Have you seen the Teen Summer Reading Series shop on chapters.indigo.ca? Not only is it your one-stop place to pick up titles from our Teen Summer Reading Series authors, but it's also where you'll be voting to choose the #1 Teen Summer Read for 2011.
Tell your friends, make teams, and get voting!
Remember that the Teen Summer Reading Series interviews post here on Thursdays, and keep following @IndigoTeenBlog for the giveaways all Summer long.
Let's say your parents had a lot of money. You had the best of everything and ruled the school. Now, let's say your father ran off with your friends' parents money and you had to leave town in disgrace. Imagine having to return to that town and finding out the guy who lives in your former residence—and now has all of your former friends—is someone that you might actually want to date.
That's sort of the set-up for She's So Dead to Us, the riches to rags and rags to riches story of Ally Ryan and Jake by Kieran Scott. He's So Not Worth It, the second installment of this contemporary fiction trilogy, released earlier this summer just in time for a trip to The Shore.
Indigo Teen Blog: What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
Kieran Scott: I have so many books on my list it’s ridiculous, but the two I’m most looking forward to reading are the final books in two of my favorite trilogies, Jenny Han’s We’ll Always Have Summer and Maggie Steifvater’s Forever. I’ve also wanted to read Shanghai Girls by Lisa See for a while. The sequel just came out so I’ve really got to get to the first one already! Maybe when I hit the shore later in the summer.
ITB: What's been your most memorable summer read and why?
KS: I distinctly remember reading Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet Feather on the beach a while back. I loved the characters so much I couldn’t put it down. I think I got a sunburn reading it because I forgot to re-apply sunscreen! I also read Confessions of a Shopaholic for the first time over a summer and it inspired me NOT to go clothing shopping in the fall. Binchy and Kinsella are two of my favorite authors. I read everything they write.
ITB: Describe your ideal summer day?
KS: I would definitely be on Long Beach Island—my favorite place on the Jersey Shore and where He’s So Not Worth It is set—with my family. We’d get up and ride our bikes to our favorite breakfast place and eat outside while the world came slowly to life around us. Then we’d spend the rest of the day playing, reading and dozing on the beach. We’d stay until the lifeguards quit for the day and everyone started to pack it in, so we could watch the beach get really quiet. After the sun went down we’d go out to dinner and for ice cream and maybe catch a good summer movie (something with superheroes or romance—or both), then fall asleep with the windows open listening to the surf. Hmmm... Can you tell I’ve thought about this a bit?
ITB: Summer eats/treats you can’t live without?
KS: Sweet New Jersey corn on the cob is a must. I also love it when blueberries and strawberries are in season. But let’s be honest here, I’m all about the ice cream. Every year I get a Chipwich or two on the beach. And hot dogs at Yankee Stadium, of course.
ITB: Why did you choose to write the She’s So Dead to Us trilogy from both Ally and Jake’s POVs?
KS: I love writing first person, so that was a no-brainer, but what really intrigued me was writing from a guy’s point of view. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could get inside the head of someone so different from me. I’ve also always loved books from different points of view in which you can really hear the different voices. Jennifer Weiner’s great at it, Maeve Binchy as well. Dean Koontz and Anne Rice were big favorites of mine as a teen and I think it’s because they had that ability to make different POV’s so unique and genuine. I hope I pulled it off, too!
ITB: I have to ask since you’re from New Jersey… Is the Jersey Shore at all a true representation of your state?
KS: Um, no. I actually have an idea to do a commercial about New Jersey where I just go around to all the awesome, down-to-earth, smart, creative, athletic, inspiring, intelligent, successful people I know and have them look into the camera and say “I’m New Jersey.” Because the people on that show are not representative of this amazing state I live in.
ITB: Can you tell us a little bit more about the @AnnietheNorm twitter?
KS: I had this idea to give Annie a twitter account because in the books I’m always referencing how much she loves to dish about the Cresties on twitter and facebook. So I started it up, all excited, but then let it go because I couldn’t figure out what timeframe she would be tweeting in. But THIS summer, I’m taking it to a whole new level because He’s So Not Worth It came out at the beginning of the summer and really takes the reader from June to September, so I now have a timeline to follow. Annie’s going to be tweeting inside info and secrets in “real time” along with the timeline of the book this summer. Look for lots of tweets around major events in the book, like July Fourth weekend and the end of summer bash at Faith’s, but there will also be so juicy tidbits about Will, Chloe, Jake, David, Marshall, Shannen and Faith in between.
Thanks to Kieran for answering our questions and our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for arranging the interview.
Follow our Teen Summer Reading Series:Libba Bray
Blood Red Road is Moira Young's debut novel, and it has been getting attention from the Los Angeles Times and The Globe and Mail. Saba goes searching across the shifting sands and through Hopetown to find her missing twin brother, Lugh after he's taken from their home by cloaked riders. Part True Grit, part The Road, with a dash of Hunger Games or Gladiator, Blood Red Road is the first novel in a brutal Wild West dystopia trilogy.
Indigo Teen Blog: What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
Moira Young: I’ve read about half of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, so my summer recreational reading treat is to read the rest of them.
ITB: What's been your most memorable summer read and why?
