In Plain Sight by Laura Langston follows 15-year-old Megan “Cause Queen” Caliente, president of the political science club, rallying for causes and standing up for the underdog. But after the protest she organized takes an unexpected turn, she is suddenly wishing she could disappear. Her whole life has been built on a lie. Cruel accusations and gossip, as well as persistent reporters, follow her everywhere. Facing humiliation from friends and struggling with guilt, Megan must confront two painful questions: how much of who we are is programmed into our DNA and how much of it is within our control?
In Plain Sight (Orca Books, 2017) is a timely read considering the current media climate, as well as school just around the corner. Author Laura Langston shares some insight into writing the book.
What image/scene/character did you start this book with?
The book started in my mind with the character – Megan – finding out her father wasn’t dead as she believed, but was alive and in prison for committing an act of terrorism. That was the mental scene that gripped me. That said, the book doesn’t open there, but opens earlier as I wanted to establish Megan’s character and give the reader time to get to know her before introducing the inciting story incident.
What kind of research did you do for your book?
I actually did a fair amount of research for In Plain Sight. I read stories (non fiction accounts) of people who were targeted and ostracised after the 9/11 attacks because they were Muslims. They were automatically assumed to be sympathetic to the terrorists and the hatred they encountered was pronounced.
I also read a nonfiction book called My Father was a Terrorist by Zak Ebrahim. It affected me quite profoundly. I watched a Canadian documentary called A Jihadi in the Family that featured Christianne Boudreau, and that impacted me as well.
Once I was in the middle of writing the book, I ended up contacting a couple of American lawyers who helped me figure out some of the legal implications of Megan’s story.
What is your favourite aspect / part of your new book?
In Plain Sight is a pretty heavy book and there aren’t a lot of ‘feel good’ moments in it. I think my favorite scene is when Megan is in the kitchen with her aunt, just after her mother is taken away, and her aunt is trying to explain that Megan’s life as she once knew it, is over. I’m pleased with the emotion in that scene.
I also like the interactions between Megan and Matt because Matt provides some levity and humor and he’s one of the few people who never turns his back on Megan.
What’s the hardest part of writing?
It all depends on my mood and what’s happening that day. Sometimes the hardest part of writing isn’t the actual writing – it’s waiting for that first review or an editor to get back to you. Waiting for any kind of feedback can be hard. But in terms of the actual writing itself, I probably find the first draft harder than the revision process. I love revising and polishing because that’s when the story really comes together.
What’s your favourite form of procrastination?
Who me? I don’t procrastinate. Not often. Not much. Okay, not for long. During the day when I sit down (or stand up at the treadmill desk) to write, I generally get on with it. I sometimes spent a few minutes surfing the news sites beforehand but once I’m in the groove, I stay there.
At night, though, I sometimes sit down and plan to do some brainstorming or plotting and I reach for a book instead. So reading is probably my preferred form of procrastination.
What book do you wish you wrote?
There are a number of books I wish I wrote because there are so many good books out there! But a classic that comes to mind is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It’s a powerful story about friendship, love, life and death. And in the end, what else really matters?
What is your writing ritual?
Hmm. I’m not sure I have one. Does that make me the only writer without one?? I have a few little routines or habits though. Every novel I write gets its own notebook. In some cases, they get an entire binder. I keep notes on my computer but I like the physicality of having a binder or notebook where I collect random bits and pieces – everything from pictures or newspaper clippings to bits of information I find on line or snippets of conversation I overhear. So there is that. Oh, and I like to write with a purple pen. Preferably a gel pen.
Laura Langston is the award–winning author of over fifteen books for children and young adults, including Hot New Thing and Stepping Out, both published with Orca Books. When she’s not writing, reading or walking her dogs, Laura can usually be found spying on people in the grocery store or twisting herself into a pretzel in yoga class.