Today I have the pleasure of having Darren Hynes, author of Creeps, on the blog to talk about the process of writing this particular book. Be sure to keep reading to also find out more about the book and the book writing process.
About the book:
Fifteen-year-old Wayne Pumphrey wishes he were courageous enough to actually send the heartfelt letters he writes to friends and family. He also wishes his father would drive on the right side of the street, his mother would stop packing her suitcase to leave, and his sister would stop listening to Nickelback. But most of all, he wishes that Pete "The Meat" would let him walk to school in peace. After all, how many times can one person eat yellow snow?Then one morning, while facing Pete and his posse, Wayne is rescued by Marjorie, the girl with a dead father and a mother who might s well be. Together, the two of them escape Pete's relentless bullying by rehearsing for the school play, and an unlikely friendship is formed. As they grow ever closer to one another, they begin to dream of escape from their small town and resricted lives. But Pete now has plans for both of them--and after a moment of sudden violence, nothing will ever be the same again for Wayne, Majorie, or Pete himself.
Creeps from start to finish – what process did you go through while writing this book?
- I started writing Creeps in 2008. At the time, the story had nothing to do with bullying. It was more a coming of age novel: a boy from a dysfunctional family who tries to make sense of his life against the backdrop of a cold northern town. I wrote and wrote and had several hundred pages completed until the realization struck that I didn’t have much of a story. Something was missing and I had no idea what. Later in that same year I spent a month at The Banff Writing Studio where I’d hoped to find a reason for continuing with Creeps instead of it putting aside. After the month was over I put the manuscript away in frustration and went back to work on a novel that I’d previously tried to get published but hadn’t been successful. I spent a year revising, Flight and sent it out and it was finally accepted for publication and released in 2010. Not long after, I was talking to my fifteen-year-old nephew via Facebook and he told me about a girl who’d pretended to like him and when he’d admitted to liking her back, she posted how gross he was and how she would never date someone like him. I was devastated, angry, disappointed in the human race. The story stayed with me for weeks and weeks and then one morning I felt compelled to take out my abandoned Creeps manuscript. As I was looking it over I had a thought: what if, Wayne, my main character, was a victim of bullying? And what if the story was more about how he copes and finds a way to move forward, and how he comes to love and accept himself for who he is? For the first time since I’d started writing the novel I felt like I had a hook, a reason for writing it.
- The new draft of Creeps became a sort of homage to my nephew, but, later, it became a story for anyone who’s every felt alone or different. I was quite inspired by Radiohead’s song: Creep throughout the writing of the novel. The lyrics really spoke to me and I found a way to sneak the song’s message into the narrative of my novel. The song became a sort of anthem for my two main protagonists.
- It wasn’t easy to write the bullying scenes, and I struggled with how far to go. Although the story focused on a fifteen-year-old, I had no idea I was writing a Young Adult novel. I was just writing what I felt I needed to write. My biggest challenge, I think, was finding humour in the story. Not to make it too maudlin. That’s why Wayne, although terribly bullied, tries to rise above it – find hope and optimism and not dwell too much on his situation. That tack will not please everyone, but it was the direction I felt I needed to follow.
- Once the story kicked in, and I became more familiar with the characters, the writing of the novel came quickly. I was living in Hamilton at the time and I would often write on the bus to Toronto. I spent a lot of money on coffee and lattes because I lived in cafes, which is where some of my best writing gets done. I generally wrote in the early mornings – my peak time creatively. I got to know some people in the course of writing the novel that were victims of bullying and they were kind enough to share their stories with me. I soaked up documentaries and books on the subject and combed the papers and the Internet for stories like the one I was trying to write. And, while not a victim myself, I was certainly witness to episodes of bullying when I myself was in high school. I remember one small boy who’d had his glasses broken by a punch in the face and it was winter and even now I can still see how cold the boy’s hands were and how his nose was running and how defeated he looked. Those images stay with you.
- After about a year, I had a draft of Creeps I was fairly happy with. Still, I put it away for a few weeks and then went back at it for some serious revisions, which took another six or seven months. Then I sent out some queries to a few agents and was shocked when Westwood Creative Artists requested the whole manuscript. A little over a month later, Westwood took me on, and a month after that, I had a book contract with Penguin.
- I was lucky enough to work with a wonderful editor at Penguin and we spent close to a year readying the book for publication. In fact, everyone at Penguin was extremely welcoming and helpful and I felt very supported there.
- So, the seeds of Creeps were planted five years ago. A lot of time was spent going in circles and working on other things and trying again and then giving up and then trying again. I’m learning now that that is part of my process. I tend to write a lot of stuff, which ultimately gets thrown out. I have to flail about and pull my hair out before something comes. But once I find that thing, the writing takes on a life of it’s own and it becomes very exciting.
- I hope people find something in Creeps that speaks to them. I certainly learned a lot from writing it – namely that there should be room for everyone.