My phone? Where's my phone? Ten times a day I paw through my purse, looking for my blasted iPhone. Either it's ringing, or someone has texted/emailed/ tweeted/facebooked/instagrammed me. And then there's that Words With Friends game I have going with my fifth grade teacher. Next month, there will likely be another app I MUST DOWNLOAD NOW.
Are you as addicted as I am? Do you ever want to drift away to a wireless island with zero cell phone reception? Then you should do like Mallory in Going Vintage. Give up all technology and return to a simpler time: in Mallory's case, 1962. A time when your boyfriend couldn't cheat on you online with a computer avatar.
The cheating-on-the-computer was where this novel first began. I'd read an article in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago about a married man who spent most of his waking hours on a role-playing game, Second Life. He had an "online wife" with whom he shared his thoughts and dreams while his real wife literally sat in the next room, waiting. There are dozens of sci-fi and dystopian novels about the lack of connection that happens in this digital age (Feed by M.T. Anderson is a favorite), and I thought it would be interesting to explore how this would impact a teen today, who grew up always having access to the Internet, cell phones, iPods, etc. (My kids always ask, How did you talk to your friends if you didn't have your own phone? Uh . . . I rode my bike to their house.)
I also carried this self-centered belief as a teenager that the '90s were the hardest time ever to be a teenager, that teens in the '40s or '50s didn't have the same problems I did. My mom would say things like, I know how that feels, but how could she, right? The '70s were different. Don't ask me how, but they were. My mom was old, just like I am now crossing the old threshold in my children’s eyes. It's often not until we gain some wisdom on our own that we appreciate the wisdom of those we follow.
I attached this belief system to my main character and gave her a list of goals that her grandmother wrote in 1962. The list becomes a symbol of innocence and simplicity for Mallory. If she gives up technology and accomplishes every task on the list, somehow she will heal from the pain of her breakup. Her journey is by turns aggravating and endearing. Writing Mallory, I wanted to shake her sometimes, but she comes into her own over the course of the novel thanks to the relationships she has in her life—relationships that develop because of The List.
The book trailer I did for this book shows me "going vintage" for research purposes. The video lasts a minute, which is about how long many of us go without plugging in. I gave up my phone and computer for one week while researching this book, and it was tough, especially considering my job. I would run into my friends and they'd ask why I hadn't texted them back, or did I see it was so-and-so's birthday. It was crazy how disconnected I felt, but also oddly calming, like I'd just done the mental equivalent of a hardcore juice detox. Since writing this book, I've been more mindful of how much time my children and I spend without some device in our hands. We call it "going vintage" time.
Suffice it to say, this is not their favorite book I've written.