I love Hunter S. Thompson because he really didn’t give a shit. About deadlines, the law – common decency. Here was a man who drove big cars and shot bigger guns. A man who smoked, snorted, or imbibed any substance put in front of him. And, in case you didn’t know, he happened to be a brilliant writer.
Maybe your only exposure to HST comes via Johnny Depp. And as fine of a portayal as he gives, you really don’t know HST until you’ve read HST. Read the opening chapter of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Those pages are a clinic in voice, not to mention a near-perfect piece of writing.
Let’s get down to brass tacks – yes, I’d love to be the Hunter S. Thompson of YA. I’d love for me and the Boys to show up at SCBWI in some Big Red Shark, screeching into the parking lot like a pack of lunatics. Jeff would be dumping beer onto his chest as Steve harrassed some noob middle grade writer we picked up at some gas station, dreams of six-figure advances in the kid’s eyes. We’d fall out of the car and head for the hotel bar as the kid ran off behind us, yelling and screaming about cutlery and Mean Steve.
Trust me, I’d love being the YA writer known for trashing hotel rooms, for skipping out on bills – for spending ridiculous advances on even more ridiculous things. I’d love to walk into a room and make everybody in the place say: “Oh, shit.”
Sadly, I just… don’t. I mean, let’s get real – I work at a church. I’ve never smoked, snorted, or swallowed anything, ever. Hell, it’s all Jeff and Steve can do to get me to drink a beer. But like many things, this isn’t about the specifics. YA doesn’t needs some whacked-out author trolling the conference floors. It doesn’t need degenerates.
Well, any other degenerates.
We need somebody who isn’t safe. Somebody who’s willing to look at what’s happening and, with as much force as she can muster, say: “Enough, you filthy savages… let’s go hump the literary dream.”
But they can’t do it because they’re trying to establish a brand. Jesus Christ, no. It needs to be somebody who’s truly willing take a chance – to really be dangerous with their stories, with their writing. A person who’s willing to risk never getting published if it means being able to write with integrity. Somebody who knows it’s about more than simply shouldering a sleeve of tattoos, wearing Chuck Taylors (white, of course), and pretending like you don’t give a damn at kidlit drink nights.
Even if this isn’t you, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a chance and really write something that’s different. It doesn’t mean you can’t actually follow all of those agent and editor blogs that always tell you not to write for the trend (while simultaneously representing and buying books that, you know, follow the trend.) It doesn’t mean that you have to follow the rules.
It means only one thing: write like a crazy bastard. Write twisted characters. Write hilarious and blistering dialogue. Just write – everyday, despite what anybody says. Or, as Hunter put it, Buy the ticket, Take the ride.
And hold on.