Anyone who follows me on social media can probably deduce that comedy novelist Kage Alan is one of my best friends. So, when I decided to set a book outside Chicago and its suburbs (where my last several had taken place), he and I started talking about Detroit. To follow the plot line, it needed to be some place an 18-year-old kid would just jump in the car and drive to from DeKalb, IL on impulse. Because of other plot elements and my commitment to realism in my work, I wanted to see not only the drive, but the destination. We spent the early part of a day working out where the book would take place and what kind of setting elements I could incorporate. He helped me get the major plot points by listening and offering suggestions as I babbled about where I wanted the book to go.
It. Was. Fabulous.
The weekend also benefited Kage’s writing, which I am really excited about. I like being able to help other authors because I know how hard it really is to get a quality book out of your head and into Word. Oh, plotting it out, writing the beginning—that’s easy. Writing the ending is pretty easy too. It’s that huge mountain of stuff you have to design to keep the reader interested through half the word count that will trip you up. But Kage’s issue isn’t plotting or character development, it’s permission. If you follow Kage’s blog at all, you know that he is helping to care for his father with Alzheimer’s, which is physically and mentally exhausting. When your body is tired, your mind is tired, and you still have to organize the garage or do laundry or trim the hedges, writing often gets put off to the side. So this weekend, Kage and I grabbed our laptops, plopped down on the couch (I left the WiFi off because I never get anything done when it’s on), and banged out a total of 10,000 words between us.
As part of my research, I had to figure out what a teenage boy would do in Detroit, free for the first time in his life. So, Kage and I went to a local place and played laser tag, which I’d never even thought about doing in my life. If you ever want to see the funniest thing ever—watch a woman in her forties don a vest with flashing lights, a Star Trek phaser, and let her directionally challenged self run around a maze in the dark. Seriously. I could not have been worse at this if I’d been blindfolded, but we had so much fun. I think the only person I hit with any regularity was an eight-year-old girl. Then, she came up to me, all tearful because she couldn’t find anyone on her team. I told her I thought the blue team had made it upstairs. Her little brown eyes filled with tears as she asked me how to get up there. I told her I didn’t know.
And the little monster shot me.
We went for ice cream after, then ordered out for pizza for dinner and watched a Batman movie marathon. We had the best time. My friend William Cooper said it totally sounded like a night out with him, and it’s true. When I flew out to spend the weekend with him, we had pizza, went to the mall, and ignored the gorgeous view outside the hotel room balcony over-looking the ocean in favor of Mario Kart.