Saturday, September 13, 2014

Teenage Angst Sucks

By J. Hughey (Guest Blogger)

I don’t really feel like blogging today so I’m telling myself how writing can be cathartic. The thing bothering me is something you’ll relate to. How do I know? I’m pretty sure you’ve lived through your own teenage angst, plus you may be lucky enough to relive it with your kids, like I am right now.

My husband and I just had a blowout with our seventeen-year-old son about a curfew he chose to ignore without bothering to text or call. Overall, we are very fortunate parents—no addictions, felonies, or pregnancies so far—but we do expect our kids to toe the line, especially when we are the ones providing the car, the smart phone, and all the usual fun teens expect.

From his point of view, thirty-five minutes after midnight is not so very late. And his mapping program lied to him. And he had an emotional friend to deal with before his departure. And it’s illegal to text and drive. What’s the big deal anyway, Mom?

I get it. I remember those days and I’m sure all of you do, too. Just like back then, I can’t wait for this phase to be over.

Reliving the cusp-of-adulthood angst has infiltrated my writing, sometimes rearing its head as a complete obstacle, like today. Other times, I’m writing it into my characters in Yellowblown™, my New Adult contemporary romance series that follows a college sophomore through the upheaval an eruption of the Yellowstone volcano causes across North America. Not only is she trying to get a life, she is dealt a really crappy set of circumstances that retract her options rather than expanding them at the moment she is contemplating independence. Moving home puts her back into the role of a child while outside forces give her new responsibilities and worries.

A big challenge with parenting—and writing—is keeping the personality you are dealing with in mind. Hubbie and I know our son. We know he is always going to push the envelope, like the old adage if we give an inch he will take a mile. So, we aren’t giving an inch on issues we especially want to manage, with the hope of getting him through his senior year of high school relatively unscathed. As for Violet Perch, my nineteen-year-old lead character in Eruption, I’ve struggled to show her age-appropriate angst without creating a young woman no one wants to spend five minutes with much less two hundred pages.

Teenage angst sucks, and as readers, we don’t want to be aggravated by protagonists the way real people, whether they be our children, other relatives, or the mouthy teen in the discount store can do. A book, we can set aside. Real people, not so much.

How to survive the teen years, both fictional and factual? Shine a light on the positive. I manage this better in my writing than my parenting, I’m afraid. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to break through the wall my son erected at the announcement of his punishment whereas my heroine reacts the way I tell her to so far.

Any words of wisdom for surviving the senior year of high school? A family friend said, “Stick to your guns, but continue to love him.” That seems pretty good, but I’m open to help.

I’m in the middle of the perfect college semester, hundreds of miles from Mom, with an awesome roomie and my freshman crush finally becoming a sophomore reality—Hotness! I’m figuring out calculus, I’ve got both hands on the handlebars and the wind of freedom in my hair. What on earth could slow my roll?

How about if the Yellowstone volcano erupts for the first time in 630,000 years, spewing a continuous load of ash (crap) all over North America? Think that’ll put a kink in my bicycle chain?

Make that kinks, plural, because here’s a scientific fact I’ll bet you didn’t know. Nothing ruins the perfect semester like a super caldera. Now that I’ve made you smarter today, maybe you can tell me how to keep my life cruising in the right direction—no to Mom, yes to roomie, double yes to Hotness!—during a global disaster?

My lame name is Violet and, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m not hanging from the side of a cinder cone on the last page of this trauma, but there’s definitely more to come. Unless, of course, humans become extinct and then there’s not. Duh.

Enjoy an excerpt from the day the eruption starts, September 13:

“You’re starting to freak me out,” I said. Boone looked like he was going to tell me someone had died, but he didn’t know anyone in my family, and surely the Dean of Students would not give him the responsibility of passing on bad news after three weeks of talking.

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t decide if I’m freaked out or not.” He took a deep breath. “Yellowstone is erupting.”

I stared at him, not a flicker of comprehension illuminating my dim-bulb mind. Nothing. “Yellowstone? The place with the, umm, geysers?” Obviously I’d heard of Yellowstone, never been there, not sure I could place it on a map in the murky part of the U.S. between where I lived and Hollywood.

“Yeah. Yellowstone sits over a hotspot that’s been around for millions of years.”

“Instead of steaming it’s now erupting? As in lava erupting?” We’d covered igneous rocks in a very general way already so I knew hot liquefied rock below the ground was called magma and, when it erupted, became lava.

“Dr. Potter says nobody knows what it’s doing. It blew this morning. I mean explosively blew. All the local sensors went offline. Satellite pictures show a big brown cloud of dust. Like two hundred miles across.”

Boone’s voice shook a fraction. I put my hand on his forearm. He sat back so he could hold it in his.

I asked, “Do you have friends out there, or family?”

“Not close. Dr. Potter knows I’m from Nebraska. He asked me where—made me point to it on a map. He said my family might want to stockpile supplies, or better yet, leave.” He paused, prompting me to scoot to the edge of my seat. “My house is nine hundred miles away from Yellowstone, Violet.”

“Are you serious?”

“He says if it does anything close to what it’s done in the past, thirty percent of the U.S. is pretty well screwed.”

I rifled through my bag to find my tablet. “Show me,” I said. “I need to see a map or something.”

“C’mon,” he said. He took me to Dr. Potter’s office. The professor ignored us. He jabbed his finger at his cell phone to enter a text message. The screen of his laptop glowed with a cascade of open program windows, and his iPad bonged with an incoming email tone. His finger did not pause when Boone led me to an ancient roller-shade map of the US.

“Yellowstone is here. Dr. Potter drew this red circle this morning.”

That’s not coming off any time soon, I thought as I studied the thick line of scarlet Sharpie.

“The last eruption basically obliterated everything within this oval.”


“Six hundred thirty thousand years ago,” Dr. Potter muttered. His trendy rectangular glasses sat askew on his nose. He swept his hand toward his laptop’s screen in a disgusted now-look-what-you’ve done gesture. I circled around his desk to see images more current than the one offered by the cartographic fossil on the wall.

A dark mess of chocolate pudding plopped in the midst of the whipped topping clouds of a satellite loop. The mass burgeoned over the northwestern U.S., dry pudding mix edges caught and swept east by the prevailing winds.

Anyone with a grandpa who blares Weather Watcher on the TV all day knows weather moves east.

Apparently, crap shot into the air by Yellowstone moves east, too.


Eruption: Yellowblown™ Book One is offered at the special introductory price of 99 cents for a short time, so grab your copy now.

If you’d like a chance to win some Yellowblown™ swag made with a series logo and Eruption cover charm, sign up for J. Hughey’s newsletter at

About J. Hughey

J. Hughey knows what a girl wants. Independence. One or two no-matter-what-happens friends. A smokin’ hot romance. A basic understanding of geological concepts. Huh? Okay, maybe not every girl is into geology, but J. Hughey is, and in the Yellowblown™ series she combines her passion for a timeless love story with her interest in geeky stuff to help Violet Perch get a life, despite an ongoing global catastrophe.

J. Hughey also writes historical romance as Jill Hughey.

Twitter: @jillhughey
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Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Jill,

I really like the premise of this book. And yes, it's hard enough to be a teen, even without an apocalyptic disaster interfering!

Thanks for being my guest!

Jill Hughey said...

Thanks for sharing my exciting news on Beyond Romance, Lisabet.

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