Behind the Book piece
Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
If you’ve read my WAKE trilogy, you know I love to create teens who are major underdogs in one way or another through no fault of their own. My characters are faced with huge choices—they can succumb to the things that hold them back, or they can fight harder than the average person to overcome them. I blame Charlie Bucket (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl) for my passion for the underdog. Charlie always made me feel like someone out there was worse off than me, and I loved him for that.
So I needed my main character Kendall to struggle with something beyond her control, but I also needed that something to give her the ability to succeed where other strong characters failed. And I needed a hot guy who gets it. Easy peasy, right?
When I was plotting, I didn’t know yet what Kendall’s struggle would be. But once I started writing I knew by page three, when Kendall started counting. I knew that this was the right and perfect character to suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), something I know a little bit about.
I’m not talking about the OCD we all joke about—pencils pointing the same way, TV volume on an even number. I’m talking the debilitating kind of OCD that keeps you from being able to function, because if you don’t get something exactly right, you will be responsible for the tragic results. The kind of OCD that makes a ten-year-old girl feel responsible for the lives of her family if someone breaks in because she didn’t check her window enough times. The kind of OCD that makes you question your own sanity, because you are completely aware that standing in every doorway for seven agonizing seconds in order to keep someone from having cancer is not normal. You know washing hands until they are raw and bleeding isn’t normal. Layering five sets of clothing on a 115-degree Arizona school day to keep people from seeing through your clothes—you know it: not normal. But you have to do it anyway.
Many of Kendall’s compulsions are taken directly from my own personal hero, my fourteen-year-old daughter Kennedy, who has now managed not only to gain some control of her OCD but has also recently appeared at a tour signing with me. She talked about her experiences living with this disorder that no kid ever wants anybody to know they have. She wants to let others who are hiding OCD know it’s okay to talk about it, and they’re not alone. As a result of that event, she booked a gig with me at Phoenix Comic-Con this May. Proud mama. Proud writer for my teen and adult readers who have to overcome similar obstacles.
Lisa McMann is also the author of the New York Times bestselling WAKE trilogy and the upcoming dystopian fantasy The Unwanteds (on sale August 30, 2011). She loves interacting with fans on her Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/McMannFan, Twitter http://twitter.com/lisa_mcmann, and Vyou http://vyou.com/LisaMcMann.