by Dave Amaditz
and Marcy Collier
Welcome to October's version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Stephanie Kuehn, and her novel, Charm & Strange. We encourage you to read the excerpts and pick up a copy of the book. You won’t be disappointed!
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – Winston (Win) (Drew), the main character, knows something is wrong with him. He searches for answers to what is wrong through books, in dreams and memories. This scene is one such memory.
I shifted and whimpered, so confused. I tried remembering everything I could about the wolves, to hold on to them. The image of the beasts and the memory of their touch, with all their power and brute strength, flooded over me. I still felt it. That power. Inside of me. Like a great wolfish flame that sparked and burned, molten hot, at the very core of my being. It's who I was. My nature. I knew it to be true.
I remembered their roughness, too, the nipping and the fear, but Anna's words about my grandmother came back to me.
Love doesn't always look nice.
So I sighed deeply.
And suddenly, I understood everything. Everything.
I knew what the moon had tried to tell me in the woods.
I was not broken.
I was savage.
Marcy – The main character Winston always seems to comply and go along with his family as to not make waves. But not this time. This time he takes an important stand. The entire family is going to Crater Lake – a place where there family has gone for generations. Win’s response signifies his growth and ability to change rather than to conform.
Something snapped within me, some internal racket string that’d been wound far too tight, for far too long.
“I’m not going.”
I said it louder. “I’m not going!”
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave – I had three cliffhangers to choose from as my favorite. One, the same as Marcy had below, had my heart drop. Since Marcy picked that one, I chose one of the other two. Jordan and Lex are arguing about Winston (Win).
I do my best to tune them out. They're arguing is irrelevant. It is white noise. I do not want or need them. My wolf is in me, so close, and what I need to do now is chase my own destiny. This much is clear.
I break into a run.
I am driven.
I no longer believe it is up to the moon to tell me what to do.
Marcy – Winston looks up to his brother, Keith. Keith is one of the few people he trusts. I won’t spoil this dramatic scene for you, but Winston never would have believed that his brother would have betrayed him this way in this compelling chapter ending.
Drugs hit me hard. Always. I started to drool and shake. Keith wrapped me in his arms again, very tight, and whispered, “I had to. I’m sorry. I told them it wouldn’t be as bad if I did it. Please forgive me.”
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – My favorite secondary character is Lex. In the beginning he is set up to be such an awful guy, and I expected to hate him. What I found out is that he is a guy like Winston, with problems, too. More importantly to me is the fact he actually cares about Winston. Though I won't tell you what he does in the end, I also like the fact he does it with somewhat a sense of humor, which I hope the following lines will let you see to some degree. In fact, these lines were delivered during some of the most intense scenes in the novel. (Winston, the main character, has been running around naked).
"You've got one bony ass, you know."
"Well, what the hell do you think? That he's just up there naked on that rock for shits and giggles?"
"Do us a favor," Lex calls. He throws something at me. "Put these on, okay? Sunrise means it's time to cover your junk."
Marcy – Winston meets Jordan at his new school. He’s never met anyone like her. She beats to her own drum and doesn’t care what others think about her. As their friendship develops, Winston becomes more protective over her. The following line shows how Jordan is reacting to Winston’s commendable actions.
Jordan folds her arms and leans away from me. “You don’t get to judge me. My choices are mine, okay? I just wanted to say thank you. For what you did. You looked out for me. No one’s ever done that before.”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – To me, this scene is so visual, while at the same time capturing the main character’s personality. I felt I was there with him.
My bare feet read the forest floor like Braille. I'm heading up the mountain, to the highest elevation possible. The sharp rocks gouging the soles of my feet and the sound of dripping water echoing across the barren talus slopes tell me I'm getting close. I wind higher as the footpath narrows, and as I come around the northern side of the summit trail, rising above the tree line, there's moonlight bouncing off the nearby rock wall, illuminating great sheets of mineral deposits. Sparks of quartz and mica advance in the amber glow, but it's a strain to see real shapes or the trails sudden drop-off. I grit my teeth and slow down. I can move only so quickly given the darkness and the fact that I'm completely naked.
Marcy – Love these thoughts from Winston! It shows so much about his character in the beginning of the story and foreshadows events to come.
From what I can tell, morality is a word. Nothing more. There’re the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t. I’d like to believe Anthony Burgess knew that, but then that dumb last chapter of his book went and ruined the whole thing. That made me mad, and so I think the movie version got it right: people don’t change. Their nature, that is. There are other kinds of change, of course. Like physical change.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave – Wow! I had initially put the same line of dialogue as Marcy had picked for my favorite line of dialogue. So now that you know I like that line, too, for pretty much the same reasons as Marcy, I decided to pick two other lines, these both from Winston, lines that I nearly picked for favorite character growth. Winston (Win) is explaining to Jordan how his doctor explains some of his behaviors away.
"He calls it a system of meaning," I explain.
"You're saying something bad happened to you when you were a little kid?"
I'm saying that my system of meaning about life, about death, everything, is sort of messed up. But..."
Marcy – Again, Keith the older brother says this line to Winston. Instead of looking at his siblings as a burden, he takes on the role of caretaker for them. He is accepting of his role without hesitation or regret.
“A long time ago, when you were just a little kid, I promised myself I would always take care of you. Siobhan, too. It’s like, I was put here to protect you two, because Mom won’t. Or can’t. Or isn’t strong enough or whatever.”
To read more about Stephanie Kuehn’s debut novel Charm & Strange, please go to: