Today’s guest blogger is C. Leigh Purtill, author of Love, Meg and All About Vee (which is great, by the way, and will soon be reviewed here). Last week’s winner of a signed copy of The Adoration of Jenna Fox is Megan! Megan, you have one week to contact me with your mailing address. This week’s randomly chosen winner will receive a signed hardcover copy of Love, Meg. All you have to do to put your name in the metaphorical hat (really it’s a random number generator) is comment! And now, without further ado, I give you C. Leigh Purtill!
Recently I was chatting with my very good friend CG Watson (who wrote the fantastic YA novel “Quad”) about authors who tell the same story over and over again, who use certain elements and themes repeatedly. Perhaps, we thought, these people had been profoundly influenced by certain events in their past and had to work them out through their writing.
Then we wondered about that in our own writing – do we tell the same stories?
In my case, I would have to say yes. Certainly in the books I have had published and those that I’m currently working on, I use the element of a character being a “fish out of water.” Now, this is not a new thing. Writers have been doing that for years! You take your character and throw her into a completely unknown environment – a new school, a new town, a new country, a new world! – and see what happens. It’s a very common theme.
In “Love, Meg,” Meg Shanley moves all over the place with her sister so she never feels like she has a real home and then, to make matters worse, she moves to the other side of the country to live with people she has never met before. In “All About Vee,” Veronica May moves from a tiny little town in Arizona to the big city of Los Angeles where, again, she doesn’t know anyone – except for her rotten friend, Reed, but that’s another theme entirely.
After CG and I spoke, I thought about that fish thing. Am I trying to work that out for myself? Do I really feel that way? And again, the answer is yes. (I don’t know why I bother to ask myself these questions when I already know the answer.) But I began to dig deeper: what is really going on in my stories?
And then I realized the common element was not being a fish out of water, but one of friendship. I have long been trying to work out for myself the notion of friendship: what does it mean to be someone’s best friend? What does lifelong friendship really entail? Could I possibly be someone’s best friend?
When I was a kid, my parents moved me and my brother around an awful lot, from school to school and state to state. I made friends fairly easily but gave them up pretty easily too. I knew I wouldn’t be around very long so I never got too attached. In fact, I used to feel sorry for some of the girls I befriended: I could tell they were expecting me to be around for a long time and I knew they were only going to be disappointed when I left.
When I got older and went off to college, I did the same thing. I spent a year at one college, took a year off, then transferred to another college. After I graduated, I worked for 2 years in one job in one town, 2 years in another job in another town, went to grad school for two years, moved to New York…well, you get the picture. I just kept moving. So in that sense I was a fish in water – they never stop, never sleep. I had established a pattern for myself that was really hard to break.
And along with the moves came the question of friendship. I continued to make friends – and then leave them – but it was getting harder and harder to do. I wanted to have a best friend, someone I could count on and who could count on me. I truly wanted to be a person other people considered stable and trustworthy. The only way I could do that was to stay put for a while.
If you look at my books about Meg and Veronica, you’ll see their common element is much more than being new to a place. In both, I am searching for the meaning of “best friend.” Meg calls Jennifer Aniston her best friend; Veronica calls her Vees the same thing. Meg yearns for the stability of a close friendship while Veronica uses hers as a source of great strength.
My husband and I have lived in LA for almost ten years and although I often get the itch to move and have new adventures, the main reason I stay is for my very dear friends.