Guest Post: Dahlia Adler on What She Learned For "Just Visiting"
I'm a big fan of Dahlia Adler, both as a person and as an author. When she offered me a chance to run a post about her newest release, Just Visiting, I was very excited to jump on it. So Dahlia is "on the blog" today sharing some of the most interesting things she learned while writing Just Visiting.
In case you haven't yet heard of Just Visiting, here's a bit about the book.
Published November 17, 2015.
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary.
Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.
Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.
As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.
And now, take it away, Dahlia!
One of my favorite things about writing is how much you learn along the way. With all the worldbuilding that goes into fantasy and sci-fi, people often forget how much research goes into contemporary, but when you’re representing people in the real world, it’s even more imperative you get the details right. Just Visiting required more research than any other book I’ve ever written, for two reasons: 1) it’s the most grounded in the real world, because it’s all wrapped up in the college admissions process, and 2) every single thing in this book was out of my lane, and I mean everything.
As a result, I learned a lot while writing this book, thanks to the power of the Internet, and also amazing and brilliant friends willing to share their knowledge. Some of the stuff was cool, some was funny, some was eye-opening, and all of it makes me feel richer for knowing it!
In case you’re as in the dark about some of these things as I was, here are five things I learned while writing Just Visiting that you can now know too:
1. ASL isn’t only spoken differently from English; it’s written differently as well. I knew English and ASL were different languages, but I really didn’t know the extent. Obviously they’re spoken differently, with English being verbal and ASL being manual, but I didn’t realize they actually possess completely different grammatical structures, and ASL really isn’t a direct translation. For a period of revisions, I tried to gloss ASL for all its dialogue, but as I ended up relating in an author’s note, it really just didn’t work for the book, and I wouldn’t have done it nearly well enough. (I also learned the word “gloss,” which is the word for transliterating ASL.)
2. Countries can “graduate” out of the Peace Corps. Palau did in 2013. In Just Visiting, Vic’s brother Javi is in the Peace Corps in Fiji, but he wasn’t always; when I wrote the book in 2012-13, Javi was in Palau. I read up on the country, learned how to say hello in Palauan (“Alii!”), and learned a whole bunch of details about the Peace Corps, but there’s one key thing I didn’t learn until I went to double-check my info during revisions: if a country is deemed not to require Peace Corps assistance any longer, they graduate out, and that happened with Palau in April 2013; the final volunteers left the country in August 2014.
3. The legal drinking age is 21 in only twelve countries, two of them being the US and Palau. In a conversation between Vic and Javi, he makes a joke about being happy he’s 21 because it’s the legal drinking age in Palau. Unfortunately, this is the one error I know is in the finished version of Just Visiting—when I moved him from Palau to Fiji, I neglected to update this line, and Fiji is one of the over a hundred countries with a legal drinking age of 18-19.
4. You can get financial assistance for more of the college application process than just scholarships for tuition. God bless knowledgeable literary agents, because if Lana Popovic hadn’t mentioned waivers for applications in her editorial letter for this book, I wouldn’t have gone down the rabbit hole of learning how many fee waivers exist for students in need. Reagan’s family’s income made her eligible for AP Exam fee reductions and an ACT fee waiver, as well as up to four college application fee waivers.
5. Marvel and DC do not mix. Hands-down, the hardest part of this book was dealing with Dev’s nerdery; apparently I made some unspeakable faux pas (plural) in mixing and matching his fandoms. I made so many errors in this, round after round, even with ten different people yelling at me each time. Hopefully by the finished version of the book, I’ve got this all straight so it’s established Dev is all Marvel, all the time, but God, who even knows. All I can do is hold my breath and pray.
Thank you, Dahlia! I also had no idea that ASL was written differently - I'm definitely interested in learning more about that now. And while I knew that you poor Americans were in the minority having to wait 'til 21 to drink legally, I didn't know that it was only 12 countries making up that minority - quite the exclusive club. Too bad it's a liquorless one. And I've totally been on the receiving end of a Marvel vs. DC lecture before, so you're not alone in that one, Dahlia. Thanks again for sharing!
About the Author:
Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens by night, and writes Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She’s the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and Last Will and Testament, as well as over five billion tweets as @MissDahlELama. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.
(Photo credit: Maggie Hall)
Just Visiting: B & N | Amazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound