You Never Know
by Francesca Lia Block
Issue #7 • March 10, 2013•Buy Now!
Edited by Pei-Ling Lue
You do not know that when the boy says, “You’d be cute if they cut off your head,” that he means something else.
How would you know? You are thirteen with acne and braces and you made the mistake of cutting your hair in a bad bob just before seventh grade started. Your hair used to be long and shiny—warm brown waves—and you wish your mother had not let you cut it on a whim because you saw a model on a magazine cover with that hairstyle (but she didn’t have acne and braces).
You, You, You. Sitting on your bed with the telephone suction-pressed to your ear so that it will leave a mark. You are wearing a Cat Stevens T-shirt and rainbow-striped cotton underpants and a gold necklace with an art nouveau fairy that nestles between your collarbones. There is a cut on your shin where you nicked it shaving. You didn’t realize how much blood there was in that part of your body. It’s nighttime and your parents are in their room with the door closed.
Francesca Lia Block
Francesca Lia Block, recipient of the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award for Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books, has been publishing novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and poetry since 1989. Her work has been translated into many languages. The Elementals (St. Martins Press) and Pink Smog (Harper) are her most recent titles. Ms. Block lives in Los Angeles where she teaches writing workshops that are also available online. Visit her at www.francescaliablock.com.
Q&A by Pei-Ling Lue
PL: Where did the idea for this story come from?
FLB: Some things that happened to me as a teenager and as an adult that I embellished for the sake of the story.
PL: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
FLB: Exposing the fact that someone actually said this to me (“You’d be cute if they cut off your head.”) when I was a kid.
PL: How long did it take you to complete this story?
FLB: I wrote it in one big rush and then edited it fairly quickly as well. It had been percolating in my head for awhile, though.
PL: You told me that this story is very personal to you. Can you tell us what issues you wanted to address in this story?
FLB: The idea that when we are young our self image can be determined by what someone says to us, even if it’s not true, even if they don’t really believe it, and that is hard, but possible, to overcome this sense of ourselves.
PL: The car accident in the story took me completely by surprise. Did you plan from the beginning to include this or was it something that happened in the writing of this story?
FLB: It wasn’t in the real life story from which this was taken, although I was ALMOST in a car accident of that nature at 16. I added it for impact. No pun intended.
PL: I think that we all would like to think that people who had hurt us in the past will some day ask for our forgiveness. Did something like this ever happen to you?
FLB: Yes. It changed my life in a small but important way. Making amends is vital.
PL: Do you think that your main character was disappointed when she did not receive a response from Jamie Skarsgard at the end of the story?
FLB: No. She will always love him and she hopes he knows it, but she doesn’t need him to tell her how he feels. She just wants him and his family to be happy.
PL: When we were editing the story, I wanted you to stay in the teenage narrative, which would have ended the story at page 11. Why was is important to you to flash forward in time for the reader to see what happens to all the characters?
FLB: I like to write across borders (the boundaries between young and old, gay and straight, male and female, etc.) so even though this is for One Teen Story, I like to think that adults will read it too. My audience is pretty diverse. Also, I wanted to let the young reader know that things can get better, even if it takes awhile.
PL: What are you working on now?
FLB: Just finished a first draft of The Island of Excess Love, a sequel to Love in the Time of Global Warming, both for Christy Ottaviano at Holt. The first one will be out in August! Also working on Body Farm, an adult novel for SMP that I am very excited to write.
PL: What is the best bit of advice about writing you have ever received?
FLB: Don’t obsess on negative reviews, or positive ones, write for yourself and your beloveds, connect the project you are working on to something going in your life at the time. Some of this advice was given to me; some I figured out for myself.