I tried to think of something fun I could do to mark the six-month anniversary of Freefall's release date. Last month, Denise Jaden (author of Losing Faith) did a really excellent post about her expectations before getting published, her realizations at the time of publication, and how she feels about everything now. I thought about stealing that idea for my own blog, but I discovered that my answers are almost identical. So if you want to know how I feel, you should read her post instead!
I've decided instead to answer some of the most frequent reader questions that have come up regarding Why the Author Made Certain Decisions in Telling Seth McCoy's Story. And I know, I know. Just like A.J. from Empire Records said, I don't need to explain my art to you. But I thought it might be fun for some for you if I did!
There are spoilers GALORE below. I made some of the text invisible so I wouldn't give away everything right out in the open. Highlight those blank-looking sections between the <<<<< and >>>>> to view the gaps. (It's kind of awkward, but I don't have the skills to set it up a better way.) Oh, and if you haven't read Freefall yet and are planning to do so, I suggest you hold off on reading further for now. Okay? Okay!
Question #1: Why isn't there more about Isaac in this book? I mean, there's a whole paragraph about him on the back cover. Why didn't you start the story on the night he died?
Answer #1: During the course of about six months, I wrote probably about fifteen or so different first chapters for this book. There were a couple of versions that did include Isaac. I didn't like them because <<<<<I felt that they made Seth and Isaac look like jerks. I mean, they were two drunk guys being obnoxious! I honestly feel that showing Isaac alive and in action would have decreased the sympathy readers might have had for Seth and for Kendall because then they would have been able to see for themselves from the very start that Isaac wasn't Mr. Awesome. They might have gotten frustrated and wondered why Seth and Kendall didn't see that they were better off without Isaac around to drag them down.>>>>>
Question #2: Well, okay. Maybe you didn't need to start the book with him being alive. But couldn't you have at least included flashbacks?
Answer #2: Actually, I am not a huge fan of writing flashbacks. I've seen some authors use them really effectively and I've loved some books that have been set up with a definite pattern of scenes going back and forth between the past to present day. That isn't the style of book I wanted to write this time. Definitely someday, though! And also? To me, who Isaac was isn't what this story is about at all. It's about who Seth is going to be without Isaac.
Question #3: Wow. You really don't have a good opinion of Isaac, do you?
Answer #3: I'm not going to lie (even though I probably should); <<<<<Isaac is my least favorite character from the Freefall world. Which is weird, yes, since he doesn't appear in a single scene. I didn't always feel this way about him, but when I was working on my last round of revisions for my editor, I started having some serious Isaac-inspired frustration. I had a bit of a crisis over why I'd written a book where Seth and Kendall spend so much time grieving and feeling guilty over this guy. Was he really worth it? What did they see in him? It was Mandy Hubbard, actually, who'd critiqued the draft and reminded me of the loyalty angle. I then included a conversation with Seth and Kendall about Isaac's loyalty and fearlessness. They definitely needed to have that talk for themselves, but it was important for me to write because I needed those answers, too.>>>>>
Question #4: Why was it so easy for Seth to <<<<<quit drinking>>>>>?
Answer #4: I don't agree that it was easy. <<<<<He mentioned for several days the physical effects that quitting alcohol was having on his body. (Which were rough, but so was what was going on with him before with all the binging.) He also essentially gave up his friends, his band, his usual hangouts, and his chance to go on tour, in large part, so that he could stay away from alcohol. And when things got hard near the end, the first thing he did was go to the river and get wasted because he didn't want to cope with what he was feeling. So I wouldn't say that it was easy or that he FOR SURE has this licked even when the last page comes around, you know?
I will say, too, that when this manuscript originally sold, there actually was a bigger focus on Seth's sobriety. There were little lines here and there that showed how not drinking turned into something of a preoccupation for him. The reason I cut those parts is because my editor felt that with his upbringing and the way alcohol has been integrated into his life for his entire life that he wouldn't have the tools to think of it in those terms or to value sobriety in that way. It was a moral code that would have been alien to him and it didn't make sense that he would just come up with it on his own when he'd never been around anyone who would guide him toward that. I don't disagree with her and I don't regret making the changes. I totally believe that everything I wanted to show is there underneath it all even though Seth isn't overtly focusing on "staying sober" and "not failing." >>>>>
Question #5: Why didn't we get to see Rosetta get over her phobia by the end of the book?
Answer #5: You know, when I was drafting this, I always expected that <<<<< she would ride in a car at the end and that would be a huge triumph for her and for Seth. Hooray! But when the time came, it just wasn't realistic to me. This is a girl who has spent EIGHT MONTHS avoiding cars completely. Can you imagine what her life is like? What her aunt and uncle have to put up with? She is suffering from PTSD and anxiety and has turned her fear into a full-blown phobia that is definitely hindering her life. I think that would a huge stretch (not to mention irresponsible of me) to imply that she that she can go from freaking out at Seth's car in the rain to riding in a car a week later in time for his show.
Also! Part of what I realized in the theme of this story is that you can and should try to help people out (ala turning over passed out Carr), but there are also times when you can't save them no matter how much you wish you could. Seth had to learn that about Isaac. And, on a smaller scale, he learned it about Rosetta. No matter how much he wanted her to get over her fear, this was something she had to do on her own. Once he let it go, I felt that I had to, too. >>>>>
Question #6: That makes sense, I guess. But couldn't you have written an epilogue that takes place a few months later where <<<<<she's been in therapy and finally gets over her fear and then we get to see her ride off into the sunset for ourselves?>>>>>
Answer #6: I could have. I actually did write that epilogue at one point (but I'm not sure if I still have it saved anywhere). The thing is, though, I feel like I gave <<<<<Seth and Rosetta a hopeful ending the way this the book is written. To me, adding the epilogue would have been like saying, "Hey, everyone! How did you like that ending? Because here is an even happier one for you now! HOORAY!" >>>>> And that would have been corny.
All right! So that's the stuff! I hope that reading that didn't kill your eyes and that you enjoyed and/or were enlightened by these answers. If you have any further questions for me, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email them to me at mindirochelle [at] gmail [dot] com.
I also want to say that I am very appreciative of everyone who has made the past six months so gratifying for me by picking up Freefall, recommending it friends, taking the time to write to me about it, and getting excited already for my next book Live Through This. You are all amazing! So THANK YOU! ♥