I know a lot of authors worry when they’re putting out a new book. They’re intimidated by what readers will think and many of them report spending opening day huddled in a closet or under a bed. I’m not usually bothered, but this time…I’ve got my spot picked out in the very back corner of my closet.
Why the worry this time? When I finished Weeds of Detroit, I thought, this story may not be what people expect of a Detroit tale. Did I draw back the curtain enough? And doesn’t it seem almost moronic to say a novel is based on true events? What does that even mean? A lie based on the truth? Huh???
Every year since 2009 (when I wrote the very first manuscript of WEEDS) I’ve revisited this story with different ideas of how to write it. In my earliest drafts, I tried writing Weeds as a memoir. I changed the point of view about 80 times, to Will’s perspective, to third person, to look out through Lavina’s eyes — none of it worked. One year, I thought it would be brilliant to get up on a literary pulpit and make Weeds into a young adult novel with a stellar message … one message was that it could be used as a tool to encourage kids to stay in school (sigh … it’s not that) … another idea was to offer commentary on the state of the city (groan … it’s not that) … and another was to address the uselessness of racial tensions (oh, Lord … it’s not that either). I even thought about (and wrote) some extremely over-dramatized versions to make the tale even more, more, MORE super-sized than it already was, with eyeballs hanging out, and gory bedroom scenes, and salacious, salacious, SALACIOUS…because at points I felt like I should try to compete with the 50 Shades of Gray and the Avengers and the EVERYTHING THAT IS BIGGER-THAN-LIFE stories out there.
And then I realized, early this year, that what I really, really, REALLY wanted was to capture the truth. I wanted to write the true emotional experience of being a sheltered teen who was totally unprepared for living in a Detroit hotel. That’s it. Forget the BIG stories — this ain’t no Iron Man. I just wanted to give readers a look into some of the incredible experiences I had, in the context of an interesting story.
So, I began what seems like the zillionth draft of this book, which will be the book you can read on October 25th. I know that it may be dissected for the truth, questioned for the fiction, used as a race-against-race tool to jab each other in the eye … but I sincerely hope that it is none of that.
I just told the story of what it was like to live in Detroit as a naive kid.
I suppose I’ll always wonder if I pulled back the curtain enough, but since the curtain resembles more of a shower curtain than a theater curtain, well … geez … you get what you get. By the way, there is a Note From the Author in the back of the book that separates out some of the fact from the fiction a bit more, if you are interested.
So, that’s the truth. This story was a bugger to write. It is the first book which will have me actually huddled under my bed, terrified, on opening day (October 25th) and, possibly, ever after. I hope you like it and, most of all, I hope the characters ring true, like flawed and glorious family photos of humanity displayed on the walls of a 1986 Detroit.