In my grade 10 English class, I like introducing the topic of intertextuality. I find it interesting to start finding the connections between and within various texts, film included. (It’s also a way to get them comparing Romeo and Juliet with Lord of the Flies.) I also find it comforting.
You see, years and years ago, when I was in grade 10, doing lots of writing but never actually finishing more than a few short plays, and pieces required for school (thanks, Grandma, for reminding me to keep all of my manuscripts!), I went to a family dinner and shared some of my work. At the time, I was working on an adaptation of Cinderella for the youth group I was in. My uncle, rest his soul, completely shot me down with these three little words: “It’s been done.” As a teen with low self-esteem, and undiagnosed depression, it was utterly crushing, and the adaptation was never finished. My mother told me on the way home not to listen to her brother, as he has always been pessimistic about her ideas too (my mother is very creative, makes beautiful clothing and paints wonderfully well). But I did mind. What was the point of writing if I could not come up with something original? For years I took this incident to heart, and it interfered with my writing. I would get a great idea, but oops — it’s already been done.
Then university, and then teaching. And deciding that intertextuality is part of the fun, the challenge, rather than something to avoid. I have been compelled to put pen to paper, to tell stories to anyone who wants to listen, since I was old enough to print. (My mother still has a story I wrote in kindergarten which was printed in the local paper — apparently I had to help Santa deliver a baby deer on Christmas Eve!) In spite of feeling discouraged by my uncle, I kept trying, and trying. And what I have found in the last few years that I need to focus on writing for myself, first. If I take the pressure off, and worry less about writing for others, I find the journey to be much more smooth and enjoyable.
Of course, some of the goals I set myself are unrealistic. The full novel to follow Mist and Midnight, I had wanted to finish by the start of 2011, then by June, and now by the fall. But I’m not permitting myself to be pessimistic. I finished my first, I can do it, and it was so satisfying completing Mist that I cannot wait to see this one done, and move to the second and third novels I am planning in the series. And if they make indirect reference to previous works, that’s okay — there are certain patterns in a romance, moments that we all recognize that make the reading even more interesting. I love making reference to pop culture here and there, too. It’s my story, as original as I can make it, and while I know there are other paranormal romances involving witches and cops, I like this one because of the direction it’s taking.
There’s another thing about intertextuality. Did you ever read something, and feel like you could do it in another way that could also be interesting? I really like the idea of responding to another text. I recently read Beauty Queens, which is based on Lord of the Flies but with teenage girls. It also mocks the reality tv world, and marketing corporations with a delightful tone. That’s something I would love to do.
So, this afternoon, after hanging out the laundry, cleaning the bathroom (maybe…hate cleaning the bathroom), and various assorted chores, I will continue working on Rayvin and Grant’s story. I last left her walking alone, on a darkened street, having run from a passionate embrace out of embarrassment and a mix of other emotions. Is the vampire stalking her? Certainly. She can’t completely defend herself, but neither is it her time to die. Grant will turn up, a modern spin on the knight on his horse, but he doesn’t have the ability to stop the fiend, either. He’s holding one of the keys, though he doesn’t know it. They are going to have a long conversation, discussing their past, and there will be more passion. Then there will be an argument. I’m not looking forward to that. But at the moment, my uncle’s words hold less power over me than they did when I was a teenager. I’m writing their story for me. When I’m finished, I hope you’ll enjoy it too. I also hope that the timelessness of it will come through, the fact that every story is really one story — what it is like to be human.