Monday, December 14, 2015

"Half in Love with Death"

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for her novel Half in Love with Death. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Boston Magazine, Menda City Review, and The Smoking Poet. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program.

Ross applied the Page 69 Test to Half in Love with Death and reported the following:
From page 69:
She gasped. “What are you talking about? Is something wrong with you?” She was staring at me as if she was convinced I was the worst person in the world. She went on, “Really, I’m worried you’re becoming a pathological liar.”

“Mom,” I said. “I saw you and Ron on the patio.”

“So now you’re spying on me?”

“I wasn’t spying on you. I was outside by the pool.”

“Ron and I were just talking. He was comforting me. God knows, no one else does. You have no idea how hard this all is.”

I flinched.

She went on, “That’s all it was, no matter what your twisted mind tells you.”

“Okay, Mom,” I said.

“It’s not okay.” She grabbed my arm. “You lied and you put yourself in danger. Don’t you think I have enough to worry about?” I wouldn’t look at her. “You are never, ever to have anything to do with Tony again. Do you understand that?”

I bit my lip. “I do understand. I understand that he wants to find my sister. What’s wrong with that? Tony said Schwab’s Pharmacy was important, but Dad didn’t even bother to go there. Both of you just want to drink and forget about her.”

She stared at me as if I was the greatest disappointment on Earth.

I went upstairs and slammed my door, hoping she heard. It would serve my parents right if I never spoke to them again. But none of this was as bad as May telling on me for going with Tony.
I hadn’t told on Jess for going off with Tony the night she disappeared. I thought I was doing the right thing—what anyone I knew would have done. It was so hard to know what the right thing to do was.
Is this scene representative of my book?

Escalating arguments like this happen a lot in my book, as they do (sigh) in the life of teens. Here, as my teen narrator Caroline argues with her mother, several significant lies come to a head.

Just prior to this scene, Caroline’s mother found out that Caroline had gotten a ride home with Tony, her missing sister Jess’s boyfriend, whom she has been forbidden to see. To make matters worse, her mother learned this from Caroline’s best friend May’s mother. Not only has Caroline been caught lying, but her own friend has betrayed her.

Caroline responds by accusing her mother of having an affair, which she has long suspected. When she blurts it out, her mother vehemently denies it, and accuses Caroline of being a pathological liar. However, Caroline knows that this is yet another lie, and when her mother reprimands her, she hurls out a most hurtful accusation: that her mother doesn’t really care about finding Jess.
Having delivered this shattering speech, Caroline flees to her room, contemplating May’s devastating betrayal.

Would a reader skimming this page be inclined to read on?

I certainly hope! On this particular page, tensions that have been brewing in the weeks since her sister’s disappearance spill over, and Caroline is pushed into the turning point in the story. By the end of page 69, Caroline no longer knows in whom she can believe or trust. The only thing she is sure of is that she must do something, and in the next scene she makes the decision that changes everything.
Visit the official Emily Ross website.

--Marshal Zeringue