How It Started

BY MINDI SCOTT
Me with Michelle - March 2014

Photo by Dwayne Scott. March 2014

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over three years since Michelle and I started brainstorming for the story we’ve been writing together. As you might have seen yesterday, our book is going to be published by HarperCollins, perhaps in late-2015 or early-ish 2016! (Edit: It will be summer 2016.) And if you haven’t, please check out Michelle’s post. We are so excited about this!!!!

I thought it would be fun to share Michelle’s and my original correspondence about the story that would become FAR FROM US, so I’ve pasted below two days’ worth of emails from 2011. Some of what we discussed in these first emails didn’t come to be at all (like our two narrators not loving the girl who died), but a lot of it will be in the book in some form. For extra context, here’s a one-sentence pitch Michelle and I put together very recently:

FAR FROM US is a dual narrative of heartbreak, hijinks, and healing, in which two grieving teens, Cloudy and Kyle, who have avoided each other for the past year, spend their mid-winter break traveling, along with a stray kitten, through Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada to see the organ recipients of Cloudy’s deceased best friend, who was also Kyle’s girlfriend.

FYI: These emails are unedited. Michelle’s are in black and my responses are in blue. The conversation ends abruptly because all the emails that followed are incredibly lengthy and detailed; we’d decided at that point that we were really going to write this. It took a while to start it, though, because I was on deadline with my second novel for all of 2011. 🙂

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From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 6:26:47 AM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

Hey! I know you’re in the middle of your first draft right now, so sorry to bother you! 

But I had an idea on the ride up to work and wanted to share it before a) I forgot it, and b) before I thought about it anymore, only to find out it’s stupid. (I think the subject line of this email is perfect, btw.)

So, this is it: A girl whose best friend/sister/boyfriend/parent/miscellaneous loved one has died, and she somehow goes to find the people who received this loved one’s donated organs. Wouldn’t that be an interesting road trip??

Is that gross?! Or creepy? Or too sentimental? 

Okay, sorry again. Back to work!

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Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 11:38:26 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani

Ha, I’m so glad we’re able to keep using this subject line!

I don’t think it sounds stupid! It sounds like it has the potential to be very, very emotional. I think it’s more along the lines of sentimental than gross or creepy, but it wouldn’t have to be TOO sentimental. There are all sorts of possibilities as far as who she will encounter, who (if anyone) will go with her, and what sorts of revelations she’ll have along the way!
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From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 11:57:18 AM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

Thanks for the input! I have no intention of writing this any time soon (besides, saving the road trip for OUR story, woo!). I just wanted your opinion 🙂Hope your writing is getting done!
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 12:03:49 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani
 

See, and when I read this idea, I was thinking, Hey! I wonder if we could use this for Claudia and Kyle. But then I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to feel like you’re being held back from working on any stories that strike your fancy on account of me! 🙂
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 2:48:35 PM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

Hahaha! Well, as soon as I thought Road trip!, I of course thought of our story, but I didn’t want to say anything because what if you hated this organ donor nonsense?? 

 
PS: I think Claudia might be Stormy again, because I’ve since had interactions with a Claudia I didn’t care for…
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Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 15:35:20 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani

 
Oh, mean Claudia! Going and ruining a name like that.
 
I’m making all these plans in my mind now. Whomever this person who passed away was was important to both Stormy and Kyle, but they are antagonist toward each other at the start of the trip because, of course, their Past Love and stuff.
 
Oooh! Maybe it was Stormy’s brother who was Kyle’s best friend!
 
Hahahaha. You can tell me to STOP IT RIGHT NOW! if you want to. 😉
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 8:09:32 PM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

I know! And I really loved the idea of calling her Cloudy too…Maybe by the time we actually write this I’ll be over it. That would be nice!

 
Yes! It would be so goooood if the deceased was Stormy’s brother. Poor Stormy! Poor Kyle! 
 
Or maybe it was Stormy’s best friend who had dated Kyle, even though Stormy secretly found him dreamy…but Best Friend never knew! (Leave it to me to bring on THAT drama.)
 
