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July 30, 2014

I Wish I Were --- Guest Post by SOME BOYS Author Patty Blount


As Patty Blount explains in this candid guest post, she wasn’t always the “strongest” person growing up. Difficult times left her crying, crumbling and afraid to stand up for herself. It’s for this very reason that she decided to write about Grace in SOME BOYS --- a girl who refuses to play victim, even when faced with the toughest circumstances.

People often think an author IS her characters, but that’s not true --- at least not for me. My characters are typically wishes, a wish for a talent I don’t have, or a life I’d like to live. My characters may be the me I wish I were.

When I wrote SOME BOYS, I knew my heroine would not be a perfect girl with a perfect life, for whom everyone would immediately feel sorry. But I wasn’t entirely sure who she would be --- not yet. I knew I wanted her to be someone who had problems and made mistakes and maybe even wasn’t always so good. I wanted her to be someone real.

So I began sketching out the type of person she might be. A girl whose father’s new family made her question her place, a girl whose own friends could --- and would --- believe the worst of her because they know her flaws and her issues. That part is personal for me --- I’ve had people, even relatives, believe the worst of me. The pain caused when people who’ve known you your entire life could believe you capable of something you didn’t do is indescribable. I’m the child of divorced parents and when my father remarried, he made it clear he preferred his stepdaughter over me. A scene in SOME BOYS in which heroine Grace is uninvited to a party really happened to me, opening one of the deepest wounds I’ve ever felt.

And this is when I knew what I wanted my heroine NOT to be… she couldn’t be like me or there would be no story. I’m not a fighter. My response to circumstances like these is to lie down and cry for days. I wanted my character to be stronger than me. She had to be a survivor, not a victim. This is an important distinction that shapes the decisions she’d face as the story unfolds --- particularly her ability to trust again. When I began researching survivors of rape, I found a website created by a photographer named Grace Brown called Project Unbreakable that so inspired me, I knew then that my heroine’s name had to be Grace.

As I got to know my Grace, the Grace of my story, I drew on my own experiences to fuel her growing sense of outrage. As a girl, I was warned never to walk alone anywhere, to always have my keys between my fingers, to never leave a drink unattended, to never get into a car with a man I didn’t know. As a woman, I am now afraid to do damn near anything without male bodyguards and that really pisses me off. I’ve been told I should cut my hair because it sends a message. I’ve been told wearing perfume invites men closer. After I reported a boss to Human Resources for tying me to my chair, I was even told I need to lighten up and know when guys are just kidding.

All of these things just piss me off more.

But I never fought back --- not until now. Some Boys is a story about a character I made up --- the girl I wish I could be. A girl who doesn’t lie down and cry. 

Patty Blount works as a software technical writer by day and novelist by night. Dared by her 13-year-old son to try fiction, Patty wrote her first manuscript in an ice rink. A short version of her debut novel, SEND, finished in the top ten of the Writer's Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition.