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How it Happened: Goth Girl Rising

GOTH_GIRL_PBThis is a pretty easy one.

From the moment people began reading The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl, I got The Question:

When does the sequel come out?

Not “Will you write a sequel?” Just “When?” The assumption was that I would.

And, truthfully, I didn’t plan on doing so. I figured the story was over and, yeah, it was an inconclusive ending, but I like stories that keep you thinking long after they’re done.

And then…

And then I wrote Boy Toy. And without really thinking much about it, I dropped in a couple of references to Kyra and even had her show up for a page (to say something really mean and really true, of course).

She was still with me, Kyra was.

At the end of the first book, Fanboy muses that he and Kyra aren’t superhero characters, that their life isn’t “Fanboy vs. Goth Girl.” That phrase kept coming back to me, and I thought, If I ever write a sequel, that’s what I’ll call it — Fanboy vs. Goth Girl.

I still had no plans for a sequel, but one day this popped into my head:

“Before she went and died, my mother told me to stop bitching about my cramps all the time.”

It was Kyra’s voice, as clear and as true as it had ever been. I wrote that line and the three or four that followed and then I told myself to stop it because, damnit, I wasn’t writing a sequel!

Except I was. Because by then I’d finished Hero-Type. And Fanboy had done really well and had a lot of fans, and Boy Toy had been critically acclaimed, but hadn’t sold well. Hero-Type had been the first book in a two-book deal, and given the sales on Boy Toy, I seriously thought my career was over.

So why not say goodbye with a gift to my readers, the sequel they wanted?

More importantly, why not write the book that had taken up residence in my skull and was making it difficult to think of anything but Kyra?

I knew that the book wouldn’t be exactly what people wanted…and I was OK with that. I knew that readers wanted me to pick up from the end of the first book and show Kyra and Fanboy becoming romantically involved.

But that was too easy. And nothing is ever easy for Kyra.

More likely, I thought, was that things would have changed dramatically after her aborted suicide attempt at the end of the first book. I knew that she would emerge from that experience changed, and not necessarily for the better. That her pain came from a very deep and very dark well, the sort of pain that is not easily expunged.

The title Fanboy vs. Goth Girl suddenly seemed to flippant for what I was attempting. I considered several varieties, including The Astonishing Return of Fanboy & Goth Girl, but settled on… Goth Girl Transcendent.

Or maybe not. I thought a little more and decided Goth Girl Rising worked. (As a friend put it, “What the hell does ‘transcendent’ mean and does anyone care???”)

As I’ve joked in the past, the book ended up being a meditation on being a Millennial woman because who knows better than a middle-aged man?

Still, it seemed to have worked. I got a ton of email from teen girls thanking me the book and marveling that I could get inside their heads so well. (My one super-power, I suppose…)

Fortunately for me, Goth Girl Rising wasn’t my last book after all. Also fortunately, I got to scratch two very personal itches with it.

First of all, I fixed a plot point from the first book. It’s always nice when you can retroactively paper over an oopsie. 🙂

Second of all, I wrote probably my favorite bit of indirect characterization ever. It’s something no one ever notices or comments on, but I love it. It happens when Fanboy shows Kyra a picture of the baby he was dreading in the first book. He says:

“See, that’s her. My sister. Well, half-sister, technically.”

In the first book, Fanboy is adamant that the baby a-brewin’ in his mom isn’t his sister. He repeatedly and consistently reminds people that she will be his half-sister.

Now, six months later, the baby has come, and he’s flipped his position. Calling her his sister and only half-heartedly mentioning that “technically” she’s his half-sister.

He’s grown up. He’s learned to love the baby he once referred to as an “alien lifeform.”

I kinda love that line of dialogue.

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