Archive for January, 2012

A new year, a new outline

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Happy New Year! I haven’t posted here in a while partly because of the holidays, but mostly because my entire brain has been focused on finishing the outline for FAILSAFE, the second book in the PARTIALS series. PARTIALS is my newest book, launching out into the world on February 28, and I’m really excited about it–it’s a post-apocalypse science fiction series about a girl named Kira helping to rebuild civilization after an engineered plague wiped out 99.99% of the human race. I love it, and I’ll post a tour schedule as soon as it’s finalized. It was also a little more ambitious than other books I’ve written, certainly my longest (about twice the length of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER), and with a little more going on plot-wise. That made outlining a sequel for it very difficult.

Obviously a lot of the sequel was already suggested by our series outline. My editors and I sat down over the phone, way back a year and a half ago, and figured out where we’d like the series to go, what we’d like it to cover, and so on. There are a lot of big mysteries and conspiracies involved in the series, and I didn’t want to get into that situation that seems to happen to every serialized TV show where they claim to have a plan (Battlestar Galactica was very upfront about this), but then eventually you realize they don’t really know what they’re doing. I went to great lengths to figure out what the plans are, who’s behind them, and so on. But just because I know where I’m going and why doesn’t mean I know the best way to get there.

FAILSAFE turned out to be even more ambitious than PARTIALS, especially when we decided to branch out into multiple viewpoints. Kira is an awesome character, but the story we needed to tell desperately wanted to be in two places at once, and sometimes even three. Luckily, we had some fantastic secondary characters in book 1 that we kind of accidentally fell in love with (always a good sign), so we decided to break things apart and tell two parallel plotlines. Kira still gets most of the screen time, but some other cool people get to step up and be heard. I knew I’d made the right choice when I mentioned some of these secondary characters to a friend in my writing group, and he said “We get to see HER again! Sweet!” One of the weirdly surprising things about this decision was how hard it was to avoid using one of the main adults as a point-of-view character; this is a YA series, and I wanted to keep it that way, and I worried that an adult as a main character would dilute that too much and hurt the book’s relatability. Maybe I’m totally wrong and I should have just done it–I might still do it in book 3–but for now I think this was the right decision.

I don’t want to talk too much about FAILSAFE because you haven’t even read PARTIALS yet, so maybe I’ll leave you with a weird little piece of info about book 1. I used to live in Mexico, and I love everything about it, so this was also my opportunity to fill the book with Mexican characters. Why? Why not? Kira herself is Indian, but her best friend and her boyfriend are both Mexican: Marcus Valencio and Xochi Kessler. Others will show up in future books and stories. Xochi was especially fun because, as you may have noticed, Kessler is not a very Mexican last name. When the world “ended,” Xochi was only 5 years old and completely on her own; she was adopted by another survivor with Irish heritage and has thus been raised as Irish for the last 11 years. This gave me a Mexican/Aztec character who occasionally slips into an Irish accent when she gets angry, which doesn’t matter for the story, I just though it was fun. Which is all just my way of saying that in 50+ years, we won’t be (or at least I hope we won’t be) defining race the same way we are now. It will be a little more inclusive and a little less of a hot button. I think that’s awesome.