The Horizontal Ladder

(2003)

Ever know anyone in high school who desperately wanted to be popular? This is the case with Mandy McDowell. Mandy dreams to be exactly like her mother: cheerleader and prom queen, at the top of the high school social ladder, and she’ll do anything to get there. There’s only one problem she can’t do anything about: her father is the school janitor.

Sam McDowell wants to give his daughter a good life. He spends as much money as he can afford to give her the clothes she wants, the gymnastics classes, the new car. But he can’t buy her a spot on the cheerleading team, and he can’t erase the car accident that changed his and Mandy’s lives forever. The pressure is driving him down a familiar path, towards drinking, self-destruction…and eventually, murder. The Horizontal Ladder is about the lengths a father will go for the love of his daughter.

This was the first novel I really attempted to publish.  I mailed it out to several publishing houses, but the feedback (aka rejections) I received made it clear that it would take a lot of work to make this work. There were some indications that this was too dark for a YA novel, and also that it was too similar to made-for-tv movies like “Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story” and “The Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Killing Mom.”

After Bethany Caleb, The Horizontal Ladder seemed almost easy to write.  I had a structure: 4 parts (Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, Junior Year, Senior Year) and the story followed Mandy’s stabs at becoming popular, her father’s attempts to help her, and Mandy’s former best friend Becca, who is at first hurt by Mandy’s rejection but later sees that Mandy has changed for the worse.

I probably won’t go back to work on this one, although some of the characters made it into other novels I wrote…

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