I sat down last weekend to brainstorm ideas for the next book, and started excitedly following a vein for a new plot. It involves a 16-year-old loner and the strange, new girl at school. Strange in that she likes him. Talks to him. Is extremely attractive and instantly popular–and yet still wants to hang out with him! She’s even interested in talking his nerd, intellectual talk. She knows all about history, art, pop culture, the exact ingredients to that go into Frito’s corn chips…It’s all a bit scary seeing this nerd-stuff come out of her unquestionably perfect lips. Nerd Boy and Perfect Lips spend more and more time together and…suddenly Boy realizes that things seem too good to be true. And if it’s too good to be true…it obviously means she’s an alien, scouting out Earth for a potential invasion. (The book kinda goes on from there.)
I was so stoked by this idea that I went online and started Googling it, assuming I was the only one to realize that teen aliens could be just as hot and intriguing as vampires. I hoped I’d only find those My Teacher is an Alien series by Bruce Coville from my childhood, and maybe some extreme sci-fi novels involving…well, space and space travel, space colonies, neutron stars, etc.–which was decidedly not what I was looking to write at all. My book would be like Waiting for Alaska…only Alaska is the hot avatar for a giant squiddy thing (that is probably still a teeny bit hot) who really doesn’t want to take over the earth–but she kinda has to.
But then I found a review for my book–not only has already been written, it’s being released in 2 weeks! The book?
( OOooh, Gary…I can’t tell you how close my four bulleted plot points were to your story!!!! Luckily I only spent thirty minutes on them.)
From Pink Me’s review: “…we have an introverted, buttoned-down teenage boy who meets a fierce, wild-eyed girl, falls instantly in love, and is swept along by her insane momentum until he finds himself dog-bit, tattooed, guilty of criminal trespass, and listening to unfamiliar music.”
Of course, this wild-eyed girl IS MY ALIEN. If you read the rest of the review, you’ll see how Pink Me compares it to two other John Green books, which added to the irony that I’d actually said out loud: “It would be like Waiting for Alaska–only with Aliens!” (I’m glowering even now, just thinking about it…)
But after huffing around the house for a good five minutes, I sat back down and read reviews and the synopsis of this book…
…and I’m totally picking up a copy as soon as it’s available.
I love the concept, love Ghislain’s spin on it, and the reviews I’ve read have nothing but glowing praise. I might even be the teeniest bit consoled by the fact that I get to think of the idea and then instantly read a completed book without the 3 years of agony of pounding it out myself.
I know, that sounds really really really arrogant, as though I’m saying mine would be any good. I’m not saying that at all (in fact, based on those four bullet points I scrawled on a paper towel, it probably would have ended up lame and predictable). But I really don’t think there are a huge amount of original story lines left. It’s how you choose to spin it, the voice you use, and the character arcs you create and combine that make a story unique and dazzling.
To be metaphorical, discovering How I Stole… is like sneaking a peek into the other identical half of your duplex and seeing how the neighbors have fixed it up. Me? I fill my side of the house with free stuff I find in boxes on the street corners of PDX. It’s not impressive. Gary? Well, by reading the book’s synopsis (and the weird Johnny Depp tie in), I can see Gary’s side of the duplex is out of this world.
Oh, and receiving wide applause.