Wednesday, October 24, 2012

“Where do you get your ideas?” HOW TO STEAL A CAR

I love it when I am asked where I got the idea for How To Steal a Car, because for once I can answer the question easily.

A few years ago I was talking with a group of teen readers, and I asked them what sort of books they liked to read. I got the usual spread of responses:

“I like fantasies with dragons and stuff.”
“I like cheesy romances.”
“I like books about sports.”
“I like really spooky paranormal.”
“I like books with horses.”

Then one girl said something I’d never heard before:

“I’m like, fourteen, and like my life is really boring, and I’d like to read a book about a girl just like me who, like, goes out and steals a car.”

The next day I started writing a book about a girl who goes out and steals a car. She steals several cars.

Why would a teenage girl do such a thing? Good question! When I started the book I did not have the answer. But by the time Kelleigh Monahan stole her last car, I understood.

Some of my novels spring from a particular character concept (Invisible). Others come out of an imagined external event (Hole in the Sky), a plot concept (Blank Confession), or an imagined world (Rash). How To Steal a Car was different. It is essentially a journey of discovery, of character building. It is a reverse mystery—instead of peeling back layers to reveal a secret center, layers are added to create a vessel. This was why I used the very long novel Moby-Dick as an anchoring metaphor for this very short novel. 

This is the fourth in a series of posts answering the ever-popular question, "Where do you get your ideas?"


Philip Heckman said...

Which of the two covers do you prefer? I hadn't seen the second cover before and find it much more inviting than the sterile array of automobiles that graced the original hardcover. But even though I prefer the concept behind the second cover, I'm not sure about the girl's expression. It seems coy and not at all suggestive of the out-of-body thrill she describes getting when leaving the scene of each crime.

Pete Hautman said...

I agree with you. I like the design of the first one in a formal sort of way, but the paperback cover is more inviting. I do wish the girl looked a bit younger, though I'm not unhappy with it over all.