Welcome to Wells, Massachusetts. Wells is the setting of my novel Blue and White, which I’m going to be self-publishing in late 2020 — more on that in my post here. Yes, at some point I’ll create a lengthy post detailing the reasons I’ve decided to self-publish this particular book, but for now I wanted to create the first of several “sneak peeks” for my most loyal readers to read and share. In this sneak peek, I’m going to share a bit about the origin of the idea behind Blue and White and a bit about the book’s setting. Here goes!
I got the idea for what would eventually become Blue and White about two years ago, when I was working on a fantasy novel. Initially, I thought that my idea would become a short story: a brief conflict between three parties on an island in the center of a lake inspired by Spy Pond in Arlington, MA. (Initially, the lake in the story might well have been Spy Pond.) So my initial draft of this story, which I titled At the Edge, was only a couple thousand words long and woefully incomplete. I soon realized that the plot I’d come up with wasn’t cut out to grow into a short story. It was much longer, and there were a lot of questions I hadn’t answered in the couple thousand words I’d written. I set it aside.
A couple months after that, in the wake of querying the fantasy novel and coming up agentless (though not completely without interest from the publishing world), I started working on a longer version of the short story, which I was then calling Till Dying We Fall. The story was no longer a thriller; it had become a mystery. Initially, I meant for it to fall neatly into the YA mystery category, given that many of my querying woes stemmed from the difficulty of pinning down my novel’s genre. I also tried hard to keep the number of characters in the story to a minimum.
In the latter, I somewhat succeeded; in the former, I completely flopped. By the time I finished the first draft of Till Dying We Fall, the novel featured three important teenage characters and at least two important adult characters who weren’t necessarily villains — bad news for a novel that’s trying to call itself YA. But I stuck with my concept through the second and third drafts, since the story’s themes — coming-of-age and rivalry between friends — felt and still feel so solidly YA to me.
Once I got beta reader feedback, though, I no longer felt comfortable querying the novel as it was, and if I wanted to query I knew I’d have to do a complete rewrite and reworking of what I had. Instead, I decided I’d pursue self-publishing, so that I wouldn’t have to change a story I loved for the sake of fitting perfectly into a genre box. What remains now is to do a complete revision, which is to say overhaul of most of the story’s language and some bigger tweaks here and there, followed by another round of betas and then prep for publication.
With that in mind, if you’re a critical reader with a keen eye for detail and a love of story and think you would enjoy reading and critiquing a quasi-YA mystery, let me know! You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re inquiring specifically about beta reading, please include VOYAGE OF THE MIND-BETA READING in your subject line.
But back to the matter at hand. Blue and White is set in Wells, as I said before, a fictional suburban town in the Greater Boston Area. If you’ve ever been to the Boston area (or lived/live there) you might know the sort of place I know. Specifically, I imagine Wells as a cross between Winchester (extremely suburban) and Arlington (still suburban, but slightly more urban). Wells isn’t like some of the bigger “suburbs” like Medford (my hometown), Somerville, or Cambridge — those are more urban than Wells.
I know that a lot of mysteries are set in the suburbs, and that agents seem tired of them, but I have to say that I love the suburban setting for a mystery. One of the characters in Blue and White, a jaded-ish police officer, says that he never expected to chase shadows through the comfort of suburbia, and that’s exactly why I think suburban settings work so well. Suburbia evokes images of comfortable family life and well-kept lawns, not murder. That’s why every mystery set in suburbia makes for a jarring juxtaposition.
One of my beta readers said that Blue and White took him back to his high school years, and I was really pleased about that. It’s exactly what I want: for young adult readers to visualize their school and even their hometown and for adult readers to put themselves back into young adult shoes and endure some hefty nostalgia.