Why Miles to Go is a True Book of My Heart - Part II
"I can't understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by old ones." --John Cage
From the first, I envisioned MILES TO GO as a mainstream piece, a work that would transcend age, cultural background and interests, something that would appeal to, enlighten and entertain both teenagers and adults. Unfortunately, and despite the writing being "excellent", "intriguing", "engaging" with "great voice and style" and "resonant and very vividly realized characters", MILES TO GO was also "too long" to market as a YA book. Among its other "faults" (namely teens in adult situations), I figured this was one of the more minor and fixable problems on which I could work--which I did, diligently, through several years and numerous drafts, revising and editing it down to a more "marketable" YA piece. Basically, I tried to shape and fit my round-pegged baby into traditional publishing's existing square hole. This is before e-publishing.
E-publishing has leveled the playing field, indeed opened up a playground to where my "too adult" and different baby could come and romp. I won't deny and say the revising and editing I did before Awe-Struck accepted this work hasn't made MILES TO GO a polished and more marketable piece. And in a way, I guess I'm glad of all the back-handed publisher compliments and form rejections the earlier versions received; they only forced me to flex my editorial muscles and become a better writer--a published writer.
But I'm also under no illusions (not too many anyway) about the viability of this book. I know, have always known, that it was "marketable", that somewhere, someone would like and believe in MILES TO GO as much as I do, enough to bring it to the light of day and see an audience without my having to grossly compromise the integrity of the characters and their story or edit the heart and life right out of the book.
So here is where I will thank Dick and Kathryn, the editors and publishers at Awe-Struck, for taking a risk on my work and providing Chris, Tori and Co. an arena to vent...and they do (vent that is). Which brings me back to my original reason for writing this article.
MILES TO GO is not your "average" YA story and when I call it "gritty" I mean it sincerely. If I had to rate it, using the movie industry standard, I'd give it an "R", not for children under 17 (just so parents won't get the idea that this author is trying to corrupt anyone's child. I have young nieces and nephews of my own, ones that I would not want unnecessarily exposed to visual or literary matter unsuitable to their age group...and this is where "parental guidance" comes in...not to go off on a rant, as Dennis Miller would say, but I digress...). Yes, definitely an "R" rating for, let's see, adult situations--strong sexual content, graphic language, violence, partner abuse, rape, and some racial references. Definitely not for conservative or immature audiences and nothing to which you or your teen aren't normally (and yes, unfortunately) exposed every night on the evening news. Yeah, that's the ticket. Forewarned is forearmed. And let's all remember that the "A" behind the "Y" in "YA", does stand for "adult". I think we need to give our young adults--give ourselves--a little more credit than the media would have us believe we're all worth.
And on that note, I'd like to close with a quote befitting this book and just the journey of writing in general, from world class marathoner Greta Weitz: "For every finish line tape a runner breaks--complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras--there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about."