search
top

Guest Post by T.J. Alexian

Today I’m turning my little blog over to T.J. Alexian and his terrific YA novel, “Pictures of You.”  I asked him what inspired this novel, and this is what he has to say. Here’s the link, by the way, to purchase this excellent novel.  Pictures of You

Now I’ll let T.J. talk.

 

Mary Ann Blog Pictures of You 1600

 

How I learned to love the voices in my head

By TJ Alexian

I mean, you never know where inspiration for a story is going to come from, right?

Take my novel Pictures of You, which was just released on Kindle (it will available in paperback shortly, too). I know the exact place and time that the idea for the story came to me. It felt like a revelation, so much so I actually had to sit down.

I had just given my daughter her first driving lesson. It was a beautiful spring day. For some reason thought it would be funny to tape the experience and post it to YouTube. And that got me to thinking: what if one day you woke up and found videos of your life posted on YouTube for everyone to see that you never wanted anyone to see?

Break-up scenes with an old flame, or the day you went to school with your fly down. What if the scenes became progressively worse, and couldn’t possibly have been taped, and you had no idea who was sending them or how they had gotten hold of them? How powerless and out of control—not to mention scared—would you feel?

I was off and running. Mapping out the first few chapters, imagining scenarios. Constructing it as a Young Adult novel, because for some reason, that’s the creative medium I work best in…and always, as a 16-year old girl, for some reason. Probably better not to ask.

That’s when the really scary things started happening. Like my own personal unwanted YouTube video, my main character started to speak to me. Made herself known. And I realized this girl wasn’t who had I initially envisioned at all.

You see, I originally intended to write the story as a strict YA thriller, with your stereotypical girly girl young pretty teen-ager who all these awful things happen to, but who wins out in the end. But as I progressed with the story…about six or eight chapters in…the true Ashes16 increasingly started to assert herself. She wanted to become so much more than that. And one morning, as I was lying in bed dreaming about her life and her world, I realized, “Oh, wait. This is a girl with gender issues. This is a girl who really wants to be a boy. And not just any boy…she wants to be her dead brother.”

After that, to me, the book really came into focus. I had always viewed it as a ghost story, but in seeing who Ashes was, it became clear to me that the story was as much about being haunted by the memories of your past as it was about an actual haunting. When that fell into place, I realized the real point behind Pictures of You was about giving voice to those hiding in the shadows—and not just voices of the non-corporeal variety. It’s about those who are unable to talk, or too scared to speak their own personal truth—for even if Ashes is a self-described YouTube addict with a very public social face, she still wears a mask. She still feels different, every day of her life. She’s still hiding a past she desperately needs to come to terms with and a sadness that she dares not reveal to anyone, especially herself.

There’s a lot to be said for giving in to the voices inside your head. At least in the case of Pictures of You, I think the book was made stronger for the experience. So let this be a lesson for you, sinners: creative schizophrenia can sometimes be a beautiful thing. Would you mind taking a look at the story and letting me know if you agree?

Blurb

A story of a haunting. Of a memory that lingers. Of voices that hide in the shadows.
Living your life on video is fine, as long as you’ve got complete control. But what if one day you wake up and discover videos you didn’t know existed have gone public? That’s what happens to self-professed video geek, Ashes16, whose real-world past begins to haunt her when a strange video pops up on her YouTube account. Others soon follow, bringing back vivid memories of her older brother’s grisly death and forcing Ashes to relive over and over again a nightmare scene she witnessed first-hand.

And worse yet, the videos seem to be coming from him.

Are these truly messages from her dead brother, asking her to uncover dark family secrets some people want to keep hidden? And what happens when Ashes finally starts to understand the meaning behind the messages? That’s the chilling secret behind Pictures of You.

Mary Ann Blog Ted photo 2012 b

 

About the Author

T.J. Alexian is the author of four novels and twelve plays, and is an award-winning communications specialist. He lives in Attleboro, Massachusetts in a renovated green Victorian, along with seven ghosts and his long-time (and long-suffering) partner. He also has three kids and one spiritual kid, and their stories and their spirit form the heart and soul of Pictures of You.

