8 Things You Didn’t Know About THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH

I’m horrified with myself. I’ve gone over a month without posting on my blog, and I’ve done so just when my new book, THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH, has come out. Not smart. I apologize for going silent, and thank you for all of the wonderful emails about PORCUPINE. I am working my way through them and will respond to them all, I promise.

I’ve been so busy! First there was some touring (The Openly YA Tour), and all along there’s been writing the sequel to OPENLY STRAIGHT, which is called HONESTLY BEN. It’s coming along. I feel a lot of pressure to make sure it lives up to the original…

Anyhow. Today I’m jumping back into the blogosphere with some tidbits about PORCUPINE. Enjoy!

1. At first, it was going to be the Platypus of Truth. True. I said it to my husband and he didn’t think it sounded quite right. We came up with Porcupine, and suddenly it all came together. There’s so much one can do with the concept of prickly truth. There’s so little one can mine from a truth that only lives in Australia, and subsists without a stomach.

2. I actually took the road trip that Carson and Aisha take in the book. I had lived in Billings for a year (felt longer!), but I’d never driven that particular path, so I invited a good friend of mine and she played Aisha to my Carson. We drove, and along the way we couchsurfed, much like Carson and Aisha do in the book. It was quite an adventure, and I used some things that happened on our trip in the book.

3. I didn’t grow up with an alcoholic father, per se. A lot of people ask me that, since Carson’s father (and grandfather) are alcoholics. I did grow up with a stepfather whose family was chock full of alcoholics, however, and I connect to the frustration of having a father figure who was there and somehow not there. For a lot of other reasons, Carson’s relationship with his father rings very true to me and feels very personal. One thing we have in common was our parents divorcing when we were very young (3 or 4).

4. In a very early draft, every time Carson went into a church and the choir would start to sing, he would hear lyrics that were clues leading to his grandfather. My editor identified this as a VERY BAD IDEA, which often happens at some point in my writing process

5. In another early draft, Carson connected with his grandfather in dreams, and the clues were in the dreams. Unfortunately, it didn’t make a lot of sense for the grandfather to not just TELL CARSON WHAT HAPPENED, so that was another VERY BAD IDEA. What kind of grandfather leaves clues in dreams but refuses to just say what’s up?

6. A lot has been made of the fact that in this book, unlike my previous two, the main protagonist is straight. I understand the disappointment of some of my fans, although it would be hard to say this isn’t in many ways an LGBT novel. And in some ways, not. I did this because I wanted to expand beyond the label “gay” in my writing. I am other things, too, you know! Regardless, Carson is a character who is probably more connected to me internally than either Bobby from OUT OF THE POCKET or Rafe from OPENLY STRAIGHT.

7. The scene toward the end of the book where Aisha blurts out, “I’m not your sidekick” to Carson is meant to be important to the novel, to both teens’ journeys, and to fiction in general. I am making a commentary about the way we authors sometimes use characters for our benefit without giving them fully realized interiors and their own purpose for being in the story. I didn’t want Aisha to be that. I fully intend for her journey, which is about finding family in the world at large, to be just as important as Carson’s journey to find his family. I think of Aisha as a dual protagonist to Carson in this novel. I hope it reads that way.

8. The big reveal toward the end of the book, the way the mystery is solved, is something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. My only regret is that I’ve written about but cannot really talk about it, without ruining the big reveal. Lesson learned. If a topic you want to talk about would also spoil the book for new readers, you won’t be able to use it. Duh.

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5 Responses to 8 Things You Didn’t Know About THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH

  1. I am really glad you didn’t make Carson a gay character. I can’t really say why without revealing some of the ending, but being straight really worked in the ending.

  2. I cannot wait to read this new book. You spoke to a group of us at an SCBWI workshop in Oakland a few months back. Again I am touched by your genuineness. I love your thoughts on sidekicks. It’s actually something I’m trying to work out. I will be reading POCUPINE OF TRUTH for pleasure and study! Thanks for sharing your process with us 🙂

  3. Dave Huff says:

    So this is a very late response to this posting – but – hey – what the .. – why not. I for one am disappointed not by the quality of the book (which is extraordinary and up to all of your previous works) but by the straight protagonist -so let me say why (since you so eloquently said why in the opposite direction in your posting). I am a gay man who grew up decades ago when it was even tougher and it isn’t a picnic now. Gay teens (male gay teens I can speak of and about and to – I am not a lesbian or trans or anything else so I can only speak to what I know) gay male teens have it tough enough, and it is hard enough to find good role models, fictions which doesn’t marginalize us (and yes – Modern Family and Will and Grace and Glee all marginalize us by portraying stereotypical gay male characters).

    So when an author stands up and says – “I am you (or like you) and I have made it this far and listen to my story (as told through my characters) and take heart!” – well, that’s just wonderful. Heartening. Enriching and empowering.

    Then, after reading Openly Straight, and Honestly Ben, and Out of the Pocket, and then reaching deep to find another ennobling work for a disenfranchised gay teen in a school somewhere lost in the sea of the assumption of heterosexuality, for that teen to begin to read and find he is reading about a troubled straight boy, of which there are thousands of examples in modern fiction, and not about himself any longer? that feels like a betrayal.

    Yes, you are more than gay – you are gay and talented and proud. And your family and your tribe are the gay boys who are your spiritual sons. To indulge yourself in being something else (because, after all, you are your characters in a very real way) feels like you have ducked into the closet and said – hey straight dudes – you don’t get us but we get you.

    Wrong (IMHO). If you urge your readers to be themselves, do us the honor of being yourself in your writing always. it is the least your children can expect.

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