Title: Hold My Hand
Author: Michael Barakiva
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: May 21st, 2019
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Alek Khederian thinks about his life B.E. and A.E.: Before Ethan and After Ethan. Before Ethan, Alek was just an average Armenian-American kid with a mess of curly dark hair, grades not nearly good enough for his parents, and no idea of who he was or what he wanted. After he got together with Ethan, Alek was a new man. Stylish. Confident. (And even if he wasn’t quite marching in LGBTQ parades), Gay and Out and Proud.
With their six-month anniversary coming up, Alek and Ethan want to do something special to celebrate. Like, really special. Like, the most special thing two people in love can do with one another. But Alek’s not sure he’s ready for that. And then he learns something about Ethan that may not just change their relationship, but end it.
Alek can’t bear the thought of finding out who he’d be P.E.: Post-Ethan. But he also can’t forgive or forget what Ethan did. Luckily, his best friend Becky and madcap Armenain family are there to help him figure out whether it’s time to just let Ethan go, or reach out and hold his hand.
Hold My Hand is a funny, smart, relatable take on the joy and challenges of teenage love, the boundaries of forgiveness, and what it really means to be honest.
1. What does your writing process look like? Do you know the whole story when you start? Or do you just start writing and go with it (seat of the pants writing)? If you plan it out, how do you do that? Outline, notecards, post-it-notes, etc.?
There is a process of for writing musicals that I have hijacked for novel-writing purposes. It starts with the writing of many many index cards – just a few words on each. They can each stand for a character, theme, line of dialogue, plot moment, whatever. All ideas are good ideas in this part. This will also lead me to some research, and I’ll fall through a few of those wormholes.
After some time doing this, I can usually figure out if the story has stuff. If it doesn’t, I bind all the cards up and put them in a drawer, to revisit at a later time, if/when I’ve had an epiphany about how to make it work. If the story is making sense, I can usually tell at this point: If the cards are coming out aplenty, if they’re making sense, if they’re interesting and exciting, if they communicate with each other. Then I start sifting through them – removing the ones that don’t fit in anymore, rewriting some, consolidating others. Once I have a stack (let’s say, 100 at this point) I’ll put them up on my wall, using scotch tape (really, I should be using painter’s tape, but do I? no I do not, because adulting is hard).
Here is a picture of what an early non-color coordinated attempt might look like. Please note the adorability of the index cards I have cut into triangles, which indicate time stamps.
At this point, the cards resemble something of an outline, and I’ll usually start writing there. Because I rarely have the luxury of putting full days aside for writing in this moment of my life (my day job is running the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY), when I do write, I look at the outline for the chapter I want to write the night before I go to sleep, and then wake up early and write write write. First drafts must be written in the morning, early, when I’m barely awake, so that I don’t have the ability to filter myself. On days that I can devote entirely to writing, I’ll then go to the gym or make some breakfast, do some other stuff, take a nap, and then read the morning pages. Often, I have no memory of having written them and that allows me to look at them somewhat objectively, ruthlessly, the way a writer must.
2. Do you edit as you go, or wait till you're finished before you edit? How many times would you say you go over it yourself before having another set of eyes look it over?
I’ll probably try to get 50 good pages before I send them to my editor (Joy Peskin, amazing, goddess, amazing). This will take three or four or five drafts. With One Man Guy, they were the first fifty pages. With Hold My Hand, I tried something different based on this article by Joss Whedon – he said something about not bothering to write in chronological order – that instead, you should write the scenes you see most vividly first. So I did that, writing what we determined was “the heart” of the book. I didn’t even know where it would end up, but now it’s the end of Act I and I’m not going to say anything but I think it’s my favorite scene I’ve ever written.
I probably work in 50 page chunks – writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, re-re-re-writing, before sending them to my editor for feedback, direction and spiritual sustenance.
After every 50 pages or so, I’ll also re-index card – take all the old ones down, see what I’m actually writing and how the pages have taken shape, and write the index cards in dialogue with the pages themselves. At this point, I usually start color coding the cards, which also helps because if I’m like “Why does this section suck” or “I don’t know what should happen next,” seeing visually that the B plot has been ignored for three chapters or something helps.
3. Are you part of a writers group that gets together and helps each other with their writing?
I only recently learned that this is a thing, and it sounds great. But having never taken a class in writing, never thinking I’d be a writer, and not knowing how things were done, I hadn’t ever really thought about joining one. But it sounds awesome.
4. What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Look at the world, look at what is happening in the world, look at what is happening in the world that no one is writing about, and write about that.
5. What are your favorite:
The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin is just about as good as writing can get. It is my everything.
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – OMG these two books were amazing
On a trip to Ecaudor I got A Little Life on my Kindle because it sounded like a fun little book and although it was a book, it was certainly not fun or little – totally, truly devastating.
And I just finished the Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin. The writing is so good, so clear, so simple, so moving. What a master.
Last night, Avengers: Endgame P2 premiered and now that I’ve seen it I feel like a major chapter of my life is over.
I’ve been junking out on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion. Which, apparently, it’s not. Favorites there are:
The Magicians (thinking about getting some hedge witch tattoos on my forearm),
The OA (WTF with Season 2 finale!)
all the cooking shows (especially Salt Acid Fat Heat, or whatever the correct order is)
The Good Place (Will Jackson Harper forever)
Agents of SHIELD
Dear White People (Justin Simien, will you be my friend)
Stranger Things (natch)
And Dead To Me, which is BRILLIANT and weird and whacky and dark and funny and wonderful.
Kyle Callicott and Andrew Goldberg are my music gurus – I direct all music questions to them
Sliced apple with sunflower seed butter. It’s healthy AND caloric!