Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Research that Went Into Writing Cursebusters by Julie Smith + Giveaway

The Research that Went Into Writing Cursebusters by Julie Smith

When I started writing CURSEBUSTERS! I had three elements in mind—a girl who gets sent to Bad Girl School, Mayan cities, and a kick-ass adventure.

Bad Girl School was my name for the schools “for troubled teens” so many kids I knew had ended up in. When someone very close to me landed in one, I got couldn’t help wondering how you’d function with the kind of rules they have in those things. People watch you 24/7; you can’t even speak unless spoken to. Make-up’s forbidden, but that’s nothing. So are mirrors! And don’t even mention email or phones.

It seemed to me that if you were in a place where they watched you 24/7, it was going to be pretty hard to have a kick-ass adventure. So I decided Reeno, my teen-age heroine, would have to time-travel. I’d been to Mexico a lot and always been blown away by Mayan cities and culture. What better place to go, I thought, than an ancient Mayan city?

The first thing I had to research was what kind of adventure one might have there and soon found something huge staring me in the face. The 2012 Phenomenon! That, in case you’ve somehow missed it, is the idea that the world will end in 2012 because the Mayan calendar does. Well, Reeno would just have to stop that from happening.

Okay, good. Kickass adventure lined up. Now to research Mayans. I went out and bought a bunch of books. These people were fascinating! I just couldn’t get enough. I even made a special trip to Mexico City to see the model Mayan city the Anthropology Museum. Here are five fun Mayan facts I learned:

  1. Since crossed eyes were considered beautiful, kids often had to wear a beadbetween in the middle of their foreheads to train their little orbs. Sort of like braces—really irritating at the time, but what a result!
  2. Flat heads were also fashionable, so babies’ heads were tied between boards to squeeze them to perfection.
  3. Ball games were sometimes played using a human head as the ball.
  4. A favorite taste treat was chocolate, especially when fermented into a deliciously intoxicating drink.
  5. Jade was a treasured material for jewelry. (Some things are cross-cultural.)
Believe or not, every single one of those facts plays some part in my story except for the one about the baby boards. For instance, if you were going to time-travel back to a Mayan city, what would you take as gifts? Why carved jade, of course. Oh, boy, and chocolate! Can you imagine how many forms of it have been invented since the Ninth Century? Oreos, peanut butter cups, brownies, Heath bars, cream-filled cupcakes…every kind of treat in the world. You’d have the whole city at your feet. And Reeno does!
People literally follow her around.

But you know what I couldn’t find? Everyday stuff, like whether the Mayans had furniture or not. Did they use torches or oil lamps? What did they eat for snacks? Where did they keep those gorgeous costumes they wore? Did they have closets? Who knows? I made those parts up.

Next I had to research magic, because Reeno’s got to do a little of that to pull off the save-the-world feat. So I learned to levitate and build protection shields. All right, kidding about the levitation. But I did learn how to build protection shields, and anyone can do it. Needless to say, the process is too long to describe here. But I think you’ll find CURSEBUSTERS! very instructive on the subject. As for levitation, I did learn to simulate it. Have you seen our trailer yet? What goes up stays up! Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/mm9P06

Thanks Julie for joining us today - great post- I love learning what writers go through to write their books.

Along with the Teen Book Scene tour, I have one copy of Cursebusters! to give away.  Open to US only.  Ends 6/21/11.  Simply fill out the form below.  For an extra entry, leave a comment about the guest post.

If you can't see the form below, you can find it here.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the great guest post. I have to admit that I'd have a problem with being trained to cross my eyes. I still get yelled at when I do it now!

onebookshy at yahoo dot com

In Julie's Opinion said...

What a great guest post and an even better giveaway! I confess that I have always read Julie Smith's books because not only was that my maiden name, but I also married a man named Scott Smith, so it was my first married name as well! Silly reason to read a book, but since I really liked the first one I read, it's as good a reason as any to follow an author! lol
jwitt33 at live dot com

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