I confess that I LOVE books (and shows, movies, etc.) where characters discover a new world at the border of the real world we know. And I started noticing a particular archetype for this scenario that drove me nuts… The archetype (pattern) tends to go like this: character(s) are somewhat dissatisfied or neglected in the real world, they discover the new world and their connection to it (with very little shock or true-to-life struggle with its existence), and their life becomes more interested in the new world than the REAL world (which is okay because their real-world life has stunk up to this point.)

As much as I have always loved getting “lost” in new worlds within books or movies, they have still never replaced the life I love in the real world – as well as the people I love. I grew annoyed with characters who could so easily walk away from loved ones and reality to chase after another world. My mom and I discuss the books we read all the time and talk about how WE would have handled situations had we been the characters in the book. She asked me one time, “Now, Krissi… if you had discovered a way to travel to a magical place when you were a teen, would you have told me about it?” Of course I would have! And she couldn’t understand why these characters wouldn’t let their parents in on things… I explained to her that it’s because of the archetype… it just works. And typically, the characters don’t have that great of a relationship with their parents to begin with. (I realize not EVERY book or movie does it this way – I am merely addressing the traditional pattern.)
When Phantom Island was born in my head, I started having thoughts like: What if my main character actually had friends and family who she loved in the real world? What if she was actually invested in her school career (ie. Student Council member, Drama Club member)? What if, despite her shady past, she had actually found a healthy way to live in the real world – and she LIKED it? And then the big one…
What if I wrote a series that wasn’t JUST about the new world? What if it was just as much about her real-world life as it was about her new discovery? If there is ultimately going to be a choice for my heroine about WHERE she truly belongs in her life, then don’t readers need to see how her life functions in both places?
This is why Part I of Phantom Island is so important. Every experience that my characters have at Camp Fusion is not just important to their characterization, but to their conflicts, too. If we do not come to know our characters in the real world, then we have made the book all about the Island. And it simply is not. It is about a girl whose destiny lies in one of two worlds – and the series is about the journey in getting there. One of my reviewers (Young Adult Literature Review) stated “For me, this was a story of a journey.” THANK YOU! She is right!
Jaxson may not have much “game” with Whitnee but he is still a reason that Caleb “can’t seem to win on either side of the world.” Once there is no longer a Jaxson around to distract Whitnee, then there is a Gabriel. How does Whitnee really feel about Caleb? Well how can she know when she is suddenly bombarded by other potential love interests? (Remember, Whitnee has had very little dating experience up to this point – suddenly she has THREE guys interested. And yes, I confess that this conflict is a bit autobiographical.) And why does what she experience with Gabriel seem so rich and unlike anything else – yes, even unlike Caleb?
My teenage readers seem to get it immediately – they love the drama and characterization and events that take place in Part I, because they see themselves in it. They get that the normal, everyday experiences of real life are just as important or monumental in a teen’s life as the magical things are. The teens also seem to relate to Whitnee’s conflicting feelings once she lands on the Island – the feelings of “I want to believe what I’m seeing, but it’s impossible. I must be dreaming.” Again, if YOU found a magical Island, how would you react? These are the thoughts that drove the characterization in Wind.
My hope is that, as you journey with Whitnee into both her real world and her magical world, you are just as conflicted as she is. I hope that Camp Fusion is just as rich to you as the Island. I hope that you see she has value in both places… and must therefore make a choice.
Because I really feel like our choices drive our future. And you can bet that will constantly be a theme in Phantom Island.