Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Joshilyn Jackson: Evil Plot

Today is the VERY day that The Girl Who Stopped Swimming launches in paperback! Lookit, there's the snazzy new cover snoogled up to this paragraph. (Yes, Virginia, Snoogled is a word. It means to snuggle in a slightly invasive manner. Cats do not like it. Dogs and paragraphs do.) It’s always a very cool thing to see a story that came up in your head and haunted you for years in a bookstore, or better yet, in the hands of a reader at the airport or beach. It is strange and wonderful to see it existing outside my head, off on its own, an actual physical object, and so in honor of this day, this paperback release, I perpetrated an evil plot to get my husband to smell the cat’s armpit.

I LIKE plot, you see, and plots, too.
Plot (the writing kind) went out of fashion for awhile, remember? When I was in grad school, plot was considered vulgar and a little cheap---for the hoi polloi, for People Not Like Us. For the masses.

Well. I guess you can color me the masses. Yes, of course I want the language to be interesting and the dialogue to ring true. Yes, I want multi-layered characters with flaws and strengths. I have no objections to imagery as long as it isn’t purpled out and focused on the landscape ---I lose patience quickly with OH THE DARKLING ROSE, HOW WITH OVERBLOWN VENOM SHE SPROUNCES THE SEX SHOOTS OF HER THORN LADEN AND MAY-BEGREENED FECUNDITY! But yes, you can tell me what the bush looks like, by all means.

Even so, all these things should be imbedded in a plot. Things should happen. People should kiss and shoot each other, hopefully within the same chapter. People should lie, and betray each other, and hope and try and fail and hide things and run around and yell and have vibrant make-up sex. When plot was out of fashion, as a reader I retreated into The Land of Penguin Classics until people started SNEAKING plot into good books again. As I writer, I never gave it up. Not even for Lent.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming’s plot begins with a ghostly visitation from the spirit of a drowned girl who is floating in the backyard pool. My homage to plot began last week, when I decided to pick up Boggart, my smaller, yellower cat, and snoogle him. As I lifted him up and buried my nose in his warm fur, I discovered his armpit had become strangely pungent. In fact, it smelled like…armpit. Not even a cat armpit. Like a REAL armpit. The armpit of a hearty seaman with little access to fresh water, perhaps, or even a LUMBERJACK. It was very mysterious. Also gross. I called my husband over.

Me: Honey, I need you to smell the cat’s armpit.
Him: …um. No.
Me: But it smells weird. I need you to smell it. It’s kind of awful.
Him: All the more reason.
Me: *in reasonable tones* But I can’t figure out what it is that is smelling him up. Won’t you have a teeny whiff?
Him: No, thank you.

Then I chased my husband around the house with the cat, but Scott is bigger than me and stronger than me and faster than me, and eventually the cat lost patience with the joggling and squirmed until I let him down. He had also lost his (admittedly scant to begin with) desire to be smelled. I PRETENDED to give up. And launched a plot.

Here are some factors I had working in my favor. PLOT POINTS, if you will.

---My son is in Washington DC with his grandparents, touring the White House, seeing Obama at Arlington, visiting the spy museum, etc etc, so POOR Maisy, my youngest, with endless rain keeping the neighborhood kids indoors, has been bored out of her little wig.

---In order to keep herself entertained, 7 year old Maisy has spent all day, every day writing, choreographing, and practicing different SHOWS to perform when her dad gets home from work. We have had a wild west pony show, a Christian Music Concert, a Country Music Concert complete with CLOGGING and a big Big BIG JAZZ HANDS finish (which we caught on tape---OH DEAR LORD – SUCH AWESOME rehearsal dinner footage, delivered into our hands!)

Today, all on her own, she came up with the idea of a pet show. She made watercolor illustrations of each pet, and said she would deal them out like cards and whoever got that pet’s card would have to tell a STORY about them and do an interactive trick. For example, Maisy got Pookie the Beta fish, and she told s the story of picking him out, and taught us how to measure his food for her interactive trick…see where this is going?

I may have stacked the deck. Literally. IMAGINE my surprise when I got the BOGGART illustration. I just HAPPENED to then tell the story of the MYSTERIOUS ARMPIT SMELL, and after, as my interactive trick, I invited the WHOOOOOLE audience to come have a smell for themselves. Maisy was an enthusiastic participant, and she unequivocably declared the armpit to be “Yuckish.”

Under the gaze of his POOR daughter, left behind while her brother has a riotous pleasurefrest of grandparental spoilage in DC, her only solace the nightly shows she so meticulously plans and executes…what could he do?

“Well played, Moriarty,” said my husband to me, sotto voce, and bent his defeated head to sniff.

He didn’t know what the smell was either. *shrug*

Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Powder Springs, Georgia with her husband, their two kids, a hound dog, a scurrilous Boggart-thing, two legally separated Beta fish, and a twenty-two pound, one-eyed Main Coon cat named Franz Schubert. She wishes their neighborhood was zoned for goats. Both her SIBA award winning first novel, gods in Alabama, and her Georgia Author of the Year Award winning second novel, Between, Georgia, were chosen as the #1 BookSense picks for the month of their release, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to have Number 1 picks in consecutive years.

Her third book, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, was a national bestseller that Entertainment Weekly called “a wild, smartly calibrated achievement." It releases in paperback today. It features a plot that does NOT involve feline armpits, and makes a great end of year teacher gift, and plus your MOM told me she wants a copy, so you should definitely run right out and get one. Oh heck, get two, they are small.


Mir said...

I think Schubert has been sitting on Boggart.

Think about that for a minute. You're welcome!

Sandra Leigh said...

LOL - This was worth getting up at 5 a.m. for. Poor Schubert.

aka_Nik said...

Great plot!

aimee said...

VERY well played, indeed.

By the way, the only people who could think that cats don't like a good snoogle have never met my cat Audrey. She will snoogle right up your nose if you'll let her.

chickpastor said...

That's so weird. We say "snergle" instead of "snoogle" but it means the exact same thing. I thought I made it up, but now it seems I have plagarized it. Oops!

Bloggeusette said...

Isn't Boggart your stealth snuggler? Perhaps he snuck in for an armpit snuggle with a sleeping lumberjack...and now everyone needs a bath! Pew.

Roxanne said...

I am just so glad to hear that Boggart let you within a two mile radius of him AND you actually got to snoogle/snuggle/sneegle him all at the same time.

By the way, I have noticed the very same thing with my son's arm pit. He is only 7, so I don't REALLY think that his arm pit should smell like that of an 8th grade boy. But, alas, it does. It's most certainly a "manly" smell and not just that of "sweaty little boy." Do boys stink SOONER than girls? That much?

zobabe said...

I now have the uncontrollable urge to sniff the armpits of every cat that owns me. All 6 of them. THAAAANKS.

JMixx said...

The Evil Cat-Beast, AKA Itty Fitty, my cat, is now thoroughly convinced that I am out of my mind. In HER mind, it was out of nowhere that I picked her up, flipped her, and smelled her armpits. She keeps looking at me like, "She gives good food and cuddly bed, but sometimes I wonder if this human is really worth it..."