This 3-part (for now) series will soon move to Round 2.
Author Jessica McHugh has dropped by to talk a little bit about her writing of Darla Decker Hates to Wait, the first book in the new young adult coming-of-age series called the Darla Decker Diairies. Early reviews are nothing short of stellar, so if you’ve not yet discovered this edgy new series, with Book 1 out and Book 2 coming soon, now is the perfect time. And now, we’ll let Ms. McHugh tell you how this entertaining series came to be.
Breathing Real Life into a Fictional Young Girl
It began on April 12, 1989 with blue markers and heart stickers. Like a lot of girls, I kept a diary while growing up. Seven, actually. I spilled my heart and soul on those pages from the time I was seven years old until sixteen or so—about boys I “loved,” classes I hated, girls who annoyed me, punishments I received, and my great concern over discovering my brothers were (GASP) smoking cigarettes! Despite being afraid my family would sneak a peek at my diary, I was pretty honest with the pages—if you can’t be honest with your diary, who can you be honest with?
As I organized my Writing Hut one day, I stumbled upon those childhood diaries. Browsing through the silly entries and outlandish illustrations, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to base a series of YA books off of these? And to be as honest as these entries?”
Of course, I couldn’t do that. In late 2010, I was already slaving away on revisions for my Tales of Dominhydor series, editing my historical fiction Verses of Villainy, writing my novel PINS, and getting ready to oversee the production of my play Fools Call it Fate. Plus, after Dominhydor, I swore I’d never write a series again.
But once the title Darla Decker Hates to Wait popped into my head, I was doomed—or blessed, depending on the day. I was a huge Ramona Quimby fan when I was younger (I even have a Ramona Quimby diary!), but I wanted to raise the age and the edginess a bit. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t banish the idea to write a Judy Blume-esque series focusing on the frank nitty-gritty of growing up. That meant talking about French kissing, smoking, shoplifting, divorce, death, masturbation, and more, from the time Darla is eleven to when she graduates high school.
I tried to talk myself out of it, but Darla Decker quickly forced her way into my heart. In February 2011, I surrendered, and announced that I would write the series.
I’m afraid I’ll spoil you if I talk about too much, but rest assured, there’s lots of life on the horizon for Darla and her friends. I know basically where this series will go (and end), but if anything, these books have taught me to expect the unexpected. The first instance of that involved creating Darla’s circle of friends. I’d plotted out Darla Decker Hates to Wait to the fifth chapter before I began writing, believing a character named Nate Young would be Darla’s nemesis. Yet as I continued to weave the world of Shiloh Farms and Fairmount Middle School, Darla and Nate convinced me that they were meant to be friends. Best friends, even. That unexpected development led to one of the most enjoyable duos I’ve had the pleasure to write. Since I’m currently editing the third book Darla Decker Shakes the State, and writing the first chapter of the fourth, Darla Decker Plays it Straight, I can assure you that Darla and Nate only get more entertaining as the books go on.
Using my diaries and personal experiences, I’ve created an honest world in which Darla dwells. Not only are her thoughts and fears evident, an entire community functions in the background, from parents and teachers to classmates and neighbors. Writing a series as quickly as I’ve written the Darla Decker Diaries allowed me to immerse myself in this universe, in the hearts and minds of every character, no matter how small. I’ve felt their joys and sorrows, and honestly, it makes me wish I’d paid more attention to those background folks when I was Darla’s age. It’s a little painful, actually, because I have to be her age again as I write these books, and she doesn’t notice them any more than I did.
Ignorance is bliss—until it isn’t, and Darla will have her rude awakening, like most of us do as we grow up. Still, as protective as I am of my little Darla-ing, I must admit I’m also excited to run her through the pubescent wringer.
Darla Decker Hates to Wait by Jessica McHugh
Patience is not Darla Decker’s strong suit. Surviving sixth grade is tough enough with an annoying older brother, a best friend acting distant, and schoolwork. After adding instructive kissing games and the torturous wait for a real date with her biggest crush, Darla is perpetually torn between behaving like an adult and throwing temper tantrums.
Games of flashlight tag, and the crazy cat lady roaming Shiloh Farms in a “demon bus,” serve as distractions during her parents’ quarrels and her anxiety about show choir auditions. Yet the more Darla waits for her adulthood to begin, the more she learns that summoning patience won’t be the hardest part of being eleven.
A frank and funny look at the path to adulthood, Darla Decker Hates to Wait begins a journey of love, loss, and the nitty-gritty of growing up through Darla Decker’s eyes.
Darla Decker Takes the Cake by Jessica McHugh
A week at Camp Wakonda is exactly what Darla Decker needs. Having said goodbye to sixth grade and her best childhood friend, she’s ready to create new memories and meet new people. Unfortunately, entering summer camp on a whopper of a lie and a fight with a fellow camper isn’t the best way to begin.
Aided by her schoolmate Nate, Darla navigates the twists and turns of life at summer camp while pretending to be Wakonda’s only “undercover counselor.” Despite the lies, older guys, bullies, and breakdowns, Darla discovers the truth about friendship through the mayhem and magic of camp.
A frank and funny look at the path to adulthood, “Darla Decker Takes the Cake” continues the journey of love, loss, and the nitty-gritty of growing up through Darla Decker’s eyes.