29 Sep 2011

Guest post - Stewart Lewis

THE SPARK THAT MADE THE FLAME

When I first met the niece of a friend of mine, Emma, who was thirteen at the time, I was amazed at how clever and “adult” she was. The daughter of semi-famous parents, she grew up on the upper east side of Manhattan and mingled with celebrities and writers her whole life. At thirteen, she had such comic timing, unlike most children of that age who are still socially awkward. We were driving in the car and my friend noticed Emma’s cell phone had nail polish on it. She said, “I did that to my phone too.” Emma’s satirical response was, “I was eleven, what’s your excuse?”

We all laughed and continued on our journey, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, she is a character in a book. So Luna was born. Not exactly the same as Emma, but definitely inspired by her. I myself have had somewhat of a charmed life, and although I enjoy the finer things, I have two feet very much planted on the ground. As a writer you don’t realize how much of yourself is infused in your stories until you step back or get someone else’s perspective. At our first lunch, my editor at Delacorte said the book was, “Aspirational, yet very real.” I thought to myself, that’s me.

A lot of people ask me how I came up with the concept of the mother dying and leaving the cell phone behind with seven messages on it. I knew the messages would be a great way to structure a book, but the rest just flowed into my mind, it’s hard to explain. I am a songwriter too, and ideas for lyrics or stories, well, they just come to me.

It was wonderful to work on YOU HAVE SEVEN MESSAGES, and I had the help of my excellent agent and several great editors. No author can do it alone. I think the most important thing is to keep your mind and eyes open, because you never know if someone you’ll meet or something they’ll say will be the spark that ignites the fire of a novel. In the case of Emma, I could almost feel the flame.

You have seven messages
It's been a year since Luna's mother, the fashion-model wife of a successful film director, was hit and killed by a taxi in the East Village. Luna, her father, and her little brother, Tile, are still struggling with grief.
When Luna goes to clean out her mother's old studio, she's stunned to find her mom's cell phone there—charged and holding seven unheard messages. As Luna begins to listen to them, she learns more about her mother's life than she ever wanted to know . . . and she comes to realize that the tidy tale she's been told about her mother's death may not be the whole truth.

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