Essay on the inspiration and making of a gritty coming-of-age urban romance. First appeared in April Issue (#8) of Awe-Struck FLASH - Official Newsletter of Awe-Struck E-Books - A Publisher of fine electronic books
Gracie C. McKeever © 2001
I grew up with MTG; it is the book that took me from "amateur" to "professional", my first book in every sense of the word, not only a book from the heart, but also a book from my blood sweat and tears. It is the one on which I cut my writing teeth, the one on which I flexed my immature editorial muscles. The one I coddled and petted through several revisions and metamorphoses. The one I nursed through numerous rejections, and shielded from the solicitations of costly sham literary agencies and services that tried to take advantage of the child's desperate single mother.
From the beginning, through all its amateur incarnations, I had faith in the universality of the characters, their story and saw only the potential for their survival and fruition, saw only their ability to thrive.
The original concept for MTG (and back then it was appropriately called The Merry-Go-Round ) saw completion in the early eighties; I finished the first draft 11/10/83. I was twenty-one (a few years older than the oldest characters in the book and like them, still coming of age and feeling my way where writing was concerned); I was writing "for fun", trying my hand at something I'd always been good at and enjoyed doing. I hadn't been anywhere near a how-to book, seminar, or publication—in even the most minute sense--but I guess in the back of my mind, publication was always a concern, as I ultimately wanted my work to be seen and read by eyes other than mine. But how to get to that point?
I fiddled with and submitted MTG off and on for several years, garnering the many form rejections and familial support and sympathy along the way before I finally realized that maybe it wasn't quite ready for public consumption. I needed direction and inspiration, the right something to make it whole and viable. In between work and real life, I accumulated a how-to library, honed my skills, and built my confidence and a modest list of credits with my poetry and short fiction. I started and finished several other novels (my first passion, long fiction) all with older characters, different plots. All the while, TMGR hovered in the background, haunting me and on life-support, waiting for attention. By the time I actually got back to it, laughing and wincing through several painfully awkward passages and chapters, I realized that in its current state it was almost unsalvageable—if I wanted it published.
The inspiration for MTG came somewhere in late 1989, seven years after TMGR. The basic premise remained the same but the characters changed, found their own distinct voices and--much like my own writing--gained sophistication, and an edge. After almost two decades of development—from gestation, cannibalizing the original work for parts, to final product—MILES TO GO was finally contracted in the Spring of 2000 and saw publication this past fall through Awe-Struck E-Books Byte^Me Line. My unwanted, much maligned and misunderstood YA had finally come of age.