Reading as Research

A few weeks ago, I was on the subway and I saw someone reading The Golden Road. It was a matted beat up copy that looked like either the reader had read it three or four times, or, that she had bought it used. I had a feeling that it was the first. Knowing that The Golden Road was a sequel to The Story Girl and knowing that I had wanted to read The Story Girl, I figured that this was a some kind of universal sign that in my current Montgomery reading, this is where I needed to go.

The conundrum…I wanted to also read Elizabeth Waterson’s new book, Magic Island as well. She has written a book in which each chapter discusses a Montgomery novel. The English major in me got incredibly excited. What if I read a book and then read the chapter which pertains to the book! I know, insanity. But, reading about how my favourite author wrote I think is how I will develop my own awareness of how I create. In a way, I am researching writing. I didn’t know that that was what I was doing, but I realized it the other day.

The voice in The Story Girl is slightly different then in Montgomery’s other books that I have read as it is male (which is interesting as most of her protagonists are female) and an older male at that. The narration is of a person looking back at a summer he spent with his brother in P.E.I. So, often, the story will sort of stop and he will reflect upon the situation as an adult. In a way, the novel is a memoir of one man’s reflection of a summer of youth.

I am writing a teen novel. There I said it. The energy in those six words.

When I think of the teen that I want to write about, I find myself thinking about my own high school experience. Which makes sense as a person will write from what they know. As I begin to write, however, the characters transform and become only tiny aspects of who I knew and who I was. But, what started me on my way was the idea of looking back. I began as myself looking back at high school, who I was in 1989 and what the world was like. From here, things are exploding within. Stories are emerging, characters are coming. I wondered if it was a good idea to write a teen book that took place 20 years ago, but perhaps they can market it as “historical fiction.” 🙂 Perhaps, not. Or, perhaps it won’t be a teen novel at all. But, right now, it is emerging into something.

In truth, I have a few “novels” emerging into something. I have no idea if this one will go furthur than it has and I don’t want to say anymore about it for it is in a very sensitive space. The point was that from following one road, I found something along the way.

And today, I am going to read the chapter in Waterson’s book on The Story Girl.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

MAUD, my YA novel based on the teen life of author L.M. Montgomery will be published by Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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