My Favorite Bit: Liz Michalski Talks About DARLING GIRL

Liz Michalski is joining us today to talk about her novel, Darling Girl. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In this beautiful, grounded, and darkly magical modern-day reimagining of J. M. Barrie’s classic, to save her daughter’s life one woman must take on the infamous Peter Pan—who is not the innocent adventurer the fairy tales make him out to be . . .

Life is looking up for Holly Darling, granddaughter of Wendy—yes, that Wendy. She’s running a successful skincare company; her son, Jack, is happy and healthy; and the tragedy of her past is well behind her . . . until she gets a call that her daughter, Eden, who has been in a coma for nearly a decade, has gone missing from the estate where she’s been long tucked away. And, worst of all, Holly knows who must be responsible: Peter Pan, who is not only very real, but more dangerous than anyone could imagine.

Eden’s disappearance is a disaster for more reasons than one. She has a rare condition that causes her to age rapidly—ironic, considering her father is the boy who will never grow up—which also makes her blood incredibly valuable. It’s a secret that Holly is desperate to protect, especially from Eden’s half-brother, Jack, who knows nothing about his sister or the crucial role she plays in his life. Holly has no one to turn to—her mother is the only other person in the world who knows that Peter is more than a story, but she refuses to accept that he is not the hero she’s always imagined. Desperate, Holly enlists the help of Christopher Cooke, a notorious ex-soldier, in the hopes of rescuing Eden before it’s too late . . . or she may lose both her children.

Darling Girl brings all the magic of the classic Peter Pan story to the present, while also exploring the dark underpinnings of fairy tales, grief, aging, sacrifice, motherhood, and just how far we will go to protect those we love.

What’s Liz’s favorite bit?

Liz Michalski

I write magical realism, meaning that the magic which occurs in my stories needs to be grounded in this world. And with many apologies to my high school chemistry teacher, science has always felt exactly like magic to me, with scientists appearing to be the modern-day equivalent of wizards and witches–ones who use their knowledge and skills for the good of the masses. I mean, come on — chemical explosions that light up the sky?  Palm-sized devices that let you see and talk with a loved one who is far away? Top-heavy aerodynamic machines that buzz? No one can convince me that fireworks, mobile phones, and helicopters aren’t magic.*

I wanted to root my characters in DARLING GIRL in science to ensure their believability, which meant doing a ton of research. Most of my favorite bits were uncovered at this stage, when I discovered that reality was far stranger than fiction.

For example, did you know there are people who have their blood drawn so that it can be used in cosmetic applications, like facials? (Being a mostly soap-and-water skincare fan and somehow having missed Kim Kardashian’s reality TV series, I had no clue.) Known as ‘vampire facials’ the treatment supposedly gives you younger-looking skin. Or did you know you can purchase skincare products custom-made from your own platelets to get the same promised glow? (These are, no surprise, not cheap, starting at over a thousand dollars a container.)

I also discovered a more disturbing study that showed blood from human teenagers, when injected directly into aging mice, improved the mice’s memory, cognition, and physical activity. A similar, more macabre study involved stitching young mice and old mice together. No surprise, the old mice benefited from the shared bloodstream, obtaining improvements in their brain activity, muscles, and liver.  (The news for the younger mice was correspondingly grim, showing a decline in memory.)

Humans being humans, we couldn’t leave it at the mice. Companies, ever mindful of our desire to avoid aging, have offered expensive infusions of youthful plasma to their clientele — who we may assume are on the older side.

In a world where this is possible, it felt believable to make my protagonist, Holly Darling–Wendy Darling’s granddaughter–a super smart scientist and owner of a skincare company. Under the guise of product development, she performs ethically questionable research, involving blood, in order to save her children’s lives.

Could Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, have availed himself of a vampire facial or two? I don’t want to give away the plot, but let’s just say in DARLING GIRL he’s less Dr. Emmett Lathrop Brown and more Lex Luther. In other words, some of my favorite research bits became some of my favorite story elements.

*Disclaimer — even if my creative brain doesn’t actually UNDERSTAND science, I still completely believe in it.


Darling Girl Universal Book Link






Liz Michalski is the author of Evenfall and a contributor to Writer Unboxed, dubbed a “best of the best” website for writers by Writer’s Digest.   DARLING GIRL is her second novel. Liz also contributed to Author in Progress, a manual for aspiring writers. A former reporter and editor, Liz now crafts articles on human interest, living, and health as a freelance writer. She lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she loves reading fairy tales and sometimes, writing them.

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