Writing is an excellent way to reclaim the world around us. It’s a way to start fresh, right wrongs, start conversations, and to build the worlds and characters we know and love, while also creating new ones. Writing is also a way to take control of your world, with your own endings and outcomes unfolding the way you envision them, which debut novelist Candace Ganger kept in mind as she wrote The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash.
“The tragedy that connects Birdie and Bash was inspired by something that happened to my extended family. Though I wasn’t born when it happened, the memory of it is tattooed in our history. I’ve wanted to rewrite the ending to that event for many years, but nothing ever felt right — until now.”
Sebastian Alvarez is trying to keep his life together, stay in school, and see his beloved Ma through chemo. When he meets Birdie Paxton, the school’s near-Valedictorian whose nerdy T-shirts and sarcastic quips make her irresistible, he’s suddenly not worried about anything. Before they can exchange numbers, their friends drag them away. One night, Birdie’s little brother is hit by a car, driven by Bash’s best friend. The tragedy links them together, although neither know it yet. When Birdie and Bash reconnect, and begin to fall for each other, the events of the accident unfold, changing their lives in irreparable ways.
Ganger used the emotions and memories from an accident in her own family history to write poignant and heart-wrenching scenes. Keeping the story of her family and the story of the Paxton family separate was a careful balancing act.
“Re-reading, and revising, those key scenes were difficult, and always will be for me, or anyone in my family. But, I wouldn’t have written the book the way I did if I never had any intention of a new ending, somehow. In writing a story that stems from real life, I found it extremely difficult to separate myself from the book and what was happening to the Paxton family because my family was in such a similar position at one time. Writing fiction from fact takes flexing a different creative muscle, so not to cause additional harm, or write something that’s too true to life.”
After the accident, Birdie’s parents spend all their time at the hospital, while her sister lashes out at any attempt to control her. Wild Kyle, Bash’s de-facto best friend, attempts to numb the guilt by using substances to numb the pain. Right and wrong, punishment and consequence, science and faith, death and life, and grief and hope are all balanced together, and this came with its own set of challenges.
“It was my intent to show that, while there’s certainly some clear cut topics where sides argue against one another, there’s also a gray area. I think that’s a line a lot of people straddle. Morally, we may know what’s right, but get caught making a bad decision that could literally cost us our lives. Likewise, when grieving, I can feel pretty desperate and hopeless, but the irony of needing that hope to pull through is something that’s always fascinated me.”
Birdie relies on the normalcy and routine of school and science to see her through.
“I love smart main characters and wanted a way to showcase her wits, not only by talking about how smart she is, but showing with actual information. Because Birdie and Bash’s relationship coincides with The Collision Theory itself, I thought it important to write Birdie’s way of working through grief with scientific anecdotes because that’s the only way she’s able to realize her feelings. This helps the reader understand where she’s coming from when she seems cold, or unfeeling, but really, she doesn’t know any other way to verbalize what’s inside.
“I didn’t want her to shy away from how smart she is or hide the answers she knows, or even to hesitate in showing off her skills in front of anyone, like Bash. Girls shouldn’t ever hide their intellect. If anything, shout it to the world because you’re going to rule the world someday.”
On the other side of town, Bash struggles with balancing his guilt and his newfound love for Birdie while spending his time trying to make his mother proud and do the right things.
“On the outside, he appears to be a bruting boy who doesn’t care about much (or has been taught not to show his feelings because it might interfere with his masculinity). Once you get to know him, you see how compassionate and deeply-feeling he really is. The simple acts of taking flowers to his Ma, or obsessing over the bad decisions he’s made, make him relatable. You don’t want him to do the things he does, but because you get a glimpse of what he’s feeling on the inside, you understand him a bit more and root for him to do better. I never struggled with balancing Bash’s feelings and emotions because I knew from the very beginning how I wanted his story to go. I wanted to capture Bash’s internal struggle within his world, because I think a lot of us deal with similar themes.”
The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash is a heartwarming debut available now that flawlessly deals with morality, grief, and the whirlwind feelings of first love and is sure to break your heart and put it back together again. For more on Candace Ganger, you can visit her website and follow her on Twitter.