Alexian has been writing since the first grade, ever since his father tucked him to bed with stories about Nancy Drew’s younger brother and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. And T.J. first thought: “I don’t want these stories to ever end.” As a result, the stories kept going.

A profiled author in Writer’s Digest book Writer with a Day Job, Pictures of You is Alexian’s first self-published work, although he has two more novels being prepared for distribution: The Late Night Show and Confessions of a Diva Rotundo, which is an outrageous mystery penned by an egotistical thespian that is based on Alexian’s experiences as an actor and director of regional theater.

Pictures of You, in contrast, is a young adult thriller that combines Alexian’s love for social media with the macabre. A ghost story for the dispossessed, the novel tells the story of a young girl haunted by events in her past that never seem to die. But more than that, the novel is about being heard, about giving voice to voices that don’t fit the norm: some that lack the courage…and some, that hide in the shadows.

Excerpt

I sit at my computer and type in my YouTube username.

Ashes16

I scroll through my list of videos.

YOU.

Still there. This memory I have no memory of. This memory, with that laugh at the end. This memory of him.

I scroll down farther. And stop, the cut on my knee completely forgotten. This isn’t possible.

All at once, it’s like I’m still running through the woods, as if I still hear that sound of footsteps moving softly behind me. A crackle of twigs. Once again I feel the whisper of someone’s presence in the air. I stare at the screen, in complete disbelief.

YOU.

And also…

YOU2.

I can’t believe it’s there, but also, I can’t wait to see it. And so, I click on the video, to bring it to life.

There I am, sitting in front of my pink dressing table, the one that was in my bedroom at the old house, and is probably still there since we didn’t have room for it in the condo. I’m sitting with my back to the camera, brushing my long, straight hair.

I’m talking to myself, into the mirror on top of the dresser. I can’t hear a word of what she/I’m saying, so I turn up the volume.

“But of course, I can’t get my hair cut,” I’m saying, and I hate my voice even more, because I sound like such a little girl. “Mommy won’t let that happen. Your hair’s so beautiful, so straight and long…”

In the present day, I reach my hand up to touch the back of my head. So much shorter now, practically like a boy. No, no. Like a boy.

Back in the past, on the video, I keep brushing. “I’m so sick of straight and long! I’m sick of snarls in the morning. I’m—”

The person I was pauses, stops brushing. “I see you,” she says, but doesn’t turn around.

See? Oh, yes. In the mirror.

There’s a laugh, muffled and indistinct. His laugh, once again.

The person I was turns around, looks right into the camera. “Come on,” she says. “Why are you doing this?”

And I hear his voice again. The way I remember, kind of deep, but with that smile in it, that lightness. That teasing quality he always has. Had.

“To bug you,” he says.

I shake my head, and my bangs go in different directions. “You’re not, you know.” I sounded pouty, and I could almost hear him saying, at least in my head, that I always was a bad liar.

There’s movement, in the mirror that she/me is staring into. It happens in an instant, and then I see myself stand. “Daniel!”

Just like that, the video’s over.

That movement. It goes by so fast, but…

I use my mouse to move back in time, to the point where I turn around.

“You’re not, you know,” I say again, still sounding pouty.

The movement starts. Quickly, I hit pause.

Yes, right there.

He’s there. Daniel comes into view, a reflection in the mirror.

Daniel, with his skinny body and his pitch black hair, with bangs cut straight as mine are now. And his dark eyes, which always seemed to twinkle just a little when he was up to no good.

Daniel. I want to touch the screen. I push my fingers forward, and feel a bit of static from the

monitor. But more than that, there’s a chill in the air, over my shoulder. I break from the video, turn around.

No one’s there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Note: This post is over 3 years old. You may want to check later in this blog to see if there is new information relevant to your comment.

By submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.

top