I’d spent months participating in book festivals and conferences and realized that most of my panels hinged on conversations about the importance of respecting the intellect of the teenaged audience, of creating books with complex themes and dark, often-unpleasant issues—panels with titles such as, “How Adult is Too Adult for Young Adult?”
Fingerprints of You is a gritty contemporary novel, and it found its audience among readers who were looking for realistic honest fiction about the complexities of coming-of-age in our modern society. I love the book and feel deeply indebted to everyone who supported it, read it, and chose if for book clubs or classrooms, to everyone who told someone else that they should read it too. But it didn’t take long during my travels to notice the extreme difference in audience numbers and signing lines between young adult authors writing contemporary lit and those writing fantasy, dystopian, magical, futuristic or science fiction.
And that got me thinking.
Thinking about why readers are interested in books set in worlds or times outside of our reality. The answer, of course, is curiosity. And wonder. And innate interest in the possibility of the impossible, in the idea of “what-ifs.” In truth, I began Invisible Fault Lines as a direct reaction to my awareness of that type of reader curiosity. Because I became curious too.
When I set out to begin writing, I decided I wanted to explore those “what-ifs.” I wanted to write a book that considered the impossible as possible. I never imagined becoming a writer who wrote books about time-travel or alternate universes, but I wanted to be braver on the page, to take a risk and do something different than what I had done with Fingerprints of You. I also wanted to do it “my way,” though I wasn’t sure what that meant in the beginning. Ultimately, writing Invisible Fault Lines helped me discovered how I now define, “my way.”
Like my first book, this book is honest and realistic. It’s a character-driven story about the ways we cope with loss and an intimate look at one family’s modes of survival when faced with tragedy. But it’s something more, too. It’s a mystery novel with historical fiction elements blended into a contemporary story that contains hints of time-travel and the possibility of alternate worlds or simultaneous existences.
The novel has proven to be incredibly difficult to talk about. When people ask what it’s about, I stumble on my words. I want to hook them with the intrigue of a book primarily set in our contemporary world but one that also includes chapters set in 1906. I want to preserve the secret of the structure, but it’s impossible to describe the story without mentioning the blended genres and time periods.
My intention was to write a book that invited the reader to participate and to make his or her own decisions. I wanted to acknowledge that not all questions have clear answers, and I wanted readers to reevaluate their own beliefs and to consider how they would cope with the loss that my character is faced with it. The book asks a great deal of the reader in that way. And so I’ve settled on the label “hybrid”—it’s part contemporary, part historical, part mystery and part magical perhaps. In the end? The definition is really all up to you and how you read it.
Kristen-Paige Madonia is the author of Fingerprints of You, and her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, The New Orleans Review, American Fiction, and Five Chapters. She holds an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, and now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband and son. She teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha MFA program, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University. Visit her at KristenPaigeMadonia.com and @KPMadonia.