Ever since I started writing my teenage-angst-filled-urban-fantasy, NIGHT ANGELS, as well as my essay series, TROUBLE IN PARADISE, I've been obsessed with listening in on teenage conversations. Fortunately, I don't have to go any further than my living room in order to do this. I have two teenage boys who have tested as "highly gifted" in the area of verbal skills. Needless to say, there is a lot of teenage conversation going on in my house. In fact, on any given day, there is a veritable stream of teenagers coming and going, arguing, debating, gossiping, sitting squashed onto the sofa--and falling off of it, continuously raiding my refrigerator, hanging on the balcony, and generally being noisy and opinionated, and never, ever dull.
If I feel I need to go further afield, I simply open my window and before long, some kids roll by on skateboards, or in a SUV, or little Honda, or whatever and yell something that catches my ear. Or, I go down to the local cafe and listen in on the table conversation of the kids next to me. More often than not, the dialogue is laced with so many swear words, a foul-mouthed sailor would be hard-pressed to outdo them.
It can be quite an earfull. Not too long ago, I was waiting for the new tires to be put on my car, sitting at a Starbucks. Three scruffy boys and one girl shuffled up and sat down next to me. They were talking loud, really, they didn't care who overheard them. (I'm leaving out the swear words.)
Boy 1, "I was at the point where I could, like, do three red lines and not die."
Boy 2,"That's too much, dude."
Boy 1, "Yeah, I know. Ecstacy and acid make you flip, man."
Girl: "Shut up retard."
Boy 3, "So what's your plan?"
Boy 1, "Dude, my plan for this summer is not to remember it."
Okay, now,I could sit for a long time in front of my computer and try to come up with a cool line like "Dude, my plan for this summer is not to remember it," but I doubt I could think up anything as good as that.
Living in the dangerous world of Los Angeles suburbia--and I mean dangerous--and having created a writing program in juvenile hall, InsideOUT Writers, for kids who were being tried as adults for serious crimes, I've heard it and seen it all. I've cried through trials, taking forty-five pages of notes at the trial of one girl who received a life sentence for a murder committed by her older, abusive boyfriend--which inspired me to write The Day I Lost My Skin. I've allowed a homeless young man who was being chased by a white supremist gang to stay in my garage, resulting in my life being threatened and a prison-style javelin being thrown at my front door--which inspired me to write Trouble In Paradise. I've talked with many young adults about the over-flowing amount of prescription medications that are being sold and exchanged in schools, my two sons (who are adamantly against this type of behavior) explaining to me the horrific truth of what is going on with our children and medications--which inspired me to write Drugging Our Children To Death.
Not too long ago, I was dragging a young man into my car who had been stabbed seven times at a party, having finally convinced him to go to the emergency room. If he hadn't gone, he would surely have died. He didn't want to because he knew he would have to talk to the police and he feared retaliation. Fortunately, the person who attacked him is now in jail.
Ultimately, all of these experiences (and many, many more) led me to write NIGHT ANGELS--about the evil underbelly that exists beneath the surface of the seemingly idylic Los Angeles suburb of "Oak Haven." Having this obsession of listening in on the conversations of the teenagers around me means I am able to write with authenticity. And because I write with authenticity, I was approached by the president of Townsend Press to create an urban fantasy series--resulting in NIGHT ANGELS. I am honored to work with this company since their core mission is to reach urban youth and reluctant readers with their books. If I can in some way give a voice to our youth and empower them to overcome the challenges of the world in which they live, then I will be a very happy author indeed.
I don't anticipate that my obsession with listening in on teenage conversations is going to disappear anytime soon. In fact, it seems to be getting worse, the further I get into my writing. I've finished the first book, "Falling," and am half way through the second, "Turning."
I love teenagers. I love their honesty, their brashness, and the way they embrace life so completely, kick it in the teeth, spit it out and then embrace it again. I love the fact that teenagers these days are media savvy and you can't pull the wool over their eyes. They are so far ahead of the schools (prisons) that they attend in their ability to access information--we need to catch up with our children and totally revamp the way we look at education.
But that's another topic--another obsession of mine!
The teenagers that I know, the ones who continually cross my path, even when they shock me, worry and dismay me, are incredibly talented, creative and free-thinking human beings. I don't know what I would do without their wild voices floating through my head.
It means my house is a mess, my refrigerator is always empty, and sometimes I even dodge a few bullets, but I'm keeping the welcome mat out. And my obsession is going strong.