Ernessa T. Carter (photo: Christian Hibbard)

Fiction is rife with ugly ducklings who mature into beautiful swans. Some of them leave behind the tatty feathers of the past for the sequins of success, never to look back. Others are driven to soar higher, farther, faster in a “living well is the best revenge” on those who poked fun at their facades in the dark days of their uglihood. Then there are those who harry their harassers, plotting ingenious revenge on the beautiful people who shamed, bullied, and scorned them. This week in #litchat we’re discussing ugly ducklings in literature.

Guest host on Friday, August 12, is Ernessa T. Carter, whose debut novel, 32 Candles features an ugly duckling heroine who belts out velvet soul on stage while plotting silken revenge on her high school persecutors. Abuse isn’t new to Davidia Jones, though. Her mother, an alcoholic small-time prostitute beat the voice right out of Davidia when she was a child. Davidia finds refuge in the happy ending romances of Molly Ringwald movies until a particularly cruel prank by the richest and most beautiful girl in town sends Davidia fleeing for her sanity. On the road to sanity, she finds her voice on a nightclub stage in L.A. and grows into the skin she was born to flaunt as sultry chanteuse Davie Jones. Having eschewed the Molly Ringwald endings, the transformed Davie is stunned for the second time in her life when high school crush, James, brother to the cruel tormentor of her Molly Ringwald years, reenters her life. Davidia/Davie is one of those characters we root and rage with, whose struggle reminds us that to some extent we are all  products of personal reinvention.

Ernessa T. Carter, 32, has worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, a payroll administrator in Burbank, and a radio writer for “American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest” in Hollywood. She’s also a retired L.A. Derby Doll (roller-derby), and now lives, blogs, and writes in Los Angeles. A graduate of Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University’s MFA program, 32 Candles is her first novel. She blogs at www.fierceandnerdy.com.

Follow Ernessa T. Carter on Twitter: @ErnessaTCarter.