MY: When I was about 11 or 12, I made a tent in the backyard from a smelly old blanket that our ginger tomcat used to sleep on. No one else was allowed to enter the sacred space, particularly my younger sisters. There, I spent the summer eating processed cheese sandwiches on white bread and reading the same six Tiger Beat magazines over and over again until I’d worn the paper thin with my feverish perusal. I learned many life-altering facts about Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. Now I realise it was all made up by bored hack journalists. Still, it might be possible that Donny Osmond’s favourite colour is purple.
ITB: Describe your ideal summer day?
MY: I would transport myself back to my childhood for a Sunday picnic. Our extended family of grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins—perhaps 20 of us—would meet up in Stanley Park in Vancouver. The raffia picnic baskets and cool boxes would disgorge their miraculous contents and be spread out on long picnic tables and we’d eat from paper plates and drink forbidden sodas. Afterwards, we kids would chase and play and shout while the grown ups gossiped mildly of deaths and births and scandals. Then, as the shadows started to grow long, we’d pack our baskets, load the cars and go our separate ways. I’d give anything to have one of those days again. When I had no thoughts of growing up. When I had no idea that one day there would be empty spaces at the long table.
ITB: Summer eats/treats you can't live without?
MY: A long, cool gin and tonic with ice and lemon.
ITB: How did you develop the dialect Saba uses?
MY: In early versions of what would become Blood Red Road, I was simply using different words every now and again; for objects, natural events, people and so on. But I realised that that wouldn’t do, so I started to think about how English is constantly changing. The way we spoke two hundred years ago is not as we speak now, nor will it be the way English is spoken two hundred years in the future. I had to think about the kind of world my characters would be living in and the kinds of lives they would be leading, because that dictates how people speak. It took me a long time to find Saba’s voice, but when I did, it came quite easily. Of course, the characters’ voices are born of the writer’s many inner voices, so the language of the book reflects where I’ve been, what I’ve done and who I’ve met in my life.
ITB: Where do you imagine Blood Red Road as taking place?
MY: Somewhere vast and expansive, with plains and mountains. My own inner visual landscape comes from growing up in Canada, on the West Coast and the prairies, but it could take place anywhere that fits that description. Australia, Russia, Asia, South America, Africa—wherever the reader’s visual landscape comes from. Saba’s world is dry and dead and harsh, but it wasn’t always that way.
ITB: Was there a character who surprised you as you wrote? Were any of the characters particularly difficult to write? Why?
MY: Jack always surprised me and continues to do so. I don’t actually write him, he writes himself. The moment he appears on the page, my fingers fly over the computer keys. I have a hard time keeping up with him. The hardest character in this first book was Vicar Pinch, the King. Villains are much more difficult to write than heroes.
Thanks to Moira for answering our questions, and to the good folks at Random House Canada for arranging the interview.
Follow our Teen Summer Reading Series:Sarah Dessen
Last summer, Kelley Armstrong won the Best Canadian Read Award in our Teen Read Awards, so when we decided to run a series of summer author interviews, we had Kelley at the top of our list.
The Gathering, Kelley's newest YA, begins her new Darkness Rising trilogy, and ENTHRALLED, the anthology she co-edited with Melissa Marr and featuring authors from last year's Smart Chicks Kick It Tour, will be available September 20th.
Indigo Teen Blog: What made you decide to set The Gathering on Vancouver Island?
Kelley Armstrong: I needed cougars (the feline variety). While they can be found all along the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to avoid anything near the Twilight setting (or that made a good excuse for picking Canada instead!) Van Isle has the densest population of cougars in North America—though islanders can still live their lives there and never see one.
ITB: If it were up to you, would you rather see your novels adapted as graphic novels or films?
KA: On a personal level, graphic novels. That would be a great opportunity to see the books come to life as I imagined them. Movies are a version of the book, rather than a faithful adaptation. In the right hands, that could make an even better story. In the wrong hands, it could disappoint and upset readers. Overall, from a career perspective, though, movies or TV would get me a lot bigger audience :)
ITB: If you could go on a picnic with one of your characters who would you choose? Why?
KA: Well, none of the werewolves, because they'd eat all the food. I'd pick Maya [from The Gathering] and a woodland setting. She's so at home in the forest that she'd know all the great spots to explore afterward.
ITB: Which books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
KA: I'll avoid picking favourites in fiction by instead pointing to a stack of research books growing beside my desk. I've been collecting books on Norse mythology, omens and superstitions, and Celtic folklore for a two upcoming series, and I can't wait to dive back into them after a few months off.
ITB: What's been your most memorable summer read and why?
KA: I spent one summer reading Les Miserables years ago, and it pretty much took all summer, so that one has stuck in my head as a great summer read.
ITB: Describe your ideal summer day.
KA: A sunny, warm day at a cottage, just hanging out with my family, swimming, hiking, etc. We usually rent a cabin or beach-house in a different spot in Canada each year. We won't be doing that this year—it didn't work out with our schedules—and I'll miss it.
ITB: Is there a summer treat you can't live without?
KA: Chocolate banana smoothies. That's my go-to breakfast when the heat settles in. Light, cold and refreshing...with chocolate.
Check out this trailer for The Gathering:
photo credit: Curtis Lantinga and Doubleday Canada.