I love this 🙂
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Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 20:21:16 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani

Well, I’m cool with it either way. I was liking Claudia for BSC nostalgia, but you can see what you feel like when it’s time. 🙂

Heee! I almost forgot about the cheating angle we were talking about! I wonder if Kyle loved Stormy/Cloudy’s best friend? I don’t think he did and it probably haunts him because he feels like he should have. 

😀

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From: Michelle Andreani 
Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2011 00:02:08 -0400
To: Mindi Scott
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?
 

AH!! I love that so much. Oh my gosh, I already have a crush on Kyle!

 
And I think Stormy/Cloudy resented her best friend but she kept it all inside, and the first genuine thought she had about her friend in months was after she died. It’s maybe messing with her head.
 
This is the funnest game!
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From: Mindi Scott
To: Michelle Andreani
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 9:23:30 PM
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?

I LOVE this game! Do you think that Stormy/Cloudy tracked down the organ receivers because she feels like seeing them would fix her messed up head, somehow?How did Kyle come to be on this trip with her? Does he know what she’s up to? I think maybe he was raised as an atheist and losing Girlfriend is messing with HIS head. It’s making him question everything about everything. And the day Girlfriend died, a litter of kittens was born and he feels like one of them is HER and that makes him feel like he is going CRAZYyyyyyyyyy. Have I gone too far now??? LOL
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2011 10:46:40 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani

Last night I dreamed of Kyle and Stormy on a treacherous road trip in a post-apocalyptic United States. With a cat.
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From: Michelle Andreani 
Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2011 15:51:35 -0400
To: Mindi Scott
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?
 

Oooooh, extra points for dystopian road trip! Was the cat the reincarnated best friend???  O_O

 
Last night I dreamed that I was sharing an office with Joe Jonas, so you know, no judgments.
 
I definitely think tracking down the organ receivers will fix Stormy’s/Cloudy’s messed-up head–or so she hopes! But no idea how Kyle would find out about this trip…Maybe it’s all HIS idea…Or maybe it IS Stormy’s/Cloudy’s and he thinks it’s stupid because, as an atheist, why would he think finding these people means anything (or wouldn’t he? I feel bad that I don’t know what an atheist would think about that), but then she brings up the kitten thing and he’s like “Good point.” 

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Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani
From: Mindi Scott
Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2011 20:23:28 +0000

In the dream, the cat wasn’t the best friend. I think it would be best for the story if it’s left up in the air. Ha!

Maybe…Kyle was always a pretty normal, average  guy. But his world is all shaken up because Girlfriend died and he feels guilty for never really loving her and he’s all confused about Life and Death and he thinks Girlfriend has been reborn as a cat. And he named the cat Ear or Rib or something totally weird, but it turns out those letters spell Girlfriend’s initials. Stormy wouldn’t discover that wackiness about the cat theory for a while.

Stormy is confused and guilty feeling because she resented her friend, lusted for Friend’s boyfriend, and she feels that she needs to find the people who received the organs because it will bring her some kind of peace or something?

I still don’t know whose idea the trip should be or how they would decide to go together…

And you know, as serious as it sounds, I think it could totally be a funny book with lots of hijinx and drama. Taking a kitten on a road trip who might be the person you’ve lost while in search of people who now have her body parts keeping them alive? It’s super quirky and off the wall, right?

And it occurs to me that you might hate this direction I’ve suddenly veered off to!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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From: Michelle Andreani 
To: Mindi Scott 
Sent: Sat, April 23, 2011 6:11:27 PM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

I don’t hate it AT ALL!  (I am also impressed that you typed all of that on your Blackberry!)  In fact, I so love the kitten stuff because it’s totally funny but sweet, and I don’t know how it’s possible but it makes Kyle even more endearing and crushable! I mean, people are always faced with the question of what exactly they believe in, but I think it really happens for the first time when you’re a teenager. Or at least when something so big as the death of a loved one really hits you and knocks you flat.

 And you know what? There’s a sort of parallel I adore between what you were saying about reincarnation and the organ donor stuff. Because just like Kyle believes (or wants to believe) that his girlfriend is still living on in this kitten, Stormy wants to believe that she’s living on in these other people. Ugh. Maybe I’m just hormonal but I really love this. Like you said, it could have such a good balance of off-the-wallness and poignancy.
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