You Again Again, Part 3: The Scathingly Brilliant Idea

Note: I didn’t put the SBI in here because it would be a spoiler. I can put it in another post that says SPOILER DON’T READ THIS at the top, but you’ll all read it anyway. Which is fine as long as you don’t yell at me later.

I always liked You Again. I didn’t like most of what I had written, but I loved the book. The heroine kicked butt, her best friend was a lot of fun to write, the musician was cranky with snark, the godmother had flair, the annoying family (the Awful Inglethorpes) churned the waters, the setting was based on a Clue board, and the hero was a Good Guy, if a little bland. There was Stuff. But it wasn’t enough, you can’t write a book with just Stuff, even if it’s really good Stuff, you have to have Juice. There was no Juice. All the elements were there, but the story wouldn’t go. So I went back to it again and again, trying to find the Juice. Nada.

Ten years later, while I’m trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing with my career, my life, my body, my mind, I become fascinated by two child characters. One is Delphie from Wild Ride who is still in utero in that book but who has fabulous potential: her mother is descended from two human whack jobs plus the fallen Etruscan goddess of the underworld (now a demon) and the Etruscan Devil, and her father was a mechanic possessed by the fallen Etruscan god of happiness (now a demon). Plus she’s growing up in a haunted amusement park with a mother who’s now a seer and a godmother who’s a sorceress–little dragons everywhere–and a stepfather who’s a completely normal expert on demons and their care and feeding. This kid I want to watch grow up. Maybe in a series of short stories. I don’t know, I’m cogitating.

The other kid has had a tragic early childhood, losing her mother at birth, her father at six, and her aunt at eight, all while living with her older brother in a haunted house (the aunt sticks around after death) being taken care of by harridan of a housekeeper and two ancient murderous spirits. That’s Alice. But when Alice is eight, her soon-to-be stepmother arrives on the scene and kicks supernatural ass and takes the little girl and her brother back to normality or as close to normality as this kid is ever going to get. This, I figure, is actually not very normal; Andie and North can make Alice secure and safe, but they can’t get rid of the ghosts who seek her out with their last wishes. So I tried a short story with Alice in elementary school (“Spooky Alice”), and I started a novella with Alice in junior high (“Ghost of Chance”), all because I wanted to spend more time with Alice.

What does this have to do with You Again? Well, all of this is swimming around in the back of my brain along with Claire and Rosie and Liz and Vince and Zo and Ecks and Petulia and Wyland and Gleep and Owl (turns out if you don’t write for three years, the ideas build up) and there tends to be some leakage between stories. Which is how I ended up wondering what would happen if Alice showed up at Rosemore.

Maybe This Time was a house book in the sense that the setting determined the boundaries: Alice couldn’t leave the house because the ghosts would kill if she left. Getting Alice out of the house was Andie’s biggest goal because it meant saving Alice. You Again is a house book in the same sense: the house isn’t the goal, but getting everybody out of the house before they’re all dead becomes the hero’s goal (subplot). Then in the adult Alice book I’ve been thinking about for three years (Haunting Alice and its companion book Stealing Nadine), Alice goes back to Archer House as an adult to a final confrontation with her now entirely batshit Aunt May. So I had Alice at eight (Maybe This Time), Alice at nine (“Spooky Alice”), Alice at fifteen (“Ghost of a Chance”) and Alice at thirty (Haunting Alice). There was a big leap in there, so while I was idly thinking of where Alice would be between fifteen and thirty, and thinking in terms of “Alice” and “trapped in big houses,” I remembered You Again, which had been intended to be my homage to Agatha Christie. What if there were three Alice Big House books? She’d only be the protagonist in the first one and the last one, but in between eight and thirty, maybe she could show up as a major supporting character, a teenager, wise beyond her years, stuck in a big house in southern Ohio again.

Of course, that meant there would be ghosts in You Again, which would mean that those two damn huge back story house parties could become part of the now because the people who had been killed at each of them could still be roaming the house. And my practical, just-the-facts driven heroine would be confronted with the antithesis of her world view. And her dreamy, life-is-a-movie-and-I’m-the-star best friend would think she’d lost her mind and have to change to take care of her. And the hero who’s the practical sort–he’s a lawyer–would have to accept that she can see ghosts.

Except why would Zelda start seeing ghosts?

Which is when the Scathingly Brilliant Idea occurred. I’d put it here, but it would be a spoiler and I’m not sure how we all feel about spoilers here. But trust me, it is SCATHINGLY brilliant. Even now, three months after I first had this SBI, I am stunned by its simplicity and its beauty. Sometimes I just get it right.

So then all I had to do was get Alice there, and part of the plot is that Rose is trying to get everybody to help her turn Rosemore into a B&B and then run it for her (she’s broke, but working herself would be tacky) and that her marketing strategy is that Rosemore is haunted, so she invited a medium to the Christmas party as entertainment, and since the medium is in her seventies, she brings her assistant (that would Isolde bringing Alice) and then there’s a snowstorm and they’re all snowed in . . .

