(Warning: possible spoilers ahead! I say possible because I have never been a person who had not read the book. Which is a weird thing to realize. But I digress….)
1. Before I wrote Saint Anything, I was working on another book that was a total disaster. The story wasn’t there, the male character had ZERO personality, and I wanted to cry every time I opened the document. NOT GOOD SIGNS, y’all! So I set it aside. (You can read the entire story about that experience here.) When I got the idea for Saint Anything, though, I felt so bad for the girl in that other book that I wanted her to get on the page SOMEHOW. So I put her ex-boyfriend, a character I kind of loved because he was such a blowhard, in the book, as well as her dad. During a scene at Sydney’s house, her brother’s lawyer mentions his daughter Isley. That’s my girl, the one whose story I couldn’t finish. I still feel bad about it. But at least I got her in a published book.
2. The idea for the carousel in the woods came from two places. One was my daughter and her BFF tromping around in the woods behind our house, where they discovered the remnants of an old homestead and a bunch of rusted out cars. I loved that idea of finding something out in the middle of nowhere and kind of claiming it as your own.
The other was a public radio story I heard about a similar thing for a bunch of kids in Ann Arbor. It was called “Heyoon.” You can listen to it here.
3. One of the hardest part of the book was writing the scenes with Sydney and Ames. Gayle Forman said she thinks he’s my first real villian, but for me, it was more complicated than that. I went though a situation in high school where I was friends with an older guy and got in over my head. I was uncomfortable with his attention, but felt like it was rude to say so, or that it might disrupt my friend circle if I spoke up about how I felt. For years I’ve worked through this many ways, but it took until my forties until I was ready to put down words about it. I wrote about what happened in this piece for Seventeen.com that came out the same day the book went on sale. Now, pub day is stressful enough, in good and bad ways. But then I found myself in an LA hotel room, with this very personal part of my life suddenly out there for everyone to read. I mean, I’d written it: it was my choice. But the truth is tougher than fiction, in this case. I’m proud of the piece and honored so many people have related to it. But I’ll never read it, or any scene with Ames, without feeling that same unease. It’s just part of me now.
4. The storyline with Rosie, Layla’s sister, came completely from my first time going to Disney on Ice. I was so intrigued with cast members, wondering what kind of path you took to get a job like that. Did they have Olympic hopes? Or was this what they were always aiming for? I was completely overthinking things (as I tend to do) and I certainly wasn’t assuming THOSE ice skaters had drug problems or had been under house arrest. But clearly, this is where my mind goes after a few hours of Disney songs and a lot of convention center popcorn. Related: I love my job.
5. A lot of people have commented about how much food there is in Saint Anything. I guess I was hungry? It was winter, I was writing: I’m sure I was, actually. The lollipops, though, became a bit of a superstitious thing for me. (Everything can be a superstitious thing for me: I am very suggestible.) See, they give Dum Dums away at my bank. Free candy! What’s not to love about that? Anyway, during the writing process when I was feeling unsure/scared (basically every day, that’s how I work) and I’d find myself in the bank, I’d think, “If I can find a bubble gum and a root beer Dum Dum, it means I’ll finish this book and it will be good.” Cut to me spending WAY too much time picking through their supply, desperate, while other patrons looked at me like I was crazy. Writing is such an unsure thing: I am always looking for something to reassure me. I am still doing this, weeks after the book is out. Needless to say, I have a LOT of root beer and and bubble gum Dum Dums. Which is not a bad problem to have, I guess.
Anyway, that’s five things. Thanks again to everyone who has read the book, said kind things, posted pictures of themselves reading it at the beach, lake, in a hammock, everywhere. I wish I could buy you all some Dum Dums. Really.