Today I’d like to welcome YA author Krysten Lindsay Hager to my blog. Krysten has just released Next Door to a Star.
High School Reunions Are A Whole Other Deal When You Write About the Teen Years
By Krysten Lindsay Hager
I recently went to my high school reunion. For most people it’s a chance to reconnect with old friends, but when you’re a YA writer, it takes on a whole different meaning. For one, it’s a chance to gather more material—to observe, be inspired, and to dive right back into that part of your past. However, it also means running the risk of meeting up with someone who might have seen themselves in something you wrote and want to smack you—very happy to report that didn’t happen, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t on my mind.
I got nervous right before it was time to head to the reunion and walking through those doors and seeing some faces that I hadn’t seen since the night we graduated—it felt like the past was slapping me across the face…okay, so I guess technically I did sort of get slapped in the face. The thing was, I wasn’t seeing the person I was best friends with in ninth grade only to go our separate ways come sophomore year as she was now—successful and mature. No, I was seeing her as the girl who I shared my deepest secrets about why I feared things would never work out with me and my then boyfriend/insane crush. All the memories came rushing back to me as I ran into people who I knew even before high school and had shared crayons with. The girl who I had told my dream of becoming a young adult writer to and who didn’t laugh at me back then was now telling me she was proud I kept at it.
So many of the faces that had inspired me (for better for worse) for my Landry’s True Colors Series were there and coming up to me as were the ones who I observed and caused me to create the character composites for Next Door to a Star. With the Landry books, I take bits and pieces from my own life to create a world for this teen (Landry) to try and find her place, her tribe, and her own way. But with Next Door to a Star, I created characters based on things I observed as a teen. Growing up I saw girls who were so desperate to be accepted or, to not upset the status quo of the group that they were in that they put up with bad behavior. If I’m being honest, for years I was one of the girls who held my tongue and let passive aggressive remarks go as to not “rock the boat.” But you can’t always see it when you’re in it, however you can really pick up on it when you’re a casual observer. I still remember how I felt junior year when I overheard a group laughing about one of their supposed” friends” behind her back. The night of my reunion I saw that same girl go up to greet those “friends.” Later that night, I saw another group who had inspired a fremeny situation in Next Door to a Star—the actual girls who had given me the inspiration weren’t there, but still I watched and saw how other mutual friends once again chipped away at someone’s self-esteem with “jokey” comments that held a lot of sting. I watched as a woman who had walked in confidently was now looking like she wanted to disappear into the floor. After all this time, I guess some people don’t change. Witnessing this brought back the fact that no matter what the age or circumstances, we all go through the same things.
People ask me how I can write about high school and middle school and put you right back into that world. I admit that I do remember feelings, situations, and certain events with accuracy, but then I see things like interactions at my reunion and it is clear to me that we all share the same experiences. It makes you realize that the years may pass and we might grow older, but not everyone grows up.
I had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends from the past, seeing how people had changed (or not and in some cases it was refreshing to see certain personalities hadn’t changed a bit). It was fun enjoying jumping back into conversations where it felt like no time had passed at all. Old memories were triggered (both good and bad) that I’m sure will trickle down into a storyline somewhere. Plus, faces I hadn’t seen in a long time suddenly jolted me into periods of my teen years that I had forgotten all about. Several times in the evening, I felt myself going back to certain times in my freshman and sophomore years. For some reason, those were the years that stuck out the most. Perhaps it was because my best friend from junior and senior year wasn’t at the party. Or maybe my work brain wouldn’t turn off and I had Hadley and Landry on the brain, so I was hyper focused on my own early years of high school—the more awkward ones. All in all, it was a wonderful trip back and worth any uncomfortable and vulnerable moments—after all vulnerability is what makes a story come alive. If you can’t feel with the author then you can’t feel the story.
NEXT DOOR TO A STAR by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Genre: Young Adult
★ SYNOPSIS ★
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible.
After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend.
Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.
It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte.
To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins…
He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.
So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again.
Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad.
Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?
The school year should end right after spring break, because all anyone can focus on is summer vacation. You can’t learn anything new, because all you can think about is all the fun stuff you’re going to do once you don’t have to get up at the butt crack of dawn. Summer always seems full of possibilities.
Nothing exciting ever happens during the school year, but maybe, during summer vacation, you could run into a hot celebrity and he’d decide to put you in his next music video. Okay, it wasn’t like I knew anybody that happened to, but my grandparents did live next door to a former TV star, Simone Hendrickson, and Simone was discovered in an ice cream parlor one summer. Of course, she lived in L.A. at the time and was already doing plays and commercials, so the guy who discovered her had already seen her perform. But hey, it was summer, she got discovered, and that was all that mattered.
Amazing stuff didn’t happen to me. You know what happened to me last summer? I stepped on a bee and had to go to the emergency room. They’re not going to make an E! True Hollywood Story out of my life. I didn’t go on exotic vacations—like today, I was being dragged along with my parents to my cousin’s graduation party. Most people waited until at least the end of May before having a grad party, but Charisma was having hers early because she was leaving on a trip to Spain. I was dreading this party because I didn’t want to listen to everybody talk about how smart and talented Charisma was—making me feel like a blob in comparison—but my mom RSVP’d even though I said I’d rather die than go. My death threats meant nothing. But still, for some strange reason, I had a feeling this summer was going to be different.
Krysten Lindsay Hager is an obsessive reader and has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and humor essayist, and writes for teens, tweens, and adults. She is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series and her work has been featured in USA Today and named as Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values and Virtues Fiction and Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values. She’s originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and southwestern Ohio. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.