See? Juice. All you need is a Scathingly Brilliant Idea and you’ve got juice. I think. I still have to sort out the plot, but I’m thinking that with three deaths, one at each turning point, and a big fight-to-the-death-in-a-raging-Ohio-River at the end, I may have a book here. Maybe. Probably. Kind of.

Back to work.

55 thoughts on “You Again Again, Part 3: The Scathingly Brilliant Idea

  1. It must be Grand Central station inside your head, how do you keep sane? But is sounds wonderful, and complex, and the best Agatha Christie homage.

    Also, you never did comment on what’s happening with “Lavender’s Blue”…am I just being too nosy?

    Congrats on getting yo mojo back! Here is a video to celebrate!


    And the Delphie one.


    Glad you found your juice after all this time!

    1. Yay! I want more Alice and Delphie stories! And I’m good with the Nadine ones too.

      I tried to find The Crazy Stories and couldn’t. I’m going to start looking again. Maybe tell my husband to have the kids buy it for me for Christmas…

  3. Glad Alice is still hanging around! I always really liked the sound of this book, and the sound of the Alice/Nadine books (would love to see those two on the page together!) and even the snippet you gave of Alice in junior high with the writing exercises sounded good. Plus I do always like it when characters from one book wander into another book the author wrote.

    Overall – yay for juice!

  4. I was already extremely happy you were working on this one again, but now I’m a little bit over the moon because Isolde was just amazing and I am SO GLAD she’s going to be in another book!

  5. So exciting! I have a guess at the brilliant idea, I can’t wait to read and find out if I’m right or not. I love all the recent posts. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I suck at figuring out other people’s brilliant ideas. I’m normally not a spoiler fan but I’m good with them here. Because even reading Jenny’s blog means I get to read more of Jenny’s writing. And that’s an excellent thing in and of itself.

      1. Yup. And, even the spoilers can’t take out the rest of the story. I read for ALL of the story, the characters, the plot, the community, the snark… 😉

  6. You sound fantastic, my dear! Full of energy, bubbling with juice. This is going to be a fabulous book, I can tell already. I don’t mind spoilers: I have anxiety disorder and sometimes I get so anxious about what’s going on in a book that I have to jump ahead or even read the end before I can go back and read in order. That’s part of why I love reading books I’ve read before that I loved, which includes pretty much all of your books.

    Yay for the Scathingly Brilliant Idea!

  7. Wow. Oh wow oh wow oh wow. You mean there’s a MORE scathingly brilliant idea than having a major character from one book cross over into another book as a major supporting character?????

    Oh wow oh wow oh wow. Now you’ve gone and done it. CAN’T WAIT!

  8. As we say at our house – Awesome Possum!!!

    I love hearing how You Again is going. I was driving across the state Tuesday and needed something to listen to. I had some RWA workshops I’d hadn’t heard before and listened to the Chat you did in 2004 [I think]. There was discussion about You Again and I smiled;)

  9. then there’s a snowstorm and they’re all snowed in . . . strikes me as very Agatha.

    Skye, at some point in my darling mother’s life, she quit even taking a book out of the library without reading the end to be sure it turned out satisfactorily. I think this means I am genetically impervious to the concept of spoilers. A good book is always better the second time.

  10. I’m thinking maybe there IS something magical about houses in Ohio.

    First Lani declares she’s not looking for love & Alastair comes along. Then you declare you’re taking a break from writing & scathingly brilliant ideas come along.

    Love this idea & love having more Alice books to look forward to reading:)

  11. I love every Crusie kid ever written, but Alice and Carter have the edge. I remember thinking what amazing adults they’d turn out to be, so it will be wonderful to see Alice again. And Southie! In “Ghost Of A Chance”, we got a glimpse of him all grown up. Or almost. It was great. As for the spoiler, I’m a re-reader, and a re-listener. I’m fine with spoilers. Hope all is well in New Jersey and that the contractor puts a rush on for you.

    1. The tantalizing snippit of “Ghost Of A Chance” was from one of the McDaniel exercises posted on Argh last month. We got the beginning of the original version and then several re-writes in various author styles. The original was excellent! So it wasn’t a complete story, but enough to get a feel for an older Alice and a surprisingly sexy, maturing Southie. Amazing how all that got packed into a paragraph.

  12. I’m salivating to read this book. It should be fantastic.
    Where can I find those other stories about Alice? Are they published in anthologies? Magazines? Ezines?

  13. You realize I am now going to lie awake wondering what the SBI is, don’t you? Hours and hours, staring at the ceiling, WONDERING, PONDERING, GUESSING, fretful and then, Zombie-like, checking the site repeatedly to see if you posted it. (My family has given up on wrapping presents for me. I find them, unwrap them, rewrap them and then act surprised. It’s an illness. I know.)

  14. LOL! Tease!

    But looking forward to seeing the book . . . I’m so glad you decided to go in this direction with the ghosts and magic and all. You make real life an incredible adventure, and I’ve enjoyed seeing what you do with other-life.

  15. Guys–I hate to break it to you, but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t published the Alice stories anywhere. Just author’s fodder…which in this case, seems to have paid off beautifully.

