrine out but leaving the flavor!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 3:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Phoenix Sullivan said...

Sugar-coated protags just don't satisfy when we're in the mood for something a little more tart and tangy, do they?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 3:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Isabel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 4:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Isabel said...

Excellent post, Lucienne! I have Vamped on my TBB list. :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 4:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lucienne said...

Brindle, that was why when I did theatre playing the young ingenues was not nearly as intriguing as playing the naughty girls or character parts!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 4:50:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Brindle said...


I bet! Honestly, in writing (which I assume isn't that far off from acting), the bad girl is often far more readily loved by a reader. However, I contend that a cunningly crafted sweetheart can shine just as bright. Both have their merits and strengths and equally difficult to portray with brilliance. They can make for a great sidekick relationship as well, methinks. =)

Anywho, I enjoyed your post and look forward to Vamped!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 5:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger DebraSFleming said...

Debra Fleming was here! Loved the blog today!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 5:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nicola said...

So that's where red lipstick will get you!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 6:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Erika Powell said...

great post Lucienne! and I totally agree that America's Sweetheart is an ideal and I would never want to have to live up to that. I like being my prefectly happy geek self!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 11:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Susan said...

Great post! And great insight into YA books.

I wouldn't mind a merry minion or two, but I'd want them cleaning to leave me time to write. LOL

susan meier

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 7:01:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Isabel said...

The winners of signed VAMPED bookplates are: Nicola, Suzette, Celeste, Brindle and Isabel.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 2:02:00 PM EDT  
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