I was actually trying to enjoy a two-week vacation because writing three books in four months is a helluva lot of work. I was worn out, burned out and thought I'd take two weeks solid to get caught up on my own neglected reading list. I made it to book 3 before my plans were effectively circumvented. Apparently my Muse kind of likes a breakneck schedule now, and wouldn't stop pestering me until I finally relented and typed an outline. After that came the prologue, then the first chapter... and so on and so on.
And the reason I keep going is because I'm having a blast. "The Leftover Club" was meant to be a little more fun than most of my angst-fests. There's angst, there's always angst, and nothing is quite as angsty as unrequited love as an awkward teenager. But in the midst of all of that is a fond remembrance of what it was like to come of age in the iconic 1980s.
"The Leftover Club" is about a group of friends who meet in high school in 1985. They have one thing in common: they all lust after the cutest boy in school (you know the one.) The reason they have to start their exclusive club is they know they have absolutely no chance of ever landing him because they are weird outcasts who do not fit into any high school norms.
It was the book I was born to write.
I didn't acclimate well in high school because I didn't fit in, and several uncomfortable situations make their way into the book. As do many of my crushes from my past, from the boy I fell in love with the first day of first grade, to the older guys I began to chase with gusto once I knew how to properly wield the weapons I was naturally given. That's where the biggest problem of the book, not landing the boy of my dreams, required a little creative license.
Truthfully there was no boy in high school for me because I really didn't like boys my age. This was mostly because they didn't like me. I stood out like a sore thumb because I had the misfortune of developing as early as the 4th grade. I was taller, broader, and weird sort of things started popping out and drawing attention to themselves before any of my classmates were prepared for it.
This made me the butt of their jokes from grade 5 on, when a notable group of idiots swore that I had been held back a year.
In seventh grade, probably the most awkward of all my school years, a popular (and cute) ninth-grader decided to flirt with me as part of an ongoing joke. He'd call out his little comments in the middle of the lunch area in front of a crowd full of his peers. They found it HIL-arious how flummoxed this rendered me.
Fun times. :/
By the time we were in high school, I was over trying to impress any of them. My 42-36-44 figure remained a liability for most guys. They had their own image to protect, and their own cliques to maintain.
Essentially Claire was right. Come Monday morning, the popular kids would go back to being popular, and the geeky, awkward outcasts would slink right back into the shadows.
It truly was survival of the fittest and has remained so through every era that followed. Sure, dorks and weirdos and outcasts find their footing as they grow into brilliant and creative adults. But you actually had to get through those torturous four years first.
Universally, this hasn't changed much, so I felt confident that I could write a story that would resonate with readers of all ages, with enough pop culture references to give a little somethin' somethin' extra for ladies my age. With the NA market exploding, there are plenty of new stories every week about girls in their late teens and early twenties, in high school and in college, in various stages of emerging womanhood and the sexual and romantic exploration that goes with that. There's nothing quite like the intensity of first love or young love. But I thought it'd be a hoot to write about women who find love, sex and romance a little later in life, with the jaded romanticism that followed us from the 1990s into the 21st Century.
Like my generation needs any excuse at all to go retro. We've been waxing nostalgic since the early 2000s, courtesy of VH1.
"The Leftover Club" covers it all by skipping back in forth through three distinct eras... the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s. This allows me to explore love as a virginal teenager, a 20-something hellbent on taking over the world and a 30-something divorced, single mom who has finally made her peace with the fact that life is messy and doesn't always end up the way we want.
I'm a linear thinker, so I was intimidated by the idea of telling a story in various stages of flashback. I like things straight and true, which makes my passionate love affair with Doctor Who an anomaly. I constantly have to ask my husband what the heck is going on just to keep my frame of reference.
But having lived through these eras, and these significant periods in my own life, writing the book is a bit like going through a box of old photos. Needless to say, the vacation ended after four days and I should have a new book for you all by late August.
Here's a lil taste to hold you over.