Follow our Teen Summer Reading Series:Libba Bray
You may have noticed over the past month the book discussions with and guestposts from Melanie Fishbane. I’m happy to share with you that she’s joining Indigo Teen Blog as an official contributor. From this week forward, she’ll be sharing her passion and knowledge about teen books through weekly posts. Welcome, Melanie!
You may already know her from Community (the online booklovers community, not the TV show), as she’s chapters.indigo.ca’s Teens' Editor & Kids' Editor and one of Indigo’s online merchandisers. She’s also the face behind @IndigoKidsBlog, so add her to the tweeps you follow.
What’s really exciting about having Melanie joining the blog officially is that she has extensive knowledge of contemporary YA fiction. I tend to read very fantasy-heavy, so this means that Indigo Teen Blog will be a more balanced representation of everything from the section. As she’s in Toronto and I’m in British Columbia, the blog now really is all across Canada.
Summer marks the beginning of one more very cool thing: The Indigo Teen Blog Summer Reading Interview Series!
Starting this week and running for the next nine weeks, we’ll be posting an interview a week with great YA authors talking about their latest book and favorite summer things. And who better to kick things off than Kelley Armstrong?
Several friends had been encouraging me to read The Demon's Lexicon, and it was one of those books I kept meaning to get to, but it was backlist and so many new things kept coming out. Well, after meeting Sarah Rees Brennan at RT Teen Day as part of a not-so-covert operation to get a BFF's copy of The Demon's Covenant signed—as opposed to the incredibly covert operation to get this same BFF a signed copy of The Demon's Lexicon—I was so awed by Sarah that now I want to read EVERY book she ever writes.
Having read the first two, I am so excited to spend this week reading the newly released final book of the trilogy, The Demon's Surrender.
Thank you so much to Sarah Rees Brennan and our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for setting up this interview.
Indigo Teen Blog: I really enjoyed Nick’s POV in The Demon’s Lexicon and how Mae’s POV in The Demon’s Covenant gave us a completely different look at him. So what comes first for you: the idea for the story or the choice of who needs to tell it?
Sarah Rees Brennan: Thank you! My decision to tell each of the three books in the trilogy from a different character's point of view is a weird one, I know, but I've had lots of fun with it: letting it expand the world naturally, letting us see characters from three different angles, and thus get something close to the truth, since no one person tells the whole truth. I hope readers have liked it too!
My decision to write Nick's POV in The Demon's Lexicon was one that came all wrapped up in my idea for the story: I wanted to examine the classic figure of Mr Tall Dark Handsome And Kind Of Scary from his own point of view, not the point of view of someone mystified by him or distracted by his good looks, work out why he was the way he was, and portray him as broken and unlikable (and yet to some people, lovable) from inside his own head.
For The Demon's Covenant, though, I knew what happened but I did ponder a couple characters' points of view before picking Mae, and for The Demon's Surrender, I really wanted Sin but did discuss other options. I hope the people who read the books think I made the right choices. ;)
ITB: Speaking of Mae: I think she’s a brilliant character, but other readers seem to disagree. Do you have any theories or comments on the reaction of “Mae is annoying” or “I hate Mae”?
SRB: Well, clearly something is very wrong there: everyone has to respond to me and all my characters with instant worship and love, or else I break out my internet death ray. ;)
No, okay, being serious (which I hardly ever am...how strange this is, kind of uncomfortable...do some people live like this all the time?) I think Elie Wiesel was right—'The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.' I kind of like it when readers come to me and say 'Nick is SUCH a jerk' and 'I will NEVER trust Alan again.' Being a writer means that people in your head seem real to you: the trick to being a good writer is that you have to make them real to everyone else. And no real person is liked by everyone ever: all people have flaws, and get up someone else's nose so far they hit brain. So, on one hand, it's awesome when someone dislikes Mae, because it means she seems real to them.
On the other hand, dislike for Mae in particular is, I think, sometimes not about Mae herself, but how we—girls and boys alike—see girls in fiction. There are more boys' stories out there in books and movies, and girls are seen as 'the girlfriend'—even in stories where the girl is telling the story, sometimes it's all about her boyfriend. So people are a bit more wary of girl characters, and tend to dismiss them or be harsher toward them (just like in the real world, where if a guy is wearing a tight T-shirt, who cares, but if a girl is wearing a tight T-shirt, that says something about her).
I never expected quite so many people to react so strongly to Mae, since I always thought of her as the most normal of my motley bunch of main characters. (This is not saying much). She grounds the series for me: she's not scared and in need of rescue, or physically kickass (mind you, I like both those kinds of girl too), but a girl trying to deal with a very strange and dangerous situation mostly using her brain. I've seen a lot of that character in fantasy—new to the fantastical world, brave and a bit reckless and a bit clueless—but I'd mostly seen them as a boy, so I thought it would be fun to make her a girl. And as The Demon's Lexicon series doesn't centre on romance but on family, I didn't think much about her attitude toward romance, except that I wanted it to be normal: she doesn't want boys pushing her around, she isn't sure who she wants to end up with, and she's attracted to more than one person at a time, because sometimes you are. So some people calling Mae a ho surprised me: it never occurred to me that a girl who kisses a few people would be an issue, especially since there are frisky demons roaming around this series.
