Warning: I totally spoil Judy Blume’s Blubber here.
After posting an article on Facebook related to the recent “the horror, the horror” reaction to female Ghostbusters, a friend lamented about Hollywood’s overall fascination with rebooting and rebranding and remaking things. Stuff like that used to bother me, but I understand that people will produce what is likely to make money. Another FB comment, unrelated to the aforementioned thread, noted that in publishing you have to do more than offer a good book. You have to offer a good series, the ready-made franchise able to translate to film and Happy Meal toys and blah. We could be staring down at the grave of the standalone novel, and for me that means adjustment.
Three of my five books are standalones. The next five I have outlined are standalones. They may never see the light of day, or may simply be passed over for the Beautifully Broken Hunger Girl With the Peacock Tattoo, told in seven parts and made into ten movies. I don’t know. If I could predict the future of publishing I’d be way richer. For now, I’m content to write whatever the hell I want.
The beautiful brokens inspired me to write Killing the Kordovas, which is coming off KDP select soon. I put it there as an experiment, and now that it’s over I’ll have it for NOOK and Kobo and wherever fine and sleazy books are sold. In the spirit of recent events where fan fiction and reboots currently prop up the industry, I’d like to share one of my favorite scenes in the book.
Frustrated writer Danni has managed to con her way into ghostwriting a book for “famous for existing” Krystal Kordova. She meets with editor Brigid for dinner and talks turns to the industry and the latest book burning up the lists, a novel that began as fan fiction:
“Have you written fan fiction?” Brigid asked. “Surely you practiced on a favorite TV show or movie.”
“You ever read Judy Blume?”
Brigid rolled her eyes. “Well, duh. I was once a gawky tween waiting for my period, too.”
Danni drained the last of her martini. “I don’t know if it counts, but I once fleshed out an unofficial sequel to Blubber.”
“Yeah, I remember that book!” Brigid slapped the table with too much enthusiasm for Danni’s taste. She glanced around to see who they startled, but the noise had gone unnoticed among other patrons.
“Amazing how much of it I recall, decades later,” Brigid continued. “I guess because the themes are still relevant. Kids have to deal with school and shit, and bullying.”
“Exactly, and I loved Judy’s other books. I probably liked Blubber back then, too, but a few years back I was visiting my aunt and weeding out stuff I’d left at her house to go to Goodwill.” Danni looked for their waitress—this story needed a third martini. “I found the book and thumbed through it, and hated what I read. More than that, I hated myself for liking the book once.”
Brigid frowned. “Jesus, I haven’t read her since I finally got my period. What set you off?”
“You know it’s about this chubby girl who’s bullied by everybody, including the protagonist. Then the protagonist pisses off the head bully of the class and has the tables turned on her. For some reason, when that happens the head bully forms an alliance with the chubby girl—the same person she crapped on for two-thirds of the book.” The temperature shot up in the restaurant, or perhaps Danni felt close to combustion. Men should get her so excited in bed. “When the book ends, so does everything else. The kids all go back to doing their thing, and the chubby girl returns to being ostracized, for no damn good reason other than her dress size. Nobody is punished, there is no redemption, no apologies.”
“In some ways, that’s true to life,” Brigid said with a shrug. “Kids still don’t give a shit.”
“You know, if Judy wrote that book today, those kids would have created a Facebook page to bully Blubber, and the poor girl would have hung herself. How fucking depressing is that? I try to be optimistic, look for the good in things and people.” Danni heard the words and almost believed them. An observer of recent events might argue against that, but even she had hoped for a bit of sales run-off in the wake of the Delilah boom. Thanks to Krystal Kordova, too, an editor wined and dined her! Technically, she had little reason to bitch.
“So during a period of mental block I started noodling on the story—the twentieth high school reunion of all these characters from Blubber,” she continued. “I put the protagonist in a miserable marriage, and the queen bee bully suffering PTSD disorder after a tour in Iraq. Everybody’s in hock and overweight.”
“And Blubber?” Brigid smirked.
“Lingerie model linked to Robert Downey, Jr. She arrives at the party in a cherry red Porsche, stays long enough to tell everyone to fuck off, and leaves.”
“Does she overturn the buffet table on the way out?”
Danni pondered the image. “I could insert something where she shoves somebody’s head into the chocolate fountain.”
“If you ever consider changing the names, maybe adding a scene where Blubber hooks up with the protagonist’s husband…” Brigid traced the rim of her empty glass with her forefinger, “I’d be happy to take a look at it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Danni couldn’t decide whether to feel flattered or upset. Would an original idea of hers have been met with as much enthusiasm? She had half a mind to pitch a veiled version to Blubber to agents at the next conference she attended, just to see if anybody picked up on it.
There’s more acidic whimsy where that came from – read the rest of the book.
At risk of wandering off topic, yeah I look back and rage on Blubber. I had to put up with two specific bullies in school, and those scars don’t heal quickly. If either of those girls received their comeuppance I never learned about it. Yet I am a writer, and I can always create my own. If I write it like a franchise, maybe it will sell.
Graphic via 123rf.com under their Free Images section.