RP | Teens
Running Press

August 2012

$9.95 US

224p pb

ISBN: 978-0762446094


fp March 2011

www.SherryShahan.com

Purple Daze

Sherry Shahan

from Running Press...

Purple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing and volatile 1960's in America-- a time when young people drove a cultural and political revolution. With themes like the costs and casualties of war, the consequences of sex, and the complex relationships between teens, their peers, and their parents, this story is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.


Sherry Shahan has 30 books to her credit, fiction and nonfiction. Purple Daze is her first novel written in verse. Set in Los Angeles in 1965, Purple Daze is a story about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, and friendship. Six high school students share their personal experiences through journal entries, letters, interconnected free verse and traditional poetry.

What inspired you to write about the 1960s?
While cleaning out my office closet, I found a shoebox filled with letters from a friend who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s. I spent hours pouring through his gut-wrenching accounts. It was disturbing to watch a close friend turn from a carefree teenager into a calloused soldier. I knew I had to do something with his letters; after all, I’d kept them nearly 50 years.

Your adventure novels Frozen Stiff and Death Mountain are written in traditional narrative form. Why did you choose verse for Purple Daze?
Since Purple Daze was inspired by my friend’s letters it made sense to use letters as a form to portray his life in Vietnam. Then I began writing sketches about other high school friends. Once I began scribbling, memories assaulted me twenty-four-seven.

How challenging was this form?
Very! Each character required his or her own story arc - with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end - yet I had to weave each story smoothly into the whole. To me, this was the most effective way to give readers access to the inner most thoughts of all six characters. Here’s an example:
                                                                      ZIGGY
                                                             My motel sign:
                                                                 VACANCY
This poem is only two lines, yet it says volumes about Ziggy’s emotional state.
Perhaps more than if I’d written it in margin-to-margin prose. I think verse mirrors the pulse of adolescent life. Condensed metaphoric language on a single page is a good reflection of their tightly-packed world. Emotions are where teens live.

What type of research went into Purple Daze?
While Purple Daze draws from my high school memories, it’s not a memoir. Research included reading newspaper accounts and other books about those tumultuous times. Talking to Vietnam vets gave me details I hadn’t seen in secondary material. One guy told me he hung hand- grenades on the dashboard of his truck for easy access. His truck had a bullet hole in the door. “Lucky bullet,” he said. Those details went in the book.

Your characters often processed their world through music. Was that intentional?
Music is such a dynamic art form. Sixties music was charged with feelings about the war. Lyrics were a vibrant form of communication, a call to action. ‘The Unknown Soldier’ by The Doors, ‘One Tin Soldier’ by Original Caste, ‘Volunteers’ by Jefferson Airplane and dozens of others mirror feelings of that time.
Ultimately, though, Purple Daze is a story about six high school friends and their sometimes crazy, often humorous, and always dramatic lives. 


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