But I was also surprised by the positive response to Mae: fans of mine dressing up as her, and dyeing their hair pink to be like her, and saying how pleased they were to see a girl who was in charge like she was. I did an interview with Ms. Magazine in which we discussed Mae, and how very glad I was she'd appealed to people who wanted and hadn't found a heroine like her.
Mae was also in a bit of a tight spot as the most important girl of the series by miles for the first two books. Another girl called Sin narrates the Demon's Surrender and takes some of Mae's spotlight, and I'm very interested to see how readers react to her, particularly since Sin is pretty into kissing and is self-confident herself.
So in conclusion: I'm glad not everyone likes Mae, even though some of the reasons for not liking Mae trouble me, and I'm very glad some people really like Mae.
ITB: Had you always planned to play an active role in your fan community or did it evolve as your books grew more popular?
SRB: I am a total fangirl myself, and always wanted to go online and talk about the books and movies I love: I've made some of my best friends that way. I still remember being wee and making a valiant effort to look at every Buffy website on the internet. And I had a blog for years before I ever got published. So I always intended to play as active a role as possible (without being creepy... okay maybe a little creepy) if I was ever so lucky as to have a fan community.
It's a privilege to have one, and a privilege to talk to so many smart people who inexplicably like what I do. ;) And I've been wowed by the art and other things they've produced to show me that they do. It's also allowed me to reach them, put up free short stories online and know they'll see them, because I think every writer wants to thank their readers, but finding out their addresses and sending kittens is frowned on. This is a much easier way to give presents!
I'm really lucky to have the fans I do — a very high percentage of my fans turn up at events, talk about my books to others and online, and talk to me about my books, which I appreciate more than I can say. My fan community is its own reward: it's like having the universe say 'In return for eating that delicious candyfloss, we are giving you a pony!'
ITB: You’ve participated in Smart Pop Book’s collections on The Hunger Games and The Vampire Diaries TV show. Why would you say it’s important to have these deeper discussions about the stories we love?
SRB: Well, the most important reason for me (and the reason for 'why are you a writer,' too) is 'Because it's fun.' I love being wrapped up in stories, and I love talking about them. Like I said in the answer above, I crawled all over the internet looking for people to talk about my favourite stories (movies, TV shows and books) from the time I was about ten. I tweet about the Vampire Diaries as I watch it: I just want to have these discussions: they're my favourite kind of discussions, and the people who want to have them with me are my favourite kind of people.
It also enhances the experience: someone always notices something you didn't notice, and it's often something cool. When it's not, sometimes it's an issue you can think about, and that enriches your reading and viewing pleasure. People come together over huge distances over their love of stories, and I always want to cross that distance to them.
ITB: Alan is on the cover of The Demon’s Surrender, which I take to mean the book will be the best of all. Is this a fair assessment? What can you tell us about this final adventure?
SRB: Yes, this book is the best of all. Of all the books. Of all time. I urge you all to read it. ;)
Okay, I'm lying. Like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, 'I cannot decide on my own performance.' But I know I had a lot of fun writing this book, and that I tried hard to write it right—this is the conclusion, so it had to be the payoff for all the characters and all the storylines that my readers deserved! It also had to be a book that stood on its own, and that was fun, so it has all the action, romance, magic and parties I could put in.
Alan, the hero's sweet nerdy older brother with a soft spot for books and lost causes and a real talent with long-range weaponry, has lots of fans who were pleased to see him on the cover! Which makes me really happy—Simon & Schuster took on an epic task, finding a model with red curly hair who looks cute in glasses, and I was so stunned and pleased they managed it! And it's been a revelation to me, how many guys have said 'thanks for making the nerdy guy kick ass' and how many girls there are who like guys who read. Of course, I'm not sure why, since I always did myself...
As for the final adventure, well...you find out which romantic couple has been the One True Couple for me all along, you hear a demon indicate it might actually genuinely love someone, you see someone's hand chopped off, the Thames river set on fire, and one more epic sword fight in modern London for the road.
ITB: Your next trilogy, starting with LISTEN FOR A WHISPER, is rumored to be a gothic romance involving lady detectives. Anything else you can share about it?
SRB: That rumor you have heard is most accurate! I am now the proud possessor of a whole bookcase full of Gothic novels. What's a Gothic novel about?
INNOCENT YOUNG MAIDEN: Boy, this is a creepy old mansion, in which live a creepy old family, who are all nursing creepy old secrets. What was that sound?!
MANLY DUDE: Probably the pipes.
MAIDEN: I think someone's trying to kill me! How else can you explain the rising body count, mad cackling outside my door, and numerous unexplained fires?
MANLY DUDE: Probably the pipes.
MAIDEN: Maybe you're the one trying to kill me.
Gothic novels fell out of vogue as women became much less likely to stay in a creepy mansion, because they had other jobs they could get and cellphones and could go on dating sites looking to meet Mr 'Less Creepy Than Current Boyfriend.'
But teenagers still have to go wherever their parents take them, even if it is to creepy old mansions in which live creepy old families and creepy old secrets. So I thought the kid taken to the creepy mansion could be a guy, since the idea of a sulky teenage guy used to San Francisco being transplanted into an English manor o'horrors would be So. Much. Fun.