    CRUSIE is BAAAACCCKKKK! (Um, yay… and also YAY!)

  16. I’m just tickled pink to read this, even without knowing the specifics of the SBI, even without being able to read the interim Alice stories (except for the fragment you posted here awhile ago), and even sympathizing with all the living and writing challenges you’re going through.

    I mean, it’s so cool to realize that a character who I wasn’t finished with is going to continue to live! And to work with that displaced New Jerseyan Isolde!

    Makes me wonder if writers don’t percolate more when they find the character that just kind of writes herself, compared to the slog that can ensue when you get all tangled up in beats and plotlines and all the other technical stuff.

    It also made me think about what made Alice so alive as a character. It’s kind of interesting that the function she played at the beginning of MTT was almost an antagonist for Andie — somebody who had every reason to oppose Andie’s initial solutions and who did so without fear or shame. It was so easy to like her and to resonate with her, the more we learned about her. That’s what I love about Id characters. They give me this template on how it would be to just resolutely be my own real self.

  17. It occurs to me that reading a fiction book might help you straighten out your stories. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. I loved that book. And your mixed up stories reminded me of it. If you can find the audio book with him reading the story – it is fabulous. Even if it doesn’t help with your stories – it’s a fun read.

  18. I may be in the minority, but I desperately want to know what the SBI is. Mostly because I’d like to know what and SBI looks like! They are remarkable absent in my WIP…

  19. Laurels and whatnot to you.

    I’m wondering if I can avoid reading the spoiler SBI thread once its posted? Could I pass by it, knowing it is there? Have I the strength of will to deny myself my hit of Crusie?

    Ohhhh, the aaagonyyyyy!!!!

    1. I don’t get how people can not reread good books. I’m willing to pass on about 98.5% of the few thousand romances I borrowed from the library during the 1980s and 1990s but the great ones I bought. And I’ve bought a lot of books over the years. When I moved out, my Mom missed my books almost as much as me.

  20. I agree with Kelly S.

    I have learned so much from watching you go through the writing process. I can never say thank you enough. So please, please, pretty please tell us what the SBI is!

  21. “Scathingly Brilliant” should be the title of you memoirs.

    I really don’t want the spoiler. I am thrilled, thrilled I tell you, that there is going to be more Alice, because as soon as I saw the title Haunting Alice, I started salivating. But I want to discover the SBI as a reader, not a bloggie. And I do not trust myself.

  22. So what of the chances of you putting any SBIs up for sale? I could really use one about now. There is absolutely nothing happening in the current Bree. Although I do think things might be happening in Glimmer Girls. Got my fingers crossed.

    I’d still be more than happy to buy a SBI or two…

    1. (-: I hear there’s a mail-order firm in Poughkeepsie that deals in slightly used ones (-:. I think you’ve got a couple up your sleeve, though.

  23. I can’t wait for the spoiler too. I am another one who reads and rereads favorite books so the only thing the spoiler will do to me is help me decide if I want to read the book in the first place. (And there hasn’t been one of your books that I haven’t wanted to read or reread!)

  24. Wonderful. And of course my mind went off in three directions trying to figure out what the SBI could be, yet knowing all the time I wouldn’t even be close. Love a mystery. And ghosts. And old houses.
    So glad you’re happy and writing again. Maybe all you needed was a change of location. : )

  25. Jenny. Off Topic. Two of my friends had similar problems with their contractors, i.e. both were living in rentals and the contractors were way behind schedule. Both basically said “I am moving in whether you are finished or not. I have to be out of the rental in 4 weeks. Have a bedroom and bathroom completely done. And another room that I am putting my stuff into.” In one case the contractor had the main floor and bedrooms done and finished the ground floor after she was back in. In the other case my friend only had her bedroom and bathroom completed and had to put up with construction mess. But if they know you really do have to be in and you are going to do it regardless of inconvenience to you, they really try to expedite matters because it is much easier working in an empty house without the owner breathing down your neck all day, every day.

    1. That would be great except this is New Jersey and it’ll illegal to move in until the house has a certificate of occupancy.
      Which leaves me no choice but to harass my contractor or replace him.

  26. I love how cogitating on things stirs the pot and creates a whole new concoction. I am not adverse to being told or shown what the SCATHINGLY brilliant idea is. What you have already given is wonderful…but if you want to share more I for one will not complain. 🙂

  27. Bouncing, bouncing, bouncing with joy to hear about the SBI. Thanks for warning about spoilers; I will skip that post. And never yell at you.

  28. Love following the progress of “You Again” while having morning coffee — better than reading the news via Google.

    And a big ME TOO — I have opened an old project with tons of work done, lots of false starts which made me throughly enjoy your post “Begin at the Begining.”

    AND — news — news — I got a handle on the characters! She’s a SURVIVOR [as in her action in the story is to survive the crash landing of a small plane into a crater lake in a Canadian wilderness]. He’s a ROMANTIC.

    The stakes, of course, will he find her, will she survive, before a grizzley bear ends it all?

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