Tag Archives: author

Dare Me by Megan Abbott (or Cheerleaders are scary)

SPOILERS ABOUND

(I wrote this for people who read Abbott’s book already.)

If you weren’t already frightened by the competitive cheerleaders you see on ESPN2, you certainly will be after reading Megan Abbott’s novel Dare Me. The book, which follows second-in-command Addy Hanlon as she is torn between Top Girl Beth and Coach Colette French, is a vivid depiction of the incestuous, competitive sub-culture. The cheerleaders are  powerful, self-serving individuals but also a force to be reckoned with when they act as one body. Abbott constantly builds the image of one connected body/spirit as she describes the girls doing stunts. And this almost-mutant-like physical connection carries over to their loyalty to each other in the most scandalous of circumstances. They are indeed the scariest version of Voltron ever to grace the pages of a paperback.

Let’s talk about the plot. Nothing new here. It’s actually bland and predictable. Really. Try to imagine yourself pitching this read to a friend. It’s Mean Girls, Heathers, Babysitters’ Club on steriods. Maybe not the last one. The point is that Abbott uses a very “used” plot structure and makes it new, unpredictable, and at times, horrifying. Abbott’s writing chops are impressive to say the least. Dare Me, similar to Gone Girl, features tight, controlled prose. Like the textual version of a Hitchcock film. You discover ONLY what the writer wants you to know, what the filmmaker wants you to see. Any brilliant deductions you make are NOT due to your brilliance but due to the curating of the story.

Sorry. I think you’re smart.

No, really. I do.

So let’s talk about how the predictable plot is rendered unpredictable by the author. In my opinion, Abbott achieves the suspense in two ways. First, the creation of narrator/protagonist Addy Hanlon. Addy is unsure of herself in the beginning and looking for an alpha-female to follow / model herself after. Because Addy trusts Coach, her processing of the Sarge’s murder is unreliable and adds to the reader’s suspense. What’s most impressive about Addy is that she finds her own power in the latter half of the novel. The last chapter left me with a sense of discord–almost as creepy as the end of Gone Girl.

Second, Abbott’s depiction of the world of a competitive cheerleading team is amazing.  Just as interesting as the question “Who killed the Sarge?” is the inner-workings of the team and the hierarchy, and fight for dominance between Beth and Coach. And if I may flex my English-major-muscle, the team culture is further reinforced by the presence of Sarge and his boys.

Questions for you…

1. Do you think Dare Me should be a movie? (I think that Gone Girl would be awesome as a movie but Dare Me will be seriously diminished as a story in cinematic form.)

2. Who’s your “Top Girl”: Beth, Addy, or Coach? (As I mentioned above, I liked Addy the best.)

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Finding an Agent…

I went into this process with no expectations. I think I would be happy just to have my family members and friends reading my book on the Kindle (or their chosen electronic device) and telling me that it was indeed “good.” A work friend of my mom’s, perhaps, could say that she was “really into it.” A student I used to teach might say “I read the whole thing in like three days.”  I really believe that might be enough. I’ve never identified myself as a career writer so I have only a medium amount of emotional stock in this process. I’m an English teacher. I have two Masters degrees to prove it. Not an novelist. I just happened to write a book.

Until I started querying agents…

So far I’ve queried exactly 100 literary agents. I find myself looking for a few minutes here and there so I can check my database, quickly cut and paste the query letter (and maybe a few chapters), and send it off to another possible agent. Also, and this is more annoying-yet-unstoppable, I find myself checking email obsessively. Even every few minutes.

Refresh.

Refresh.

Be an email from an agent asking to see more–not an email from Nordstrom offering 25% off Marc by Marc Jacobs.

I have gotten some feedback. Three agents asked to see partial manuscripts and one agent asked to see the full manuscript. That request for a full manuscript sent me off the edge. I was just about to feed the baby dinner when I got it. I found myself frantically microwaving Dr. Praeger’s broccoli pancakes and calling my husband (not picking up), my mother (not picking up), ANYONE! Thus, the all caps tweet a few days ago. I had to tell the world. (Mom called a few minutes later. Then C.K. too.)

Of course I’ve heard nothing since then. Oh, the emotional trials!

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Revisions, Resumed

I started revising again. It feels good to get back in the groove. It’s amazing how far I’ve come (over 100,000 words and a completed story) and yet daunting because I have so far to go. The novel is in no way ready to be shopped around yet. I have some excellent connections but I don’t want to use them if it’s not ready.

Here’s what I’m playing with: no more 3rd person narrator and adding other narrators (namely adding Kylie’s love interest Matt and Kylie’s cousin Colette). That way I can just label all the chapters and hopefully they will blend into each other more seamlessly. Right now I’ve got Kylie, Ben and 3rd P. Kylie is the main character so hearing from her is important. Her decisions and what happens to her are the crux of my story. Ben is my strongest narrator–he’s funny, tangential, very Holden Caufield (sp?). His role in the main plot is rather secondary (a supporting actor if you will) but he gives a lot of background information.

If I added Matt, he would have to be much different than Ben. I think his voice would be straight-forward and a little brooding. I think his language would be more economical (the way he tends to communicate in the story). But, we can’t know too much of what’s going on in his mind because that’s half the fun of the plot–not knowing whether he and Kylie will get back together.

If I added Colette, she’d be female version of Ben. However, she’d provide details about Kylie’s life as Styles Baptiste, an employee of her infamous uncle.

Back to work…

This has nothing to do with my novel — RIP Roxy (my aunt’s awesome bulldogs whose farts smelled like aluminum foil).

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Author Picture?

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A more authorly picture

JG said that my picture was good but I should look for something more authorly. A good piece of advice for sure. Can I say that C.K. picked the picture? As he put it, “you look very pretty and very married.” Aww. 

So I looked for something more authorly but I don’t have anything. I need something with my glasses on, maybe even sitting in an adirondack (sp?) chair. I just posted my favorite picture. I use it on almost all my livejournal posts. I like it mostly because the pug is in it. I *heart* my pug.

All this has got me thinking…what’s an authorly picture look like? I think I need to scour the bookcase for some answers.

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