June 20, 2008
I guess you could say the Leftover Club was officially founded in 1985, though some of us were informal members much earlier than that. I, myself, earned my rightful place as President of our club in May of 1979, many years before I met other key members of our exclusive little group. It started with a shy kiss on a dusty, neglected playground with rusty, broken equipment. The only thing that worked was a chipped and faded merry-go-round.
A fitting metaphor, looking back.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My name is Roni Lawless, and I’m proud to say that I belonged to one of the greatest generations of the 20th Century. I was there at the birth of MTV, the advent of home video games, VCRs and microwaves, and I learned some valuable mechanical skills by taking apart and putting back together an otherwise uncooperative Rubik’s Cube.
(It was a puzzle and I found a way to solve it. In my book, that counted.)
We weren’t afraid of no ghosts because we knew exactly who to call at the first hint of slime. We knew where to find the beef, and delighted in dancing raisins. We were oft-thanked connoisseurs of watered down wine coolers way before we were legally old enough to consume them, even though we were the generation courted to “Just Say No.” We were the footloose, sweater-sporting Cosby kids and almost every single one of us, at one point or another, wore a Mullet without the good sense to be embarrassed about it. We also wore parachute pants without a hint of irony, and proclaimed “RELAX” boldly across stark white T-shirts accented with obnoxious, neon-colored accessories.
We lived in an era where space exploration became routine, even mundane. Computers had shrunk from entire rooms to a desktop, putting cutting edge technology right at our fingertips courtesy of three-to-five-inch floppy disks. We watched the Berlin wall come down, and were witness to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the wake of the Cold War. We read Stephen King and VC Andrews by the stack and inhaled anything the great John Hughes created, like he crafted each and every story just for us. (And I like to believe that he did.)
We were too young to be adults, but smart enough to be self-aware, which made us older than our years. Our era was one of great change, and we were witness to it in our music and in our entertainment.
I, in particular, nursed a pretty healthy addiction to Bloom County cartoons that many of my classmates really didn’t even get. It was the one of many such obsessions that set me apart from the crowd at an early age.
As we raced after the ever-changing technology and social paradigm shifts that proclaimed greed was good even for working girls, we kids of the 1980s were taught that we could have anything and everything we wanted.
Too bad it was a big fat lie.
When I was sixteen I had only one real dream… and it was shared with hundreds of other girls (and a notable subsection of guys) at Hermosa Vista High. I wanted Dylan Fenn, the most popular boy in school. He was cool. He was hot. And if he liked you, you became the most important person on campus. Well, next to him anyway.
Actually, if we’re going to get technical, I wanted Dylan to want me. Maybe then I wouldn’t be the overweight, awkward, pimply-faced teenager who didn’t fit in with any of the major cliques. I related most to The Breakfast Club’s Allison, who showed up at detention just because she didn’t have anything else better to do.
Dylan was my Andrew.
Twenty years later and I’m still waiting to wear his varsity jacket.
Tonight is my high school’s twenty year reunion, a fitting celebration for the Class of ’88, the Fighting Jaguars of Hermosa Vista. This California school had produced celebrities of varying degrees. Among our prestigious alumni were actors, musicians, business titans, tech wizzes, aspiring politicians and even a few porn stars.
Of them all, Dylan Fenn was still a notable figure in our school’s history. He never feared being noticed, and was teetering on the precipice of his own personal fame and fortune as an emerging actor, something he was voted “most likely to” way back in 1987, after he starred in his first play.
And then there was me, plain ol’ Roni Lawless, a divorced, single mom, still struggling to fit in, in my chosen profession, with my testy, teenaged daughter… and even in the club I had unwittingly founded all those years ago with a kiss on a dare.
There, dear friends, is the root of my problem.
The reason I don’t fit in is because I’m a fraud. I’m not now, nor ever was, what I always pretended to be. I have a secret, a really, really big one. And it was a secret involving the object of our many desires, which meant I was a liar to the people I had always called my friends.
And tonight… for the first time in a long time, I knew it was time to set the record straight.
"The Leftover Club" coming August, 2014! Click below to add to your TBR now. :)