Since that leaves my heroine with something to do: in a Gothic novel, there are all these secrets. What this calls for is an intrepid reporter! As a fan of Lois Lane ever since I was tiny, this was clear to me at once.
And as the Gothic always contains so many secrets (probably the pipes), I thought it would be a nice switch to have two people who don't have secrets from each other—two people who thought they had an imaginary friend (or were crazy) and then discover their imaginary friend is real.
And what would you do, if you met a stranger who knew all your secrets? (DUN DUN DUN.) So: yes, that's my new trilogy! I am hoping people will like it: I love it a lot.
ITB: Your blog has a tag specific for Adventures. What has been your favorite of your most recent ones?
SRB: My blog DOES have a tag specific for adventures. I have a lot of adventures: the image of a writer who sits at her desk is not very much like me. I always want to ground my books in the real world, plus magic goings-on. So I have wandered into armories and asked guards how to kill people, called up tourist offices and asked to be directed to dodgy parts of town, and balanced on the support rail of the Millennium Bridge. I research for YOU, my readers! There is nothing I will not do to hone my craft, even if this means the prospect of some jail time.
Which brings me to my latest adventure. Well, writing about a teen sleuth who can't flash her reporter credentials about the place means that you have to think creatively about how she gets her information. So I have been trying out various sneaky methods of my own.
Infiltrating a hotel as staff is quite easy, as it turns out. But, IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: Do not choose a ferry for this impersonation. When discovered, you will be left in Wales, and that will be an embarrassing phone call for you.
The story of how I got the uniform is another adventure entirely...
ITB: Maybe you can come back another time and tell it. ;) Thanks so much for the stories and advice and the answers, Sarah!
SRB: Thanks so much for having me, and for the most excellent questions — I hope everyone who reads this enjoys it... and I also hope they enjoy The Demon's Surrender. ;)
The title is a reference to Libba Bray's response to the article that prompted this post.
Alas, once again, someone was wrong on the internet about young adult fiction. Nearly once a week, someone is wrong on the internet about YA fiction, but this particular incident is an article by Meghan Cox Gurdon entitled Darkness Too Visible in the Wall Street Journal, which basically calls for an intervention against the dark books of YA for the sake of the children (interesting to note is that the article now contains a poll asking if dark themes in youth fiction are helpful or harmful and when I checked the results on Tuesday afternoon they were 82% in favor of helpful).
Since this happened, there have been some incredible responses defending dark books and the right of teens to read them. You can search #YAsaves on twitter—and the hilarious #YAkills—for bite-sized responses. Blogs have been posting rebuttals since Sunday, and one of my favourites is from Emma, a Canadian teen book blogger, who wrote an open letter to Gurdon entitled There Are Whole Lives In These Bookshelves.
It makes me sick to my stomach to read of a friend's novel—which donates proceeds to charity to help self-injurers recover—be suggested as a means of glamorizing cutting. But could there be a valid point buried in all of the Gurdon's bias? Does the theory that reading dark books is detrimental to a teen reader hold any water?
I am not an investigative journalist of the fine calibre that the Wall Street Journal employs, but I'll give answering that question a shot:
No, it's not detrimental. I base this mostly on my personal opinion that I've become a well-adjusted member of society because of all the dark books I read as a teenager. My dark came from fiction. My dark plays itself out in the fiction I write. Healthy expression that harms no one, except maybe that one friend who had the phobia about birds—but that was pre-existing (Ok, and there's that other friend who is a tad more wary of mirrors now, but adults scare way easier than teenagers).
When I was a teenager, I read Stephen King’s It and ever since I have had this intense distrust of clowns. Not because I believe they are child-stealing shape-shifters who live in the sewers. I mean, even as an impressionable teenager I could tell the difference between fiction and reality, but there is something unsettling about all that facepaint messing with my brain’s ability to immediately categorize a clown as a person.
Maybe clowns have always been a little unsettling and Mr. King just played into that when he wrote his novel. I realize it’s a radical notion that authors who Make Stuff Up play on existing fears instead of creating new ones, but it’s pretty tame compared to the suggestion that no one should read The Hunger Games because it’s violent.
Of course, it’s violent; it’s an anti-war trilogy. If you read The Hunger Games and all you think is how cool it would be to fight people to the death, then you’ve missed the point of the book. When you can miss a point that obvious, what books you’re reading aren’t the real issue that needs to be addressed.
Of the many teens I’ve spoke to who have read The Hunger Games, I can’t recall a single one who honestly wants to be put in the Games. They’re happy to discuss the hypothetical situation, but they don’t want that to be their reality.
Seriously, though, teen lit makes adults who don’t read it nervous. They hear these things about what’s in some of these books they don’t read, and they worry. Many of them are worried because they’re parents and they have the natural instinct to protect their children. That's biology at work, and it's cool and I totally respect it. I'm relieved to know parents are involved in their teenager's lives.
My point is that the world can be a scary place. It’s a lot easier to blame Lauren Myracle’s Shine for that than to discuss why it is we feel so threatened by the content of a book.
Also, terrorism and war and poverty and natural disasters and that strange hold Justin Bieber has on the tweens makes most of us adults feel helpless. Feeling helpless can make us grasp at the most ridiculous reasons to provide an answer as to why our world isn’t as awesome as the nostalgia for our childhood insists it used to be.
