Hey guys! Mark here, subbing for Wendelin because she’s, well… slammed. (Example of the glamorous writing life: As I write this at 11:00 p.m. she’s sitting five feet away from me in the office, going over credit card bills with our younger son, who – along with his older brother – came home from college last night. Bringing with them the cliché of all college clichés – TONS of dirty laundry. Which wasn’t done by them last week at college because they, in turn, were slammed with finals.) And she’s also catching up on all sorts of other tasks – both important and mundane – because she’s been slammed lately with ‘other stuff’. Namely…
Two nights ago, Wendelin typed the final sentence in the final chapter of the final installment in the Sammy Keyes series, ‘The Kiss Goodbye’. It's always a good feeling when you finish the first draft of a book. Sure, there’s the whole re-write/edit/rinse/repeat process, but when you finally get to the end of the initial draft and it ‘works’, it’s a wonderful feeling. Well, I think for her this is like that, times ten. Or times eighteen, to be exact. Made even sweeter (in my opinion) by the poetic way she’s been able to bring this whole saga full circle, yet not circuitous, clearly going forward to whatever life brings Sammy. (Or more accurately, to whatever Sammy brings life. Because here’s a little secret: Wendelin didn’t write Sammy as much as Sammy wrote Sammy. Wendelin happened to be the one with the magic talent to listen closely and get it all down, quick, before it leaves to that place where dreams go when we wake too quickly and don’t take the time to recollect and capture…)
I can remember sitting in the Orange Julius in the mall in ‘Santa Martina’ way back when, talking about this idea she had for a character who was a kick-butt girl, yet real, and vulnerable. Who lived with her grandmother due to being semi-abandoned by her mother (with no father anywhere in the picture… not even a name or a face… just an old catcher’s mitt). Yet who, despite her meager existence (or because of it?), was interested enough in justice and fair play to stick her nose where it didn’t belong when she thought someone was getting a raw deal. But not some sort of pre-canned ‘child genius junior detective’. (She already had enough issues in her life – she didn’t go looking for trouble as much as it seemed to seek her out and demand attention.)
And speaking of those issues, to me the core of the books wasn’t the mystery at all. It was the whole ‘fitting in’ thing. You know, when you’re twelve or thirteen and suddenly you leave the K-thru-6th land of ‘children only’ and you’re thrown into this weird menagerie of half-grown semi adult creatures… of several sub-species. The spoiled rich kids. The jocks. The popular ones. The nerdy outcasts. And all of those (all of us?) who don’t fit neatly into one of the above boxes, but are somewhere on the continuum between them, just trying to fit in. Who just want a good friend or two who understands them and makes them feel like they’re not facing the universe alone.
And wouldn’t it be nice if one of those friends was a scrappy tomboy of a girl who was astute enough to figure out who set the fire… who built the meth lab… who was killing the starlets… And yet, who was young enough and impulsive enough that - when faced with a desperate thief – didn’t run and hide, didn’t call her grams or call 911, didn’t duck and cover, but instead… waved?
That’s a friend I want!