Jonathan Michael, teen fiction enthusiast and Zondervan marketer, recently interviewed six authors of young adult fiction about the joys and challenges of writing. Also discussed: the struggles of biracial families, keeping fiction "real," where story ideas come from, and ghosts. Below I've transcribed some of my favorite parts from these video interviews, and you can follow the interview links to see more.
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WARNING for fans of teen fiction: you'll want to add at least one of these books to your Christmas wishlist.
Melody Carlson on authenticity: "I have a hard time being completely 'light'..."
JONATHAN: Your On the Runway series is kind of like high fashion meets reality TV. That sounds like a "light," subject but then you put some heavier things in there—
MELODY: I have a hard time being completely "light." [Laughs.] There's something about me that has to put that jolt of reality in it...
[My characters] are just getting out of their teen years, but they need to make some really hard life decisions, and one sister is really drawn towards all that glitters, all the glamor, and she makes some bad decisions. The other sister is trying to be a good Christian while helping her sister, and keeping the reality show going. And she is faced with some really difficult choices too, with her friends and her romances... I guess I like to keep it real. And that's the thing I hear back from teens, too — "Thanks, it feels real." Watch Interview
Learn more about the On the Runway Series
Visit her at www.melodycarlson.com
Joan Lester on writing about struggles of biracial teens: "I wanted to empower the reader..."
JOAN: I was impelled to write [Black, White, Other], because I'm a member of a biracial home. I have biracial kids, and I saw the kind of struggles they had...
I've written a lot of nonfiction about the topics of race and gender, those are kind of my areas of expertise. But to write about it in fictional form [was new for me].
In order to write good fiction, you have to create good characters that people will really care about, characters with flesh and blood... And I wanted my story to be inspiring, because that's the kind of literature I like to read and pass on. I wanted to empower the reader. Watch Interview
Bill Myers on exploring the supernatural
BILL: As we know, there's a huge fascination that teens have for the supernatural... So what I did in The Forbidden Doors series is explore these various supernatural counterfeits [such as seances, ghosts, ouija boards, reincarnation]. The premise of the stories are that a brother and sister, teens, have stumbled upon a group of kids in California who are experimenting with all this stuff, to see if it's something you should mess around with. There's a lot of true information in the stories...
[It's interesting] to see this pattern over and over again, in the legitimate supernatural counterfeit -- there's a good side to the supernatural too -- but with the counterfeit stuff, it's always the same pattern. It's [basically] glow-in-the-dark action figures that are saying "You are like God," or "Come worship me." And they only pick on Jesus Christ. They don't pick on Buddha or anyone else, they always say they're better than Jesus Christ, even the UFO abductees. That was interesting to me. Watch Interview
Heather Burch on heroic teens and writing "X-Men meets Cinderella"
HEATHER: My trilogy The Halfings is a story about Nikki Youngblood, who's being being hunted by men and demons. She turns to three half-human, half-angel young men for protection. While they're keeping her safe, two of them sort of fall in love with her... Which is deadly on a lot of levels.
I really wanted to write a story about teen heroes. I've known some amazing young people, and some of my characters are based loosely on young people I've known. I wanted to write a story with characters who were larger than life, but who were teenagers. Sometimes I call my trilogy "X-Men meets Cinderella." [She smiles.] Probably heavier with X-Men, with a little bit of Cinderella...
The challenge is to capture the attention of teens. There are so many things vying for their attention... If you can give a story that captures them, and eveything else just fades away? That is it, that's my challenge and that's what I hope to do. Watch Interview
Jill Williamson on imagination: No "completely new" stories? Okay, tell an old story from a new angle...
JONATHAN: What's the most challenging thing about writing for teens?
JILL: [She smiles.] Besides not being preachy with my story material? The hardest thing is being original. Everything has been done, no matter how clever you think you've been. Someone is even saying The Hunger Games has been done before as a Greek story or whatever... So if everything's been done, finding a new way to spin the story is a challenge. Watch Interview
Melanie Dickerson on reimagining classic stories for today's teens
MELANIE: I feel like I can relate to teens. You have teens who are really mature, they have faced a lot of things in their life already. The challenge is you want to be real ... you don't want to sugarcoat things ... and at the same time you don't want to introduce things they aren't ready to handle. Watch Interview
Jonathan Friesen on living out your bucket list
FRIESEN: [The Last Martin] is a nutty, crazy, mysterious kind of story. [The main character] Martin Boyle is terrified of germs, so he basically doesn't have a life... He learns his name is cursed and he only has three months to live. So I thought to myself, "What would I do if I only had three months to live?" Well I would try to pack in as much life as I could, and it turns out to very humorous results for Martin, because he's never done anything before! So he's doing things like talking to his crush, while trying to unravel the mystery of his curse... Watch Interview
Rachel Coker on the hardest (and most rewarding) part of writing
RACHEL: I wrote Interrupted when I was 14. The story is about Ally, a teenager in the 1940s. After her mother dies of a brain tumor, she has to move across the country and live with a new adoptive mother... It's a story of God melting her heart of stone...
The hardest part of writing anything is writing it to the end. When you begin you're always so excited, then you get to about page 50 or so, and it gets hard... When you have a story you're so passionate about, then you can make it to the end, and make even those tough scenes as enjoyable to read as everything else -- that's not only the hardest but also the most rewarding part of writing any book. Watch Interview
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- Adam Forrest
(This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's opinions are their own, and are shared for information purposes only. To receive new blogposts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)