Jennifer Caloyeras: “Creative Inspiration”

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Today, I’m excited to share an exclusive guest post from Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras. We’re featuring Strays all this week on the blog, so tune in every day for new features, including your chance to win a copy of the book!

For now, here is Jennifer’s guest post:

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Creative Inspiration for My Novel, Strays
by Jennifer Caloyeras

straysA story isn’t born out of thin air, there’s always some sort of inspiration. I’ve written stories inspired by dreams. And I’ve also written stories that have been inspired by real life.

For my latest young adult novel, Strays, a few different experiences converged.

The idea initially occurred when I was doing some research for a dog column years ago. I was writing an article on an organization called K-9 connection based in Santa Monica. Here, teens in continuation school are paired up with homeless dogs. They learn how to train and trust these dogs and in turn gain confidence themselves. As I was writing this column, I put this idea in my back pocket (and into my writing journal) thinking, “this would be a great premise for a story!”

jennifer_caloyeras_high2Roman, the three-legged Pit bull in the story, was inspired by my own challenging experience adopting an aggressive pit mix. Willie, our puppy, had redirected aggressive issues (same as the fictitious Roman). This means that when Willie couldn’t attack the thing he wanted (another dog, for example) he would redirect his aggression to whomever was at the end of his leash (yours truly). I learned a lot about dog psychology while training Willie.

Iris, the sixteen year old protagonist in my novel, ends up in summer school for English. English was always my favorite subject in school and I was lucky to have so many wonderful and supportive English teachers. Perry, the kind and compassionate summer school teacher in my novel, is an amalgam of all my amazing English teachers.

jennifer caloyeras2I have always had a fascination with fairy tales, especially ones that are inverted or told from a different point of view. I discovered Angela Carter’s short story collection, “The Bloody Chamber” when I was in graduate school. I loved Carter’s feminist twist on beloved tales so I worked her novel into my story. These fairy tales always deal with recurring tropes and for Iris, it’s the story of both the missing mother and the wild child that she really finds a connection.

Finally, I needed a setting for my story. In the story, the ocean reminds Iris of her late mother, who loved to swim in the waves, so I knew I needed a beachside community and I settled on Santa Cruz, California. I know Santa Cruz well because I went to college there. Santa Cruz is such a serene and beautiful place, I thought it would be a good juxtaposition of Iris and Roman’s anger issues.

So, as you can see, this novel was inspired by an intersection of many different ideas and experiences!

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