So, yes, it’s easy to cry for censorship of youth fiction in the name of protection, because there are so many real and scary things that we can’t protect young people from. But that doesn’t make it right.
I agree with the WSJ article on this: What you read as a teenager has a major role in shaping your adult worldview. However, where I disagree is that we as adults should actively control the shaping of worldviews by refusing to allow exposure to certain ideas. I will not join the thoughtpolice just because I’m no longer in high school.
When you work in the teen section like I do, you talk to both parents and teens. Often it’s once a shift that a parent bemoans the darkness of all the books on the shelves and their vampire love triangles. If they have time, I do my best to help this adult understand that not every book in the section has a vampire love triangle in it (for example, some have fallen angel love triangles).
But for every parent I assist who longs for books that are “not so dark,” there are five who are just thrilled their son or daughter wants to read. Would those parents like it if it was something not so scary or not so dark or wasn’t fantasy or didn’t feature sex/drugs/alcohol/profanity? Possibly, but it’s more important to them that their young reader loves books.
I like those parents a lot, because they're the ones who come looking for a good book and trust that I can find them one. But my favorite parental visitors are the ones who show me a Stephen King title and confess that they read it when they were a teen, too.
Our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada were kind enough to help set-up this interview with the wonderful Jeri Smith-Ready, whose Shade Trilogy has two titles out already—Shade and Shift—and will conclude with SHINE in May 2012. One of the wonderful things about Jeri's trilogy is how it handles teens and teen issues in a realistic manner but has a little kiss of paranormal to keep things interesting. Plus, it has the amazingly sexy Zachary (team Zach all the way!). I highly recommend it—and it's a great title for our adult readers of teen fiction, too.Indigo Teen Blog: Music is obviously very important to Aura. How do you choose the songs to mention in the novels? Except for the local Baltimore bands, they’re all songs that readers can go and listen to, aren’t they?
Jeri Smith-Ready: Like Aura, I live and breathe music. It’s incredibly important to my creative process. Songs can tell stories and get to the heart of emotions so much sharper and quicker and more intensely than mere words. Often while I’m writing a book, certain bands or songs will be particularly inspiring and provide the answers I’m looking for, especially for certain characters.
That’s why I dedicated SHIFT to “Those who make music. Many books—many LIVES—would be impossible without you.” I came up with that dedication in the middle of the night last summer when I was revising SHIFT and struggling with a scene. A song helped me figure it out.
All the bands except the local bands (The Keeley Brothers, Something Wicked, and Dork Squad in SHADE; and Tabloid Decoys in SHIFT) are indeed real, and you should definitely check them out! Some people say writers shouldn’t refer to current music because it “dates” their books. But whenever I read a fake “famous” band in a book, it pulls me out of the story. I want to feel like a book with a contemporary setting like mine (paranormal or not) really could happen here. For me, part of that verisimilitude (ooh, English-major word, forgive me) is created with music.
Besides, I owe so much to these bands—they bring such beauty and inspiration to my life—I want to repay them in some small way, especially the less well-known artists. So if a reader decides to check out A Place to Bury Strangers or Great Lake Swimmers or even a “mainstream indie” (ha!) band like Mumford & Sons because of SHIFT, nothing would make me happier. Nothing.
ITB: You have a short story—"Bridge"—in the forthcoming ENTHRALLED anthology. How connected is it to the trilogy? Will a reader miss something in SHINE without reading the short story?
JSR: No, not at all. “Bridge” is a story from Logan’s point-of-view—written in free verse, because as a songwriter he’s a lyrical kinda guy. Chronologically, it’s nestled inside of SHIFT, between chapters 21 and 22. It’s about how Logan and his brother start speaking again. Sort of.
So “Bridge” can stand completely alone, but it will also give readers of the SHADE trilogy much deeper insight into Logan and his siblings. It’s honestly one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. I feel very close to the character of Logan, so it meant a lot to give him his own voice. I hope readers think it’s a beautiful voice.
ITB: Sex is something that your teen novels discuss in a realistic and comfortable way, yet this is often a topic that many teen books want to tip-toe around. Do you receive feedback from parents about that content?
JSR: You know, it’s funny. Not once have I had a parent complain, and I’ve never heard of SHADE being banned. This is either because:
a) I treat the subject honestly and realistically, and in a tasteful, non-sensationalistic, non-exploitative manner.
b) Teens are really good at hiding my books.
But seriously, I find it curious and sad that so much attention is paid to sex in the media, while violence is more or less ignored. Books that depict graphic violence are deemed suitable for ages 12 and up, yet books that treat sex with honesty and realism are not. What are people so afraid of?
JSR: I don’t know—why does anyone write anything? I did it because I wanted to. Thankfully, this is the kind of job where we’re our own bosses and can follow our instincts and creative impulses. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, nothing has ever been so fulfilling or fun as writing teen characters and interacting with teen readers. I have at least two more teen books coming down the pike, so I guess it’s working out pretty well. :)
ITB: What do you think is the difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy? Do you think the genre guidelines are more blurred in the teen section?
JSR: I have a simple definition when it comes to adult fiction: if the series follows one character throughout a series, it’s an urban fantasy. If it focuses on a different couple in each book, it’s a paranormal romance.
