Tuesday, December 13, 2011
#BIR2011: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
There are a lot of books I love and adore... and picking the top seven for this event was hard enough. But what about picking The One... your very favorite absolute number one book in a year? Harder to do, right?
And let me say, the inside of this book is as gorgeous and awing as the cover. This is the kind of book that challenges you, gets in your head, makes you think, yet lures you along for the ride that is full of thrills and enjoyment as well. The writing is breathtaking, the characterization stunning, and the story so intricately woven.
But what made me love it even more is the tone of it, the constant feeling of something being off, of something being weird...and maybe you piece it together on your own because of the clues Nova gives you along the way, or maybe you just go with it and wait for the answers to be revealed. But the tone is constantly eerie and creepy, disturbing in a soft and inexplicable way. That is what made this book stand out so completely for me, because take away that element, and it is a far, far different story, with a far less potent impact.
So to celebrate not only this being The One for me for 2011, but to kick off Day 3 of BIR2011, Nova has written a guest post that is, fittingly, all about writing that creepy air. Trust me, this is a post you do NOT want to miss.
I wrote something creepy? Creepy enough that someone might have trouble sleeping at night? Really? …I honestly had no idea I had that in me.
Of course, my mother (who’s known me, well, every single second of my life) has since helped me see the error of my ways. She reminded me that, in fact, the kind of creepiness that I found myself writing in Imaginary Girls—the slippery kind, not outright horror to make you jump and scream, but the unsettling and eerie kind of scare you’d finding yourself mulling over after, questioning from every angle—well, I’ve been fascinated with that since I was a girl. That’s the kind of thing that truly scares me, the inkling that there’s something very wrong, but you don’t know exactly what. Not-knowing means you can’t just battle it and win—so long as you’re the one left in the dark, it will always have power over you. (I wrote a bit about that on my blog this Halloween.)
I guess I was meant to write shivery, creepy stories. I mean, you could say it all started with a Ouija board. No, no, it started before that. It started with the houses where we lived, with their dark basements and creaky attics, with the silent nowhereland of trees all around. It was where we lived—in the Catskills, just like in Imaginary Girls—and it was places like the mountains, the dark roads, or the Ashokan Reservoir, where I really did sneak to take swims in the middle of the night.
My mom is right. I think I’m writing about what scares me because there are no answers. That’s what sets my imagination running.
It makes me think of a creepy, never-explained event that happened to me in the house we lived in when I was a teenager. I still tell myself I must have made it up, or I was half-asleep, or something, and yet there’s that inkling, the shivery voice whispering at the edge of my ear, that says it may have been real.
I was in my bedroom in the furnished basement of the house—and I should probably pause here to paint you a picture of this bedroom. Imagine a mess. Imagine clothes strewn everywhere and papers and shoes and books on the floor and, on this night, a garbage bag I’d grabbed from under the kitchen sink half full of junk and dropped by the door. I’d been attempting to “clean” my room that night so you could see the floor. Of course I got bored, and distracted, and at some point I shut off the lights and went to bed.
Sometime later, in the dark of the room, I became aware that someone was in there with me. I sat up, but the light switch was across the room by the door, so I stared into the fuzzy darkness, trying to see who was there. My door appeared to be closed, but I could have sworn there was a dark shape near it, a very tall shape with two distinct shoulders.
The plastic garbage bag on the floor crinkled and rustled, as if someone were walking over it. The shape—darkness on darkness—seemed to come closer, until it was just beside my bed. I couldn’t move. I felt the kind of fear that paralyzes you—the kind that makes it so you don’t think to scream, you don’t think to run, you don’t think at all.
I had this awareness in the dark. I felt like the shape bent over me and put a hand on my face. But here, here is where this occurrence became more odd. All the fear left me. I felt but at the same time didn’t feel that someone was touching my face. And I felt… protected. The presence was kind, fatherly, something I’d never felt before.
Then it was gone. All at once I felt overwhelmed by sadness, a great wave of it, like I’d lost someone I knew.
I seem to remember getting out of bed and flinging myself toward the door and the light switch. When I turned on the light, no one was in the room with me. Of course not. The garbage bag was there, crumpled, which could have happened when I ran over it to reach the light. The door was closed. If anyone had been in the room with me, they would have had to walk straight through it to get out.
My memory could be distorting this, I really don’t know. Fiction writers can’t be trusted with memories, can we? But this simple event has stayed with me for a long time only because I’ve never found an explanation for it. I’ve mulled it over. I’ve wrung it through. I’ve wondered… I’ve told myself I dreamed it. And yet.
Later, I think it was years later, my mom and her friend happened to mention that there was the story of a ghost that traveled the area of Maverick Road, near where we lived. He was a doctor, said to be tall and thin, who used to live there. They’d found mention of him in this book of history on the town where we lived. My mom and her friend used to say that they’d see a “Thing”—a tall, black line—that would pass quickly by the windows in a house where they worked nearby. But were the “Thing” and the shape that visited me at night one and the same—were they the doctor of Maverick Road?
I will never know.
And I don’t want to know. It’s better—creepier—that I don’t know.
Maybe this is partly why I write what I write, and why the creepiness crept its way into Imaginary Girls. What’s scary to me is the eerie and the shivery and the unknown. That’s the kind of story that haunts me. And that’s the kind of story I want to write.
So there you guys have it, straight from the talented Nova Ren Suma herself!
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novel Imaginary Girls, which was published in 2011 by Dutton, and will be out in paperback June 2012 from Speak. Her tween novel Dani Noir will be reissued for a YA audience in a newly updated trade paperback edition as Fade Out from Simon Pulse in June 2012. 17 & Gone, her next YA novel, is forthcoming from Dutton in 2013.
She blogs about writing at distraction99.com.
Visit her online at novaren.com
Are you dying to get your hands on this book now? Good. Because I have one signed copy up for grabs to one lucky winner!
To enter, just fill out THIS form.
This contest is US Only (No PO Boxes) and ends December 21. But since there is only one winner here, you really should just go ahead and add this book to your holiday wishlist, because you do not at all want to miss it.
Eager for more BIR2011 action? Check out the blog today, where our group pick of Julie Kagawa's The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight are being featured!
Posted by Kari Olson at 7:00 AM