Sunday, 24 May 2009

Hollister, The Scrubs and swearing

Welcome to my blog - the first time I've done this. I'm hoping that once I've worked out what I'm doing I can add links and pictures and stuff relevant to the books, and write a bit about the amazing adventure of writing and getting published.

Right now I've been putting the finishing touches to When I Was Joe, after getting a list of questions from my editor. Luckily there weren't too many questions, and luckily I could answer most of them but some were completely unexpected.
For example: Could I think of a shop to substitute for Hollister, because Hollister is only in London. Ummm....where else is cool for teenage boys, semi-expensive...ummm...any suggestions?
Will non-Londoners understand what The Scrubs means? Errr...probably not. I wanted to say Guantanamo Bay, but President Obama inconsiderately announced its closure. So I substituted Wormwood Scrubs. Now I've changed it again to 'prison'. Not really as colourful.
Most awkward were the questions about Joe's school timetables. When most secondary schools have only one period after lunch why does Joe's school seem to have three? On at least one day? Errr...ummm....OK, I'll rewrite that bit.
The biggest dilemma came over swearing. It's one of the most awkward things I've found about trying to write for teenagers - how do you keep things reasonably realistic without being completely unacceptable for parents and librarians? The answer seems to be cutting down and mixing up your swearwords - thinking of as many different ones as possible to soften the blow. So I've been debating every single swearword in the manuscript, to see if it's strictly neccessary. And the answer is generally yes. And I'd still like to add in more. But I won't.
Then there are the questions that I have for my editor. I think blond is better than blonde for a boy - especially when it's Boris Johnson - why doesn't he? And shouldn't coconutty be spelled with a double t - as in nutty?
The funniest query was about the word 'pal' and 'pals' Was this really a word that a 14-year-old London teenager would use? Yes, I thought. My kids use it. Then I thought - but that's because my husband and I use it, it's a family joke that's gone beyond a joke and turned into normality for us. But probably not for others. So out it came.