Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend
Let me tell you about Schoolhouse Five, since it’s going away. The world will never know the pain I endured to write that book. Thankfully, it’s so dark that no one would dream of publishing it, even though I shopped it to agents back in 2006.
I was obsessed with World War II in junior high, to the point that my friend Kari and I would sit for hours and talk about concentration camps and whether we were Aryan enough to pass. First they came for the Jews, but they weren’t the only ones sent to the camps and gas chambers.
I’m not Jewish, but I guess I look Jewish (?) Seriously. People have asked me. It’s the curly brown hair and the Elphaba nose. Last I checked, Judiasm was a religion, not a look, but whatever. People’s assumptions about me have ranged from blind (“N–“) to silly (“You hang out with a lesbian so you must be one”) to just plain ignorant. “Are you Jewish? I mean, you look Jewish,” is on the ignorant list. The time I answered by holding up the crucifix necklace I used to wear every day, and the lady still didn’t get it…priceless.
I look Jewish, and Kari had me convinced that I would be one of the first picked for the gas chamber, if the Neo-Nazis take over the world. So I wrote a book about the threat of Neo-Nazis taking over the world, starting with a high school in Minnesota.
By the time I finished, the book was 210,000 words. By comparison, the average for young adult contemporary horror (i.e. Goosebumps) is 60-80k, with the average adult horror at 80-100k. After cutting over 100k, I considered the book “Edgy YA,” but reading it now, it’s horror. And horrible.
Most of the plot is absolutely ridiculous, from breaking into the Mall of America on New Year’s Eve, to killing a high school student and making it look gang-related, to a Neo-Nazi group hiding out in plain sight as “Young Republicans,” to a school shooting at a school assembly. While I appreciate suspending disbelief and the fact that I wrote Dolf to be as manipulative and charismatic as his namesake, the bullshit meter only measures so deep before it’s buried.
While the rest of the plot is just plain ridiculous, nothing compares to the pain Louis endures. I put that boy through torture far worse than anything I’ve read. Dolf beats the shit out of him, and Louis says he fell down the stairs. He lies about it to the point that his father sues his friend’s parents for negligence, and still, Louis lies to defend Dolf. If you felt targeted by my rant against domestic violence in M/M (here), know that I have committed far worse acts.
Then, I KILLED LOUIS. Well, Genna did, but still. I wrote a fucking hate crime. Genna discovers the true reason Dolf isn’t interested in her, and shoots Louis at a school assembly. And then she fails to kill herself properly at the end, leaving it open for a sequel. I should have taken advice from George R.R. Martin:
Schoolhouse Five is dark, filled with sharp edges and blunt-force trauma. I deleted much of the ridiculous by deleting the scenes from Sammy’s and Genna’s points of view, but there’s a lot of shit from Dolf’s point of view that has to go. Today, I’m working on an outline and considering whether or not I should scrap the entirety of Schoolhouse Five and start from scratch, from Louis’s point of view.
Schoolhouse Five deserves to be deleted and erased. It’s crap. But Dolf and Louis deserve to be happy. For their happiness, I will endure the hell of past writing wrongs.