But you’re right—with YA it gets a little blurred, because readers of YA fiction don’t demand that happily ever after at the end of each book. They have the patience and appetite for a longer character and relationship arc. If it takes three or four books for the couple to finally find happiness, that’s okay. So with YA I’d have to go with the distinction a lot of people use for all urban fantasy: UFs have lots of world-building and the focus is on the main character’s development as a person, not as part of a couple. So even though the SHADE trilogy has a lot of romance in it, it’s definitely an urban fantasy. I’ve done more world-building for SHADE than any other series, because when ghosts are an acknowledged part of society, every aspect of that society has to be considered.
ITB: What’s the YA novel you’ve read most recently that you think we should all run out and get?
JSR: If you haven’t read GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray, your life is incomplete. Remedy this immediately. I finally did, a couple months ago, and I’m a happier person for it.
My favorite 2011 YA is definitely DARKNESS BECOMES HER by Kelly Keaton. It completely gripped me from start to finish. It’s dark (obviously, from the title), but not grim or gloomy. The characters are vivid and real, and the setting—wow! New Orleans like you’ve never seen it portrayed (which is saying a lot).
Thanks again for having me—you guys rock!
Jeri Smith-Ready’s latest release is SHIFT (May 3), the second in the YA ghost trilogy that began last year with SHADE (now out in paperback). She loves to hear from readers, so please visit her at www.jerismithready.com, or better yet, on Facebook or Twitter, where she spends far too much time.
Janet Gurtler is an author from Calgary, Alberta, whose debut novel I'm Not Her focuses on Tess, whose older sister Kristina—the "pretty" sister—has been diagnosed with bone cancer. The novel follows what Tess and her family goes through during the diagnosis and treatment, and is a title that readers of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult should definitely check out.
I'm Not Her isn't the kind of story that I'd normally seek out, but Janet contacted us earlier this year and Crystal Allen of Raincoast was kind enough to send me an ARC. Despite that this isn't what I usually read, I found I'm Not Her to be heart-wrenching. However, it was Tess and her interesting sense of humor that pulled me through the novel.Indigo Teen Blog: I’m Not Her is a very emotional read. Was it difficult to write a novel about cancer?
Janet Gurtler: Well, first of all, thank you for saying it’s an emotional read, because it was certainly emotional to write! That said, I love books that make me feel things. Good and bad. I also admit a few tears may have slipped out when I was writing parts of I’M NOT HER. And that felt oddly good.
Writing about cancer though was difficult because cancer is such an invasive and horrible disease, especially when it happens to someone young.
As I was writing I’M NOT HER, I was fortunate to connect with a young woman who had gone through bone cancer and she helped me by sharing some of the medical and psychological effects it had on her. To me, I’M NOT HER, is less about the girl who has cancer and more about how cancer affects the whole family. Cancer certainly drives the events of the book and the development of the characters.
ITB: Do you see yourself as more like Tess or Kristina?
JG: I am definitely more like Tess, the quiet bookish sister. Kristina is gorgeous and sporty with many admirers both female and male. She’s an extrovert, but we learn through the story that she’s not as strong and put together as Tess thinks she is. Most people we think have it all, usually don’t feel the same way.
Tess is more introverted and lives in the shadow of her sister (and is mostly okay with being there.) I was quite shy as a teenager, and though not into art like Tess, I had a passion for reading and writing and could easily lose myself in both. Like Tess, I’m not overly fond of being the centre of attention, and like Tess I have a wee bit of an odd sense of humour once you get to know me.
ITB: One of the things I admired about Tess is her connection with her art. Her struggle against her family’s attitude toward her art is so heartbreaking. Do you ever feel like people don’t understand how important it is for you to write? How can teens push through that kind of adversity?
JG: Oh my GOSH that is a good observation! I had to read it aloud to my husband and he gave me a somewhat sheepish grin in return. Side note: My husband is a sweet and wonderful man, but he just does not understand what writing means to me. I can’t really expect him to as it is not his passion but I *may* have poured some of my angst at not being understood into Tess. Actually there is a passage in the book where Tess’s mom compares her love of art to her hobby of scrapbooking and Tess kind of loses it. You may assume I have felt those same feelings.
I think pushing through adversity takes a strong sense of believing in yourself. It’s not always easy to do, but I think gut instincts are pretty good things to follow. If your gut is telling you something, like you can become a contestant on Canadian Idol or run a triathlon or become the [next] female Prime Minister—whatever it is that you’re passionate about—chances are it’s something to pursue. Even it’s something others around you may not see the worth of (like a connection to art) staying true to who you are and what you want is crucial. Assuming of course it’s a healthy and productive yearning.
ITB: Is there a difference in telling a story for Canadian teens versus telling a story for American teens? Would you set one of your YA novels in Canada?
I don’t think there’s a difference in what Canadian teens and American teens like to read (for the most part). I have three teen nieces and they seem to love the same popular YA fiction that American teens do. I see the same YA books at Indigo that I see in bookstores in the USA.
I think, in general, Young Adult fiction is easier to write for the American market, because the Canadian market tends to publish more literary fiction. My books are rather commercial, and therefore more attractive to American publishers. I have an American agent and she pitches the books to US publishers. That said, I hope I have just as many Canadian teens reading my books as American teens!!
