Friday, October 14, 2016

The Man on Top of the World: Q&A #3

** Spoiler Alert **

What does Jonathon do to work on himself during the 9-ish month break at the end of the story? Like, how does he approach his relationship with Izzy differently than how we saw him?

- Tanezia McAdams  


In the early stages of writing, when The Man was in its really rough state (in 2013), I had Jon tell us what happened. He and Izzy divided time between living with one another from Jon's condo to Izzy's mansion and doing all the things that Jon wished they could have done while on tour, like the domestic bliss stuff that he pined about and longed for. Like sleeping in, breakfast in bed, and being lazy, just staying in, not doing much and going nowhere all day, the two simply enjoying a "normal" day, having a "normal" relationship. Still in private and in secrecy naturally, but they were reveling in a domestic life that was only theirs, pretty intimate, quiet, and boring, just as they wanted it. Because Izzy wanted to keep the lowest profile ever while there was still noise and hype around his divorce and the scandal(s), they rarely went out. When they did, they'd sneak out at between midnight and 3AM or something to hang out with their band mates at their homes, with Izzy covered from head to toe when they'd step out in public from and back to Jon's car, being too quick to be noticed. Jon also went on telling us about how he and Izzy went to therapy, apart from each other. Jon went to a therapist for Odette to still pick up the pieces from that devastating relationship, and also for Leo, on how to better handle his hopeless relationship with his brother. Izzy went for Vivian, for Roxanne, on the abuse he did to her and on how to handle the divorce and its repercussions, and with still mourning the death of his family, and with his "daddy issues." As a couple, they weren't with a therapist (way too risky), but they pulled through with making music, some of it that would make the cut in On My Own (Not Alone). They even had plenty of sexless nights, the two just talking, like real in-depth talks about what went on in their therapy that day, on what they learned, and linking most of the lessons to their relationship. Sometimes those moments would be so heavy that there would be more crying, letting the pain out. Some nights they had to sleep in separate rooms for space and breathing room. Lifestyle-wise, they still smoked cigarettes, scaled back on the drinking, took a break from the hard drugs, and occasionally got high on reefer. This doesn't necessarily mean that they were trying to get clean. They just didn't need the hard drugs at this time when the fags, some liquor, and weed was enough, and they did this socially too, with their band-mates and friends.

So with all this not in the book obviously, this might have you (and others) be like "Wait, so why did you leave all this out?" This is a huge chunk of character development that's missing, right? Well, the problem was...with the writing. It was all telling. That irritated the hell out of me. I try to avoid telling when it's always best to show. So I did. I showed all this. It was a whole chapter! But...

Something about it didn't feel right. Telling wasn't working, but neither was the showing. It stalled the flow of the story. It strangely felt out of place, slowing it down, way down, it was tedious. The chapter gave away too much. Nothing was left to the imagination. And I was torn.

As much as a part of me wanted those scenes there to establish that these two were working things out and getting the therapy that they deserved (and should have gotten a long time ago), it was just oddly anti-climatic. It was right for them, but it didn't feel right for the book. It might be typical and predictable a thing to say, but in my heart of hearts, I felt that it was best to leave all this for readers to imagine instead of me having it all there on display for you all to see. To make up for this lost chapter, instead I changed the tone of the writing and their character in the last chapter, to vaguely imply the possibilities that you now know, but leaving it ultimately just up to you.

If this lost/missing chapter stayed, The Man on Top of the World would have been a Happily Ever After instead of a Happily Ever After For Now. And with these scenes, we definitely would have seen a whole different side to Jonathan and Izzy. It would have added another layer to them that wasn't there before, something new. But this would still remain: Izzy is still Izzy and Jon is still Jon. They are still rock stars. Still boyfriends. But they have changed. Still broken, but not hurt. Nervous. Scared. And yet confident, anxious, and excited for the future, even though they have long ways to go to finding ultimate forgiveness and moving onward as lovers. Never perfect, but better than the past.

Maybe if one day there's an opportunity for a 2nd edition (that is not up to me, that's all up to you readers so my publisher and I can make this happen!), I'd rewrite this missing chapter and work it into the book. This time, I had to trust my instinct and make that ultimate choice to not give everything away and leave it for y'all to make your own interpretation of what was, or what could have been, between these two, in those nine months while they were away. With the more I think about it, this choice still feels appropriate, and I don't feel as torn now. For the domestic bliss to truly be theirs, Jon couldn't share that with us. As for the therapy, it was too private, too vulnerable, that Jon couldn't share that with us either, and Izzy too, of course, wouldn't share that, especially not on national television.

