November 2, 2010

Guest Post: Lisa Rowe Fraustino

Today I welcome Lisa Rowe Fraustino author of The Hole in the Wall talking about how this novel came to be - over twenty years!

From Idea to Here in Twenty Years

In 1990, while working on my PhD at Binghamton University, I read Ludwig Tieck’s tale “The Runenberg,” in which a man becomes caught up in a dream world. Or is it real? He discovers that plants, trees, and flowers “are the corpse of foregone glorious worlds of rock.” Gold and gems have spirits. Being tempted by their allure leads the man to a nightmare fate.

At that time I lived in a region of Pennsylvania altered by coal mining. Driving by a slag pile one day, I got the idea of adapting Tieck’s tale into a modern children’s fantasy.

A brother and sister travel by dream to the fantastical Land of the Adri, populated by inorganic rock spirits. The kids discover that their dreamscape is actually a real world occupying the same space as the human world, and that the strip mine in their town is destroying the inorganic spirit world. Of course my protagonists have to save the world by putting an end to the mining. This was the original dissertation idea approved my advisor, Liz Rosenberg.

Ah, but then I got another idea that I just had to write first, Ash: A Novel (Orchard 1995). In 1994 I returned to my fantasy idea and wrote a first draft. I wrote my fifth draft in 1996, several more drafts in 1999, and even more drafts in 2006 before the final 3 or 4 rounds of revision with Milkweed editor Ben Barnhart. And if you’ve read The Hole in the Wall, you know the story didn’t wind up anywhere near where it started. It’s not an otherworldly dreamscape anymore but a real-world science fantasy.

No matter what I plan for them, my characters always take over the plot. They have strong personalities and voices, and they’re constantly interrupting. When I sent Sebby and Barb to the fantasy Land of the Adri, they didn’t fit in. My story felt real when they were bickering with Grum in the kitchen, but fake when they met up with magical gatekeepers and rock spirits. So I decided instead to make the strip mine across the road a big problem for them in the real world, in their own lives.

In the first draft, Sebby didn’t even have an oasis called The Hole in the Wall. Instead, one stubborn old lady named Zoe, the Witch of Adri Gore, had refused to sell out to Odum Research Corporation. She was the gatekeeper who gave Sebby and Barb magical coins that transported them to the Land of the Adri. The first draft also had an annoying friend named Jo-Jo living nearby. He kept getting in the way so I eventually replaced Jo-Jo with Cluster Dogstar. Around that time I also added a big brother Jed, who became central to the plotline…even though he ran away from home.

I wrote the first 1994 draft in the third person, aiming for a wise, trustworthy voice to describe both the real world and the fantasy world. Nice try, but I couldn’t pull it off with Sebby and Barb butting in. Since they had different experiences apart from each other, and they were both important to the plot as I had it then, I decided to let them take turns telling the story chapter by chapter. They did that until the year 2008.

I loved writing in Barb’s voice. She was very imaginative and poetic, thoughtful and descriptive. In contrast, Sebby never slowed down. I wished I could keep both as narrators but in the end I decided that the plot needed one of them to take over. The story went to Sebby, who was more excited about the adventure (Barb would rather have stayed home reading and doing schoolwork). When I had to translate both their sides of the story into one viewpoint, their personalities changed a bit. Sebby became more imaginative, and Barb became more active. I like how that turned out. I hope you do too!

By the way, if you want to learn to write and revise better, I’m happy to share what I’ve figured out over the years. Come on over to my web site and visit “Dr. Lisa’s Class.” Today’s lesson is called “What Drives Your Story?”

Come back later this week for my review of The Hole in the Wall! (and a giveaway!)

And now check out the booktrailer

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for having me to visit O.W.L. today. It's such a funny and friendly site! I'm happy to be here and I'll be stopping by from time to time to see if anyone has outrageous questions.