Please don’t tell anyone. As a card-carrying feminist I blush to reveal this—but when I was seventeen years old, I competed in a beauty pageant. Swimsuits, talent, evening gowns—the whole cringe-inducing nine yards, including the walk down the runway. Checklist: butt tucked, gut sucked, chin up, smile painted on—but act natural.
This stomach-knotting experience sprang to mind as I wrote a scene in my new book Crazy for you, in which my heroine, Mazie Maguire, is hauled into a police lineup. The events have a lot in common: the same sweaty, heart-pounding terror, knowing that people are critically judging every inch of you. You itch all over but you can’t scratch; your eyeballs feel dry but you can’t blink (blinking makes you look guilty); your panty hose is slithering down, heading toward your knees, but you can’t hike your skirt to yank them up. The only difference between a pageant and a police parade is: if you win the pageant you get a crown; if you get picked out of a lineup, you get a mug shot.
Writing the police lineup scene was enormous fun, just one more excruciating situation for Mazie to stumble through in the Escape Diaries series. Here’s another: Mazie and her gay friend Magenta find themselves at a male exotic dance show called Hunk-a-rama.
My heart stood on its head and spun into a break dance. These guys smoked! They were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, all colors, all races, a candy box of Y chromosomes guaranteed to please every taste, from boy next door to devil in disguise, all of it wrapped inside delts and pecs and abs and quads like the ones on comic book superheroes. They ripped off their shirts and the room erupted, women whistling, whooping, and whipping their undies onto the stage. The Hunks broke into a dance number, their body language clearly conveying the message: I can make you moan three octaves above your normal orgasm range.
Writing the Hunks was terrific fun—and involved some interesting research—but my favorite scene is the one in which Mazie and Ben Labeck, her main squeeze—find themselves on opposite sides in a blood’n’guts paintball battle. When Ben steals the glowstick from Mazie and runs it back to his goal, she’s so furious she tackles him—which is against the rules—but it stirs up the sexual tension to the boiling point.
The big gorilla was dancing toward the goal, whipping around to taunt me, waving the red stick high above his head, doing a mocking waggle-hipped victory dance. Anger boiled up in me. Taunt me, will you? I hurled myself toward him in a clench-jawed, do-or-die leap so incredibly pointless that he reeled backward in disbelief and stumbled over a hidden rock. Then I was on him, locking my arms around his knees, tackling him to the ground. We rolled down a slope in a bumping, thumping ball of flailing limbs.
Crazy for You isn’t all police lineups, guys with tear-away costumes, and wrestling in the snow. There’s a lot of what I hope is good mushy stuff too—Ben and Mazie confessing secrets, cuddling, and kissing—and they don’t need tearaway outfits because they’re doing just fine the old-fashioned way—ripping each other’s clothes off.
Takeaway: This story was a joy to write, and I hope readers will have as much fun reading it as I did creating it. Oh—in case you’re wondering—I didn’t win the pageant. But I still have the glittery pageant sash. It’s draped across my computer.
Have you ever been in a situation where your palms were sweaty, your heart was racing, and you knew everyone was judging you? (Sounds like my wedding) Maybe a volleyball game where you made a bad move, a play where you flubbed your lines, a cooking demo that went bad? Please write, because misery loves company!
About the author:
Juliet Rosetti grew up on a Wisconsin farm. She has taught school in Milwaukee and in Sydney, Australia, where her duties included coaching cricket and basketball. Her work has appeared in The Milwaukee Journal, Chicago Tribune, and in many other publications. She is a past winner of Wisconsin Magazine’s Wordsmith Award for nonfiction. Currently she lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with her husband and son, teaches in the local public school system, and is writing the next book in the Mazie Maguire series.