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Living Vicariously Through My Characters When I wrote The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, I knew right away that I wanted my main character, Gena, to be a dancer. It just seemed to fit her, somehow. And frankly, I wanted a little vicarious dance experience through her.
I was never a dancer. But in middle school, I wanted to be.
My only experience with any kind of structured dance before that was when I was about five years old, and my parents put me in a ballet/jazz/tap combo class for a year or so. But my first year in middle school, I saw our school drill team perform on stage. They looked so graceful, so in control of their bodies. I’d never realized how powerful it might be to move my body in connection to music like that. I wanted to learn how to express myself that way. So in eighth grade, I signed up for a dance class.
It was not a good experience.
Several other girls in the class had previous private dance experience. I felt shy and a little embarrassed around them, because they seemed to know what they were doing. All I seemed to know how to do was move awkwardly to the music. I was never bullied outwardly, but I got eye rolls and snickers behind hands directed at me. I stood out against conservative-colored dance leotards in my hot pink dance shorts, which also drew disgusted glances from a few girls.
I was too humiliated to ever take a dance class again. I still wanted to dance, and I did so—in my room, where no one could give me those looks and eye rolls and giggles. At school dances, I did little more than bounce to the beat, and was terrified that even that would make people laugh at me. By my senior year of high school, I braved up enough to take a ballroom class, which I loved, and in college I took a fabulous Polynesian dance class.
But part of me always regrets that I never did what I really wanted when I was a teenager—ballet, jazz, and lyrical dance. Giving that to my character, Gena, gave me a chance to live that. A bit literally, in fact. I’m still a bit shy about my dancing, but I checked out dance teaching videos at my local library and spent weeks learning basic ballet and jazz dance for research.
And now, in honor of all the dancing I wish I did, and of Gena’s desire to dance in the stars, I give you this amazing video from Japanese dance troupe Enra—dancing in the stars.
PRAISE FOR THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE
"...It’s the sensitive handling of emotional details and the trauma of too much connection that make this a story of interest. The reactions to memory losses are painful and poignant...For anyone fascinated with thoughts of omniscience and total social connection—and who isn’t?—McArthur’s debut suggests fascinating and chilling possibilities." -Kirkus Review
"Equal parts dark and delightful, McArthur's stunning debut takes an awesome SF premise and follows it deep into the maze of the human mind. I loved it so much I was jealous." –Dan Wells, author of the NYT bestselling PARTIALS Sequence
"A thrilling read from beginning to end, this stunning debut had me wishing I could record my memories to keep them safe! Just like Gena, I was desperate to discover the thief while at the same time hoping the story would never end." –Elana Johnson, author of the POSSESSION trilogy