Even though he’s never seen Star Wars, my 5-year-old wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween. He’s taken to drawing pictures of Darth Vader at school, frightening the kindergarten teacher. This is no surprise to me. He’s inherited my Dark Side. Everybody who knows me knows I have a dark, dark soul.
I’m supposed to be writing teen romantic comedy here, but two recent reviewers have said MAJOR CRUSH is surprisingly dark for its cartoon cover. My publisher turned down the book I wrote as a follow-up because it was darker still. They wanted me to write another book for the cartoon cover series. And now I’m second-guessing myself, wondering if I’m leading these new characters down the same path of eeeeeeeeeeevil.
Actually, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a lot of darkness in comedy, even romantic comedy, even teen romantic comedy. Characters can have heavy hardships in their pasts and the book can still be funny. Deb Dixon said so at our workshop!
But here’s the problem I’m having. In another book in the same series as MAJOR CRUSH, Aimee Friedman’s A NOVEL IDEA, a chicklet finds love when she starts a reading group. Near the happy ending, the narrator says reading the same author over and over is like visiting an old friend. So the second book I write needs to be close enough in tone to the first book that readers think the same old friend wrote it! And even though there are twelve writers producing books for the MAJOR CRUSH/A NOVEL IDEA series, readers have some expectation the same old friend is writing all of them.
I’m not sure how to solve my problem with darkness, except to keep it in the back of my mind along with the other 1,238,490 things I need to keep there when writing any novel. Because if I really tried to write a lighter book, I would be breaking what I consider the most important rule of all: Write the book you want to read.