Thursday, September 6, 2012

Make It Personal

Writing my latest release, Waterdancer, has been a truly eye-opening experience to my own writing process.  Please read about it in this guest post I did for the Waterdancer blog tour over at Letters Inside Out.


As if high school isn’t hard enough, try being Bailey Wasserman. Try being the new girl in town, navigating a touchy relationship with your flighty mom’s rich new husband in a brand new town he’s just moved you to. Add to that finding out that your father, a semi-pro surfer who’s just mysteriously re-entered your life after nearly fifteen years of silence, is half sea-creature and you’re about to inherit that particular gene on your sixteenth birthday which is only a few days away, all after you just met the cutest surfer boy you’ve ever seen in your life.
Bailey feels she and her mom have always met life’s challenges as a team of two, more like best friends than mother and daughter. But her mom’s recent marriage has changed all that. Having her little brother Landry is all Bailey can find good about that union. The move to wealthy Del Mar from their humble beginnings has turned Bailey sour, until a chance meeting of surf hottie Jack West changes all that. Then, when her father reenters her life, with his annoying Zen-surfer lingo and a talking turtle he claims is her spirit guardian, no less, he threatens the only relationship Bailey thinks is working in her world. She soon finds out that’s not all his arrival will do. His presence and their shared family trait could ultimately force Bailey to make a decision that will alter the course of her own life and those she loves…..forever.


I recently allowed my muse, Musina to headline in an interview about me. I learned something. I thought I had sprinkled part of my life into my books, but as it turns out, I have been borrowing liberally. Empowered with this epiphany, I truly feel that personal connection is what makes my stories easy to believe and accept, even though I write in the paranormal genre. I make it believable by making it personal.
Once I realized I had been doing this, it was simple to identify the personal parts in most of my books. In Spellbound and Everspell, even though, no, I am not a witch, I used my past to color the landscape of my story. The street they live on is the same as mine, and the main characters large house resembles one that used to stand at the end of our block. Thick with overgrown brush, we used to call it the “witch house” as kids will sometimes do. In Ghostly, the main protag’s best friend is drawn nearly completely from a couple of friends I had in school, and the school itself is the same layout as my old high school in San Diego. Likewise, the jr. high in The Detention Demon resembles the one I never went to, but my little brother did.
But perhaps nowhere else than in Waterdancer did I borrow so heavily. I was in a high school just like Bailey, having moved to Del Mar the summer before my freshman year. I had a new stepfather, new siblings and was experiencing the first love of my life. Cool, zen, and a serious local-boy surfer, Bailey’s love interest, Jack, also comes from my past. It doesn’t stop there, either. The layout of Bailey’s new condo matches the one I lived in during high school and living across the street from a state beach is the same as well. Even down to the path that leads from the cliff to the beach, the details are just the same. I often wonder if a local may read this book and wonder if I invaded their life.
During those tender, angst-filled teen years, I was also rebuilding my relationship with both my mother, and my previously absentee father. But, just to be clear, Daddy is not an octopus. Okay?
I know many authors write paranormal and make up as much of it as they can. I love that. But, I challenge you as a writer to inject as much of yourself, or your life, as you can. I am tremendously proud of this latest YA for that reason. I feel that the “me” of it shines through. Musina was clearly in charge on this one, because I didn’t realize any of this until her interview. Even after read-throughs, edits and grammar checks, I never noticed it. But, it was there all along. I believe the reason I love it so much is that that it is so close to my “me-ness”. Try it yourself. Use a name from your past, landscape your manuscript with images from your childhood, or pull from your own experiences, even the painful ones. Writing can be cathartic, too. And watch your story come alive! One of my favorite sayings is this: Be bold, for when you are bold, magnificent forces will come to your aid. So, writers and authors and storytime tellers, be bold. And make it personal. Your readers will love you and your stories for it.
Author Bio: Samantha Combs is a young adult/middle grade author living in Southern California. The author of six books, three are young adult paranormal romances, Spellbound, Everspell, and Ghostly, a middle grade horror novel, The Detention Demon, two adult horror collections, Teeth and Talons, and Way Past Midnight, and a new standalone YA paranormal, entitled Waterdancer, which you should look for in Sept. 2012. Samantha hopes to complete and release two other books currently in progress. 2012 looks amazing!
When she is not writing or reading voraciously, Samantha enjoys bloggers, the Food Network Channel, reality television and wandering around the aisles at Target. She recently conquered Facebook and is learning how to use Twitter. She is sure she can handle any situation if she has the right shoes and has a mad passion for totally inappropriate earrings. Samantha believes the movement toward technology is the most exciting thing to happen to publishing and can’t wait to see what the industry is going to do next. Anything that makes kids want to read can’t be a bad thing.

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