May 11, 2017

Meddling Supporting Characters

I like non-human characters. I don't mean vampires or demigods (nothing against those either); I mean animals or even objects that manage to share the spotlight with human characters. I like the challenge of making part of the team someone that is by nature different from the team. Like the dog, Help, in The Supernatural Enhancements. Or the ghost. In Meddling Kids we've got a dog too--and a canary! And a penguin! But I'm confident those will be well received; people usually root for the pets. What I'm hoping for about MK is people liking the car.

In my first version of the novel, the sleuths' vehicle (and a testimony to their status at the start) was a 13-year-old AMC Matador Coupé. I chose that model after days of research--meaning I had to google several variations of "lame American cars" before it popped up. When Doubleday acquired the manuscript, one of editor Robert Bloom's top priorities was convincing me to recast it. I liked the Matador Coupé because it has a sporty air about it, but it's a commuter's car, a failed attempt at coolness; most of all, it looked really unsuitable for the initial road trip from coast to coast, let alone the high-speed chases through haunted hills. But being no American myself, I didn't know that the model never left much of a print. It had no value.

Bloom wanted to bring in a station wagon, because "nothing is as epically, comically, embarrassingly out of date and boring than a station wagon." I shared that view, but I wanted a two-door car, to make things more inconvenient during action scenes. Luckily I learned on Wikipedia that two-door station wagons were a thing in the seventies. The Ford Pinto was at the top of our list, but I felt its history of spontaneous combustion would condition the plot too much. (Some weeks after this, I was happy to recognize a Ford Pinto as Winona Ryder's car in Stranger Things.) I settled with the second best, and that's how the kids ended up driving a Chevrolet Vega. One spookily close to this one, too.

"And I even like the color."

I know nothing about cars, really--I don't even drive. But I think cars have personality. I'd like to believe it's because of the memories and feelings of freedom and empowerment we attach to them, but I'm not that deep, so I guess I just see the front lights as eyes. Anyway, I want that Chevy Vega to look scared and ill-prepared, just like the meddling kids; I want it to say, "What's happening here? I'm a suburban family vehicle; you kids make a dysfunctional antihero team at best and you're gunning me at 120mph down the Cascades?! And you painted racing stripes on me?!" Of course, I can't just quote the car's thoughts. (Well I can, but it's cheap, so I won't do it. Much.) But I suppose I still can make you all feel for it, somehow. Maybe. To be honest I don't know half of how this writing thing works. But as I said, it's a challenge. :)

Meddling Kids. Coming July 10th. Pre-order.