I usually have a Canadian character in my books. Actually, I’M NOT HER doesn’t, but my next book coming out in October, IF I TELL, features a hot boy from Canada who moves to the main character’s US home town. I also have an unsold YA novel set in Calgary (and featuring a boy who does Parkour).
ITB: What is the best part of being a published author? What is the most difficult?
JG: There are many bests to being a published author but I think the very best is getting first copies of the finished book. Okay, another close best is seeing books on the shelves in bookstores. I CAN’T WAIT to see I’M NOT HER at my local Indigo store!!!
There are also many difficult parts about being an author. The most difficult is learning to deal with rejection. It comes in many forms, first when you’re unpublished and waiting for someone to say the magical words, “We Want to Publish your book.” It’s hard to hear no. Often over and over. It takes a lot of perseverance and good old fashioned stubbornness to keep going sometimes. And it’s important to try not to compare your journey to someone else’s. Because someone else is always going to get published faster or better!
ITB: Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
JG: Of course! Right now I’m working on a couple of books. The first is a re-write of the Parkour story I mentioned earlier, adding a female POV to enrich the story for female readers. I’m also close to finishing a paranormal novel called INSTINCT.
INSTINCT is about an adopted teen, Liv, who comes out of a coma from a car accident, able to “see” the memories and the future of people who touch her. She soon finds out she’s a VOYANT and her developing powers means an equally sudden change in a boy she must avoid, called a CAZADOR, a boy who has the instinct to strip her powers and destroy her. The problem is, she’s already met him. And fallen in love with him.
Thanks so much for having me and for great questions!
Today we have a guestpost for you from Maureen McGowan, a Toronto author whose novels Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer start with fairy tales we know, bring them to contemporary times, and twist them up so that Disney wouldn't recognize them. Take it away, Maureen!
Some readers of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer assume I was inspired by the choose-your-own-adventure stories from decades past, but I have a confession. Before starting the Twisted Tales series, I’d never read those books and was only marginally aware of their existence.
When I began to explore adding reader interaction to updated fairy tales, I had no idea how to pull it off, but I knew what I didn’t want to do: I didn’t want to include “wrong” paths or unhappy endings.
Fairy tales by their nature promise happy endings—and pretty specific happy endings in some cases—so, I decided that each book in the series should have a single ending. As I started to write, I did look at a few choose-your-own-adventure stories, hoping for hints or clues as to how to structure my books, but I didn’t like the “bad choice—you die!” aspects of some of those “old school” stories.
The way I see things, each day we face choices, and the alternatives aren’t necessarily right or wrong—just different. Smart heroines (and smart readers) will make smart choices, so I wanted to present reasonable alternatives at each decision point without making it obvious which choice was better. Also, a capable heroine—even if she makes a mistake—should be able to face whatever challenges her choices place in her way.
When I decided on the structure, I didn’t realize what a difficult path I was laying out for myself as a writer! My choices created challenges for me—almost as tough as those facing Cinderella in her magic competition, or Lucette when she’s the only one awake and facing vampires in the night.
Because I decided to have alternate paths that loop into common sections, I had to be very careful to ensure the key story elements either: occurred in the common sections; or occurred in different ways but with similar outcomes, in the alternate paths. Confusing. I know.
Cinderella: Ninja Warrior follows a structure of 1 => Choice => 2 or 3 => 4 => Choice => 5 or 6 => Choice => 7 or 8 => 9. In Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, the second decision point comes earlier so the structure changes slightly, but it was equally hard to keep straight. There were times while writing these books when my head was spinning so badly I didn’t know which end was up!
But beyond the reader interaction, the real fun for me was creating stories that had elements of the traditional fairy tales, but “fixed” some of the problems I saw in the originals.
While I’ve always loved the romantic aspects of traditional fairy tales, I wanted to write stories in which the heroines were strong and capable, and not waiting around for a prince to save them.
For example, it always bothered me that Cinderella had a victim mentality in the original. If life was so bad with her stepmother, why didn’t she leave? I understand that girls in past centuries didn’t have as many choices as we do today, but I wanted to write a story relevant to modern readers. Another thing that bothered me about the original was that the prince falls in love with Cinderella because of her beauty, yet he can’t remember what she looks like the next day—when she’s in rags—without the help of a slipper. That’s not my idea of true love.
In Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, Cinderella’s trapped in her stepmother’s house by a series of black magic spells that she doesn’t have the knowledge or confidence to break, and yet Cinderella’s already plotting her escape when the book begins. During the course of the story she develops her skills and confidence, and then saves herself! In Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, the heroine, Lucette, isn’t a victim hoping her parents will protect her from the horrible curse put upon her as a baby. She learns to fight and saves not only herself, but her parents and the entire kingdom, as well.
Ultimately I wanted to add more action and adventure to the traditional fairy tales and to create stories that would be inspiring and fun for readers of any age—10 to 100!
Maureen McGowan has always been making up stories—her mother called it lying, her teachers creative talent—but sidetracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to see the light and channel her energy into writing novels. After pummeling her sensible side into submission, she quit her career in finance and hasn't looked back.
Aside from books and writing, she's passionate about art, dance, films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes. Maureen (and her shoes) go to a lot of movies in Toronto, Canada.
Cinderella: Ninja Warrior
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer