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
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