With us today is Justin Ordonez. I asked Justin how he decided to write Sykosa. This is his response:
I wish I had a great story of how I eventually decided to write Sykosa, but it’s actually one that’s rather simple, be it however amusing, especially contextually. In the past, I’ve documented in several blog posts the many inspirations that brought me to write Sykosa, but I never actually sat down and explained the moment when I decided to write it. First off, you gotta understand that I knew Sykosa as a character before I knew her story, so the primary struggles I had was figuring out how I wanted to use the character and what story I wanted to tell. As I failed at different stories, one after the other, either about Sykosa fighting in some holy war, or being a hero on some space adventure, I was eventually struck by the notion that I should just write a story about Sykoss as a girl, just living her normal life, with her normal friends, going to school and doing whatever. It seemed so simple in the moment. There I was, always trying to write this prolific and profound storyline that would put the universe on a tilt, and all I really needed to do for Sykosa is write a simple story about a simple girl living a simple life.
So I thought, “Well, that’s easy! I can do that!”
“Cause if there’s anything women are known for, it’s being simple!”
I made the tragic mistake that many artists make. I thought that simple would be easy, that the lack of complexity would make something straight forward. I recently read a review of The Dark Knight Rises @ ew.com, the final chapter in the Batman series from Christopher Nolan, and in crediting the subtly of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of police officer John Blake, noting that, “It is a far, far harder thing to do ordinary good than to steer a Batmobile.” Basically, this means that being interesting while not causing thousands of explosions around you, or not oozing sex appeal from your every pore, as it seems Anne Hathaway does so intrinsically, I don’t know who she’ll ever avoid it, is basically the hardest feat of acting there is. We go to the movie theater to get away from normal, so why the hell would we want to watch it while we’re there? We don’t. And so we come to understand why only Gordon-Levitt can truly handle a human role like John Blake, and we come to understand why writing Sykosa didn’t turn out to be easy simply because I dropped the explosions and the sex appeal from her plot.
In actuality, she got far harder.
“Actually, I’m simple. Justin’s just not very bright.”
Writing Sykosa became much more about subtleties. You have to get people hooked into her everyday life. And once you start throwing out the “popcorn” element of the story, people are going to be much more critical of it, and they’re less likely to outright like it. (I’m not saying anything bad about humanity, even I love the “lizard brain” art that gets tossed at us these days). So my easy story became an incredibly complicated one, where story wasn’t driven by a bomb that’s about to blow up, or a universe that’s about to end, but by one character’s inability to empathize with another, and how the friends, families, and support groups of each character could cause secondary conflicts that soon snow-balled out of control, leading to conflicts that lacked clear resolution, and where there was so much guilty to go around, no one would dare tell the whole truth as they knew it.
Sykosa (that's "sy"-as-in-"my" ko-sa) is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the life of her friends. This process is complicated by her best friend, Niko, a hyper-ambitious, type-A personality who has started to war with other girls for social supremacy of their school, a prestigious preparatory academy in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. To compensate, Sykosa has decided to fall in love with her new boyfriend, Tom, who was involved in the act of violence. Propelled by survivor guilt, an anxiety disorder, and her hunger for Tom and his charms, Sykosa attends a weekend-long, unchaperoned party at Niko's posh vacation cottage, where she will finally confront Niko on their friendship, her indecision about her friends and their involvement in the act of violence, and she will make the biggest decision of her life—whether or not she wants to lose her virginity to Tom. YA fiction for the 18+ crowd.
Everything is too complicated. It should not have to be. She goes behind the chapel. He goes behind the chapel. They make out. Simple, right? It’s not. Regardless, if even that must be complicated, then certainly the concept that she wants to go to Prom, thus he should ask her to Prom and then they should go to Prom is simple, right? It’s not. You see, he has this best friend, this confidante, this main focus, this everything—and her name is not Sykosa, but Mackenzie.
Or as you will soon find out: “M.” That’s what he calls her.
So, every day, she faces the fact that they are merely acquaintances. Two pigeons in a flock of nine hundred who dress the same, talk the same, and act the same. That’s okay. Pigeons are only pigeons because conformity is only conformity. It’s okay to be like everyone else so long as she is always herself. And that is the reason, because there is no other reason, why she makes out with this boy. Other than she likes it. Kissing is fun. She’s lying. There is another reason. Another trivial teenage doodad—when she talks to him, lame as it sounds, she feels like she is being herself.
Tom’s never understood this. He sees no issue in how she feels like a phoenix, but is only regarded as a pigeon—and not only a pigeon, but one pigeon in a flock of… Never mind, conformity sucks!
REVIEW SOUND BYTES
"… gritty, intense and definitely not a book I'll forget anytime soon! It was so differently written. I wouldn't have expected to fall in love with the writing style but I did. It practically made me get under Sykosa's skin despite getting a dose of the perspectives of the other characters and there were parts that were so lyrical." ~ On Books
"Justin Ordonez’s debut novel, Sykosa Part 1: Junior Year, disproves the old saw that youth is wasted on the young. He adroitly delves into the minds and social lives of his titular sixteen-year-old protagonist and her peers, showing that young people wrestle with tough decisions just like adults do." ~Clarion ForeWord Reviews
"Sykosa makes for some compelling reading. Older teens and adults alike will enjoy Ordoñez's tale for its humor, realism and relatable protagonist."~ Kirkus Indie Review
Justin Ordoñez was born in Spain, raised in the mid-west, and currently lives in Seattle. He's nearly thirty years old, almost graduated from the University of Washington, and prefers to wait until TV shows come out on DVD so he can watch them in one-shot while playing iPad games. For fifteen years, he has written as a freelance writer, occasionally doing pieces as interesting as an editorial, but frequently helping to craft professional documents or assisting in the writing of recommendation letters for people who have great praise for friends or colleagues and struggle to phrase it. Sykosa is his debut novel.
Justin will be giving away a $50 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter on his tour).. The tour dates: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2012/05/vbt-sykosa-by-justin-ordonez.html.