Today I’d like to welcome Susan Vaught, author of the recently released Freaks Like Us. When I read Freaks earlier this year, it immediately vaulted to the top of the Books for 2012. I’m so pleased to be part of her blog tour to celebrate the release of this fantastic novel.
Now, I turn things over to Susan to learn a bit about the writing process that went into Freaks.
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I have two primary types of writing experiences: ouch and aaahhh.
Ouch is rather like a dental procedure where I dread, avoid, act like I’m in pain the entire time I struggle with the story, and usually hate what comes out for a good long time. Aaahhh feels natural and easy, with a lot of flow and even more obsessiveness, where I sit for hours and hours, writing so quickly I get my fingers tangled in the keys. I get irritable if interrupted, my family avoids me, my pets forget what I look like, and everyone at my day job is sure I’m mad at them about something because I keep a faraway, distracted look most of the time.
Freaks Like Uswas one of the natural, obsessive, wonderful, synergistic experiences.
Definitely aaahhh! I knew I wanted to write a story with a main character who had Schizophrenia, but it took several years for the right character, situation, and voice to come to me. I struggled a bit with the first chapter, trying to be sure everyone could related to Jason (Freak) as much as I could. People with Jason’s illness sometimes don’t make good connections with other people, even though they very much want to. Jason has that problem in the story. I just didn’t want readers to experience it, too. I also worked to find a way to let readers really feel and understand the impact of Jason’s hallucinations and internal distractions, which wasn’t easy to do given that I was working with print and not audiovisual media. From the moment Sunshine disappeared, everything got easier—and I didn’t know she was going to disappear until I wrote that sentence at the end of the first chapter.
Sometimes stories do that—take their own twists and turns. All I can say about that is, aaahhh!
The whole time I worked with Freaks, I could see all the people and events in my mind, clear as photographs, like I was watching a movie. The people and events felt—and still feel—very, very real to me. Readers always ask me if I based a character or a series events on real people, or things that have really happened to the patients I see. To that I have to say yes, and no. Jason and his friends aren’t copies of any one patient I’ve treated in my years of being a psychologist, but I have seen their symptoms in a lot of different folks, in a lot of different situations. I have always respected the struggle people with Schizophrenia have, day to day, just to take care of themselves and relate to other people, and I have always wanted to honor it. I believe Jason and the thousands of readers who have Jason’s issues, have a lot of strength and courage that people might not appreciate if they don’t look closely enough.
I hope readers enjoy Freaks Like Us as much as I enjoyed writing it!
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To learn more about Freaks Like Us, check out the Bloomsbury Teens Facebook page here.