by Emily Adrian
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction, High School, Chick Lit, Theatre, Fiction
Stereotypes, sexuality, and destructive rumors collide in this smart YA novel for fans of Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl, Siobhan Vivian’s The List, and E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.
When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.
Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.
I wrote something like six or seven drafts of Like It Never Happened between the summers of 2012 and 2014, when my editor and I decided the book was finished. Despite the novel’s many incarnations, I think the final version is pretty true to the story I set out to write. That said, I still managed to make (what now seem like) some pretty absurd decisions along the way.Here are some examples of what I cut from the novel as I turned it into something publishable:An early draft of the book contained about fifty pages of notes passed between Rebecca’s sister, Mary, and Mary’s ex-girlfriend, Nadine. I had Rebecca discover the letters in a box of old notebooks, and then the narrative just sort of yielded to the letters themselves. For fifty pages. Some of the notes were written in verse, including a villanelle sixteen-year-old Mary wrote for her favorite singer, Morrissey. I cut the villanelle. I cut all of the letters but one.Including them was a bad for idea for a lot of reasons, but I don’t really regret taking the time to imagine the two characters’ correspondence. Having such a complete understanding of the history between Mary and Nadine definitely helped me write some of my favorite scenes in the book.The first lines of the very first draft were: “Technically, I was all wrong for the part. Every actress who has ever played Blanche DuBois has been pale and blonde.” I still like these lines, actually, and I think some version of them appears halfway through the published book. But once I decided that the action of Like It Never Happened would unfold over a couple of years, I realized I couldn’t begin the novel with Rebecca’s performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. I needed the cast’s rehearsals for the play to run parallel to the book’s central climax.
Originally, the “Essential Five”—Rebecca’s exclusive gang of thespian friends—were the “Essential Seven.” This was partially because it sounded cool, and partially because I thought I needed at least seven thespians, because how else could Rebecca and her friends dominate their school’s theater program? But my editor thought that the seven actors—some of whom felt pretty interchangeable—were hard to keep track of, and she was right. I ended up cutting two characters. To compensate for their absence onstage, I had Rebecca make passing references to “non-essential” cast members. That neither Rebecca nor her co-stars ever seem to give these other kids the time of day is, I think, a believable side-effect of how insular their group becomes.
Deleting characters, lines, or entire scenes from a novel you’re already pretty proud of can be kind of devastating. The worst is when some of your favorite parts of the story—I really liked those letters between Mary and Nadine!—aren’t actually helping your book say what you want it to say. Definitely one of the most rewarding aspects of the publishing process is getting to work with people who can help you make those choices, and then—once you’ve hit delete—assure you that the book is getting closer and closer to being the best book you can write.