I am so stressed out about this publishing process, and I started writing a post about it then thought, Who cares? Unless you plan on self-publishing, you don’t care about bleed lines and gutter fill. Boring. So I’m going to talk about Clara instead. She’s interesting. Print layouts? Not so much.
Well, at first for Evan, it was all about the way Clara looked. I wanted her to be beautiful. Not pretty. Beautiful. And it’s easy to covet beauty, to want it, to want to hurt it. Evan wants her. The mean girls at school want to hurt her, and she becomes the perfect target when Evan starts talking with her. It’s easy to make fun of someone who’s afraid to fight back. Even easier when she’s poor.
I felt guilty making Clara so beautiful and then giving her social anxiety on top of it. But I needed her to be that way. Constantly unsure. Doubting her worth. Because when you see her great big insecurities next to Evan, who happens to be pretty damn happy with himself, it’s just heartbreaking. And then funny. And then incredibly embarrassing. There’s nothing I enjoy more as a writer than creating those cringe-worthy scenes. Why? Well, I think those scenes lend themselves to big time character development. They tend to reveal the most. (God, Chapter 7 tore me up!) But I also admit that I enjoy making you squirm. (There’s a characteristic Evan gets from me.)
Clara is not the typical heroine you’ll see in many YA books. Well, all books, for that matter. And a good friend of mine had a huge problem with her initially. I think it’s simply because we’re used to reading heroines as spunky, vocal, and fierce. Strong personalities. Woman-on-top kind of thing. I do love those girls, and I love writing them (Hello? Emma, anyone?), but they are not every girl. And I knew when I started this story that Clara could not be that girl. Not with all of her mother issues, her abandonment, her anxiety, the mounting debt. Total fear. Not even the fierce heroines could hold it together.
I started writing, and out she came—this gorgeous, timid girl who thinks she’s ugly and can’t understand why a popular boy wants to date her. A girl who’s scared because she has no parents and understands what could happen if she and Beatrice are reported to Child Protective Services. This girl who has a quiet strength that’s constantly at odds with her depression. I love her complexity. I love that she’s sixteen and doesn’t know how to be an adult, but is trying. I love that she works at a clothing store and can’t afford trendy things. I love that Evan wants to put his hands all over her, and she doesn’t know what to do with that. I love that she bottles up her emotions. I love that she’s flawed.
To me, Clara represents all the other girls. The forgotten ones. The ones just on the outside. They have stories, too. Just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they don’t have a story to tell. So I wanted to tell her story. I wanted to give you a window into the world of a struggling high school student who has to scrape and save and make tough choices to put food on the table, to pay the bills, to keep herself and her sister safe. A girl who is loyal. A girl with a tender heart. A girl with perfect lips. A girl who, according to Evan, is “so fucking beautiful.”