Also - I'm not sure if that ending would be as powerful if the missing chapter had stayed ;). 

5 comments:

  1. INTERESTING! I think for me personally, I needed to see in the narrative that this happened instead of piecing it together or imagining what could have been for myself. Idk, something in me NEEDS to see that or else in my head, it didn't happen and then I freak out (like how I harped on that in my review). I will say that I def get that dilemma and I totally understand what you mean. I think maybe a better compromise would have been maybe little mentions of this stuff? Like, maybe if when Jon mentioned Leo in the audience, a brief thought about how therapy was helping his relationship with his brother so at least we the readers KNOW he went to therapy without having to dive into the details. Maybe a moment where Jon thinks how much better Izzy looks when he's not strung out (slight weight gain so he looks healthier or something). Izzy calling Jon "baby" a few more times so we see he stopped calling him "daddy." Like, a lot of small little tells that paint the wider picture (for me at least, who notices shit like that lol). Just to let the readers know they didn't rush back into what they had before and they did make changes and are trying to do better by each other. And maybe even, during the few paragraphs where Jon speeds through what happened during the break, at least one paragraph about their time together in boring couple bliss.

    I def agree that an entire chapter would have ruined the flow, so I get that. And it's too late to add anything now. But I def feel a LOT better now knowing what went down between that time jump. Thank you lol.

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    1. But the thing is, and this is a common complaint I see A LOT, not only with reviewers/readers but from my experience working with editors, that if anything is gonna be told, it should be shown. Otherwise, why mention it at all? If I had just mentioned it, then I'd also get some people complaining that I wasn't "in depth" enough or that it was "brushed over" or "what, only a mention?" or that I did a disservice by not revealing more, etc. etc. lol. And my personal thing is, if I were to have Jon just mention the therapy, I would have felt that same too, that it has to be all or nothing. If mentioning therapy at all, have to show it, just a mention isn't enough, that's not closure. And to have let's say a sentence or paragraph put in near the end would have also ruined the flow of the time/moment during Jon's train of thought, and could have been an "info dump" thing that I didn't want either. I'm glad you noticed the absence of "daddy" - that too is also a tiny hint and is up to you to imagine what's going on with that too :). I kept most of this "up in the air" for a reason hehe.

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    2. I definitely see where you're coming from though :). Some readers want clearer, more concrete endings that seal the story completely, while others prefer mystery. Sadly I can't write an ending that can please everyone and I can't make two choices. I can only make one. I feel like this one is just a little bit more fun. It's interesting to see your interpretation of how you would have liked it to end. I can imagine many will have their own take and spin on it :).

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    3. Hmmmmm. I feel that. I can't speak for editors, but this seems to come down to styles and stuff. Like for me, I wouldn't have been mad at a mention because I get enough to know it was a thing, but the climax already happened so the story's gotta end so we're breezing through it lol. You can't show everything; some stuff you gotta just say and move on. Like, the ending gets about as much closure as I think you can with how the story went down; do you really think mentioning it would have ruined that? Hmmm. Like, I saw the lack of any sort of conscious effort on their parts to get help lacking in closure. But, again, difference in styles. It's hard to have everything hit the mark with every reader; some things are going to hits with some and misses with others. So I totally get what you're saying. Make a side project for short stories from the 9 month gap. That'll solve everything lol. Jk. That's what fanfiction is for. :P

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    4. Oh yes, it's definitely a style and preference thing. Therapy is not something that I personally don't like when it's just mentioned and move swiftly on. That's too heavy a subject matter to just mention and move on as if it's no big deal. That deserves to be shown, but the showing wasn't working. I toyed with this as much as I could, it just wasn't working lol. Sure, it could have been told at least a little bit and it would have left readers at ease, to know that some effort was being done by these two in getting help, but the execution in just telling or mentioning in a sentence or paragraph would have felt like it was just thrown in there, I can even imagine what my editor would have said about it lol. And with all the excitement and positive, happy, hopeful vibes going on in the studio, for Jon to heavily get into their domestic bliss and therapy, it just didn't feel like the "best" time and place for that to be mentioned at all in Jon's head. At least you get a sense that they're more vulnerable (in dressing room before Izzy's on stage), and they are way more mature (like how they've both come to terms with being happy for Roxanne that she's moved on), and the subtle changes, like the absence of "daddy." It's all just little things, I know for you and others it may not be enough and I know you wanted MORE, but yes, that's what fanfiction is for, and that's usually what 2nd editions are for also hehe. It leaves room for more possibilities, if the book's so lucky to make it that far. Here's hoping! I'd have fun trying all over again with this missing scenes/chaper, but for now, it is what it is :).

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