I’ve begun thinking about what I want to do with my seven-book (down from eight) WTCOAC series, the first books I wrote with my Atlantic City people, the series that formed the backbone of all my other books with them since, the series that inspired so many spin-off series, even if most of those spin-offs were permanently aborted or never even got further than a synopsis or brief samples.

I wrote those books in the sixth and seventh grade, between November 1991 and June 1993. This was in my very early days of being a serious writer. While they’re not badly written insofar as having proper grammar, punctuation, and (for the most part) spelling, detailed descriptions, interesting characters and stories, and intelligent vocabulary, they are badly written in terms of having been written by someone so terribly young. Just because I was a much better writer and more advanced reader than my peers didn’t mean I was advanced enough to churn out great novels of my own at that age.

I have no idea how long they are, either in terms of words or computer pages, since they’re handwritten, but no matter how long or short, they’re still in need of major, major, major edits, rewrites, and revisions. The majority of them end in media res simply because I ran out of pages, and most of them don’t even have real plots, or at least not plots that develop at a normal rate and proceed according to any kind of logical story arc. The best one, fittingly, is the last one, where the predominant storyline is Julieanna’s rebellious little sister Dinah getting pregnant while Julieanna is on her honeymoon and running away to England. Kit does not want to be blamed for this, and tries everything to get her to come home before Julieanna and to have an abortion, even sending goofy, sex-crazed Cherie Watkins after her. Cherie becomes Dinah’s friend and roommate instead, and thus is launched a decade of misadventures Dinah and Cherie have in England, many of them connected to the increasingly crazy, criminal couple whose son they’re nannies for.

If anything, if I wanted to stay with them and publish them in any form, they’d either be marketed as interconnected novellas, or as novelettes or long short stories taken from the better material. The four books of the introductory series are already very short, deliberately, but the story threads raised in these books deserve more than novella-length treatment. And they’re about teens, not preteens, so they’d have to be a bit longer.

I also don’t want so many overlapping series, having to be so careful with the timeline that I don’t repeat much in any series. There’s already some duplicate material, or material told from different POVs, in Cinnimin and the Max’s House books taking place across the same time, but with these books, there’s even more of a concern to watch out for too much duplication. At least I left some pretty large holes in the timeline, so I have more freedom in the other two series. The original fourth (now third) book, for example, takes place during the first week of September 1945, and the fifth (now fourth) book opens in April 1947.

I’ve already used some scenes, pretty much word for word but with some fleshing out and revising, in the 11th Max’s House book, Winter Vacation (which was one of my favorites to write). When I look through the converted files of it, I’m struck by how different the voice is. The material I wrote at age 12 is so simplistic, amateur, and childish, as compared to the bulk of the book, written in the Spring of 2001, at age 21. It was also going on a really misinformed, naïve perception of what preteen and YA literature “should” be like and include. I was watching way too many soap operas and reading way too many issue books at that age, that’s for sure!

It’s also inconsistent with who the characters had become, and the relationships they had with one another. The sister relationship between Violet and Mandy, for example, is just so stereotypical, instead of showing two three-dimensional, flesh and blood sisters who really care for one another in spite of some differences of opinion. The way everyone talks is also silly and stereotypical, not a realistic voice for either people that age or the kind of people they are. Mandy might be a bit prudish and old-fashioned, but saying, “Violet, it’s times like these I wish I could say the d word”?! Even Mandy isn’t that babyish she won’t say “damn,” and the fit of swearing she immediately goes into, on Violet’s urging and overheard by their mother Madeline, is just as out of character in the opposite direction.

Finally, it’s also not very historically accurate either. It’s like the original sections of the first 7 chapters of my Russian novel; they’re like 1990s teens who just happen to be living in the past. Even if a large part of it is meant to be a humorous social satire and spoof, with much of the humor and shock value gotten from setting it in an era not associated with such things, it still has to have a solid historical base. Other than an occasional mention of the War, some new technology or music, and Sparky’s Shoah survivor friends, there’s no real indication it’s historical fiction at all. I’m beyond embarrassed at how I tried to force “the dawn of rock and roll” into the last two books, set in 1949 and 1950, and to write Frankie Valli in as some wunderkind little cousin of one of Kit’s exes, who’d never even existed till that penultimate book. “The dawn of rock and roll” when everyone was listening to stuff like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and jazz, my ass!

I’m also mortified at how I depicted Lazarus and Malchen, the first two Shoah characters I created. (Malchen also talks about her Lagerschwester Eszter and her boyfriend Jakob, so these books also contain the genesis of two of my other Shoah characters.) I had not read any Shoah memoirs, histories, or historical fiction at that point, so they came across extremely unrealistically, and even offensively. In the late Forties, the entire survivor community was still so scared, scarred, and traumatized by what was only several years in the past.

They were not going around gabbing about it, in graphic detail, to everyone and anyone, writing about it for school reports, acting like it were no big deal, or giving presentations in the school auditorium. They wanted to forget it ever happened and go on with their lives. Many of them were unable to talk about it for decades. Not until several decades had passed were more than a few Shoah memoirs published. The survivors were too busy trying to come to terms with what had happened, rejoining the human race, relearning how to use utensils, eat at a normal pace, comb their hair, and sleep through the night.

Perhaps it’s best to just leave the past in the past, as a memory of my first Atlantic City books, and pluck and revise material as needed for the other books taking place during the same timeframes. I don’t want three competing series. They just require way too much extensive editing, revising, and rewriting, and no longer represent who these characters are.

One thought on “Leaving the past in the past

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