My birthday is this week. I’ll be thirty years removed from the day I turned 18. It seems so long ago, and yet I still have some vivid memories of that time. My book Whisper of the Woods is also having a birthday – its first. Within its pages, my heroine Juniper Sawfeather turns 18. I can say that her birthday was extremely different than mine, but they were both a little, let’s say, challenging.
I turned 18 while living in Irvine, California.
I was a senior in high school. We’d just finished a run of the fall play called Dark of the Moon, which was about witches and curses and a lot of fun to do. I decided to host a birthday party at my house with all my drama and show choir friends. (If you want to imagine that, watch the Lin-Manuel Miranda SNL sketch “Crucible Cast Party”)
Well, a couple of my best friends thought it was hilarious that I was now about to be “legal” to have sex, and they went in together to buy me a red, lacy piece of lingerie called a ‘teddy’. They announced to everyone that my birthday was a “Teddy Party”, and other people came with innocent teddy bears as gifts. The whole thing was truly mortifying on several levels.
Needless to say, I spent the rest of my birthday party sulking. I was criticized (rightfully so) for being a spoil-sport and a party pooper. There was another great half of a senior year left for me, but if I have to pinpoint a moment when those friendships started to deteriorate, it was that night. The night I turned eighteen.
In Whisper of the Woods Juniper Sawfeather turns 18 after being 170 feet up in the branches of a tree for four days and nights in the freezing January weather of Washington State. She is being held captive by an ancient tree spirit who is causing harm to anyone trying to come up and help her down. She has survived the worst storm of the season so far, and a few other terrifying magical things I can’t mention because it will spoil the book.
Here’s a little excerpt from her birthday “party” when her family and friends are gathered to try to figure out how to get her down from the tree:
“What are you doing here?” Carter asked.
Nick raised a white paper bag. “I happened to be poking through the school records and saw that today was June’s eighteenth birthday. I brought her a cupcake to celebrate.”
“You brought her a cupcake,” Carter said. He voice was too even. I hadn’t heard him sound like that before, and it was a little scary. “Are you serious? She almost died here last night.”
“Well, then she’ll really enjoy this, won’t she?”
Bam! Carter slugged Nick right in the jaw. It happened so fast, I only saw the white bag fly out of Nick’s hand and smash against the tree. Next thing I knew Nick was on one knee, holding his jaw. Carter stood over him, his arm pulled back ready to strike again. One of the girls had screamed. I wasn’t sure if it was Haley, Regina or Tracy, but Tracy dropped to her brother’s side. My parents rushed toward the scene, and Dad pulled Carter back.
“Damn!” I heard Kyle say. “That kid’s got an arm on him.”
“So this is what I get for trying to be nice?” Nick asked, getting to his feet.
“You deserved that, Nick. There’s nothing nice about you,” Haley spat at him. “I read that column you put on the school newspaper's blog yesterday, making fun of June for climbing the tree and saying she was going to stay up there until she saw Bigfoot or something. It was rude.”
“He did that?” Carter said, struggling against my dad to get at him again. “What’s your problem, man?”
“Nothing,” Nick said, his grin wickedly wide. “I just think your girlfriend is the best show in town.” He called up to me. “Did you see anything while you were up there, Sawfeather? C’mon, tell us!”
So… I’m gonna go out on a limb (see what I did there?) and say that as rough as my 18th birthday was, Juniper’s was way worse. Although, she did have a boyfriend. A pretty awesome one, if you ask me. Also, if I have to pinpoint the moment her relationship with Carter and her best friend Haley strengthens, it was that day. The day she turned eighteen.
Do I have a point to this blog post? No, not really. Just celebrating another year of living and another year with Juniper. I’ve finished writing book three, and I kind of miss her. I’m looking forward to my editor notes to have the chance to hang out with Juniper just a little bit longer.
Just to let you know, the way my publisher, Fire and Ice Young Adult Books, is celebrating these birthdays with me is by lowering the price of my Juniper Sawfeather ebooks. Cry of the Sea is only $0.99 through Christmas, and Whisper of the Woods is at $2.99. You can find links to all the online bookstores on the pages for each book on my website, or just click on the pictures here to go to Amazon Kindle.
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Oh, and there’s more!!! I have a guest post today about the environmental themes in these books at http://www.scifiandscary.com/putting-environment-in-a-fantasy-novel/ that you might enjoy.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.