One of the questions I am asked most often is, “Where did you get the idea for this book?” Or, sometimes, “What was your inspiration?” I mean, I get this all the time.
So I figured I would start up a series here called “How It Happened,” stepping through my career book-by-book — in publication order — to answer precisely that question!
Until the publication of I Hunt Killers, the question I got most often was, “What inspired you to write Boy Toy?” (Now the question I get most often is, “What’s the best way to kill someone?”)
Well, here’s the story…
In the county where I grew up, in 2001, a substitute teacher was arrested for having sex with multiple male students. As the story played out, we learned that she was basically conducting orgies at her house with 15- and 16-year-old kids.
There were photos of her with the newspaper stories, of course, and she was pretty cute. I became sort of unhealthily obsessed with the story — it was nearly identical to so many others, including Mary Kay Letorneau’s. What the hell was going on with these women? What were they thinking? I started to see patterns emerging in the “hot for teacher” cases — young, attractive, usually married women, just beginning their careers…and then throwing them away for the thrill of illicit sex.
A friend of mine who worked in the county school system joked that the case was really tough, that the county had to provide grief counseling for the boys who weren’t involved. Ha-ha, right? Poor guys, didn’t get to fuck the hot teacher.
That made me start to think about a cultural hypocrisy that is well and truly ingrained in us. Namely, that if the roles had been reversed — if a male teacher had been hosting orgies at home with teen girls — we would have strung the guy up by his balls without so much as a preliminary hearing.
But when it was a young, attractive woman and boys… Well, break out the champagne.
To this day, when I mention the subject of my second book, people chortle and say, “Good for him!” Or “Lucky kid!”
And I was wondering: Why?
It occurred to me that we never hear from the boys in these cases. They’re minors, so they’re protected and we never know their names or how they feel about what’s happened.
Because it’s become a cultural axiom that any boy who has sex with an older woman is “lucky.”
But rape is rape, and I had a feeling that maybe those kids weren’t so lucky after all. And maybe I could tell that story.
A couple of months before I sold my first novel, I was in New York, having lunch with my agent. I knew that she would be submitting The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl soon and I wasn’t sure what I should do in the meantime. Should I just start on my next novel?
Absolutely, she said.
The problem was, I didn’t know what my next novel should be. After all, I hadn’t sold anything yet. Yes, I’d written a YA novel and I had an agent trying to sell it, but… What if it didn’t sell? Should I really write another YA novel, in that case? Or should I try something else?
Ultimately, after talking with my agent about it, I decided to give Boy Toy a shot. I did a little research, started reading about baseball, and I was working on the early chapters when I got the call that Houghton Mifflin wanted Fanboy & Goth Girl…and my next book!
Good thing I was already working on it, eh?