Novel Reaction is excited to welcome Shannon Delaney as she talks about writing young adult fiction. Shannon’s debut novel 13 to Life is available this month.
As a debut YA author with a farm and a son in kindergarten, I often feel my age (plus fifty years). But to write youngadult novels in an authentic teen voice I can’t get hung up on numbers like those of my real age. So, rather than stalking tweens and teens at the local mall to try and catch their voices and mimic it in prose, I rely on memory, attitude and experience to write people younger than I am.
I remember being a teen (many, many moons ago ;-). It was not my favorite phase of life. But I wrote during it and I can still dig up some of those awful things if I really search. If you’re a teen now, write. Someday you’ll be thankful you did.
I was a middle school teacher, so teen attitude? I’ve seen it, handled it, and helped get it under control. Teen pregnancies? Check. Girl thowing punches at guy nearly twice her size? Check (chick had to reach *up* to clock him). Guy breaking up marijuana in In School Suspension? Uh, yeah (not the brightest light–and that was in a high school in a “good neighborhood”). Abuse? Had to make calls a couple times, unfortunately. Bomb threats and school searches? Yes and yes. So, I was on one side of the issues many parents don’t want to even think are potential problems and saw the complexity of teen life. If you think getting good grades are the only concerns teens face, you need a reality check.
I saw the grit and pain that was part of adolescence for many of them. That’ll age faster than most anything else, especially when, as a teacher, you realize your limitations.
And I think that’s a key to writing young adults authentically. They don’t recognize their limitations until we adults push them down with cold, hard “facts”–or until their hearts have been broken enough times. They aren’t cynics until we’ve crushed their dreams sufficiently.
So when I wrote 13 to Life, I incorporated the things that made up the teenage experience as I lived it and saw it lived by others: that fleeting sense of immortality that tempts us to drive too fast long before we’re thinking about kids in car seats and “Baby on Board” signs; the hope that one day we’ll be far more than just a member of the godforsaken town we all grew up in; and the rebellious heart that encourages us to live life fiercely–to take risks–and love like there’s no tomorrow.
I think many YA authors write powerful and authentic voices. I hope the voices of my characters live up to that of their fictional and far more real peers.
13 to Life: Chapter 3, part T (used with the author’s permission):
“No. I’m not afraid.” He reached past me, brushing against me as he retrieved the pencil. I shivered, a sort of static electricity snapping along the edges of my body.
As he straightened back up to offer me my pencil, I could swear hesniffed my hair. Totally inappropriate. “I could find you, regardless.”
Recently I was digging through by box of books labeled “F” and came across an old favorite author, Joann Ferguson. Ferguson has had a few adventures of her own in addition to writing them, including a stint as an Army quartermaster officer where she was the first and only woman in her unit. She still enjoys traveling to the locations of her books and learning all about those places and people. Researching her novels is part of the fun. Whether it’s ghosts, calling cards, how to fire an antique gun, or traveling to a world that exists only in her imagination, she pays a great deal of attention to the details that delight her reader. She’s even learned a bit of Russian, Arabic, Welsh, and a lot of Regency slang.
Her work has been honored with award nominations from Pearl, ROMY, Romantic Times, Rom/Con, and Affaire de Coeur magazine. Amazon Books chose her novels to showcase. And Romance Writers of America bestowed the two ARTemis Awards for Jo Ann’s Zebra Regencies: The Counterfeit Count and A Christmas Bride.
All of the books I have read by Ferguson have been published by Zebra, their Regency line. (Let me just say I sad I am that they are no longer publishing the regencies!) I just re-read The Convenient Arrangement, however, my favorite are the Priscilla Flanders Mystery Series. While doing research for this posting I found that she is continuing the story line with a different publisher and I am SOO excited to read it!
When Zebra stopped publishing I did a search for many of my favorite authors and wasn’t able to find them, I guess I needed to give them a little more time to find new publishers. I will be searching out more of them and letting you, my readers, know who and where they are.
The books by Ferguson published under the Zebra label all rate as a 1 or 2 but I haven’t read any of her newer works, so if you are relying on my rating system, just be aware. I will update this post once I have read her newer works.
She also writes historical and paranormal fiction under the name Jocelyn Kelley, but I have not read any of these novels and can’t provide you with a rating. That being said, I have always enjoyed Ferguson’s characters, especially the logical thinking of her heroines (how often does the heroine of a story end up in trouble because she is stupid?!). I am very excited to have found her again and will be reading (and posting) on her books in the future.
Betty Neels (1910-2001) was a prolific writer whose books are being republished to this day. Betty was born in England and served as a nurse during WWII where she met her Dutch husband. Betty, her husband, and their daughter lived in Holland after the war for 13 years until they returned to England. Betty wrote her first book in 1969 after her retirement from nursing and, by the dint of writing four novels a year, wrote 169 novels before she died at the age of 91.
Betty’s love of Holland is evidenced by the detailed descriptions in her books. Usually the heroine in the book is a visitor to Holland so the heroine does site seeing in whichever city or town she happens to be staying in. Betty’s books are so detailed regarding the locations of Holland that many fans have used her books to plan their travel itinerary. (I personally plan to visit Holland someday and will use her novels to help me decide where to visit.)
Betty’s books are always sweet with the main characters having integrity, even when others do not act in the same manner towards them. My mother was a HUGE fan, collecting all of her books and I remember my first Ebay purchase were the two Betty Neels’ books that my mother was missing from her collection. Betty Neels wrote for Harlequin for over 30 years. Most of Betty’s books were published by Harlequin in their regular contemporary romance line but I think it is interesting to note that her books have been continuously published since she wrote them and Harlequin published another series of editions (The Best of Betty Neels) in 2009. I think (but I am not 100% sure) that she is the only Harlequin author to be continuously published (besides Georgette Heyer) ever. You would think that the publishers would take note that the two continuous best sellers are both sweet romance novels and not erotica.
My mother loved Betty Neels’ books, she passed that love onto me and now my younger sister (18 years-old) loves her books. After my mother passed away and we were going through her things, my sister and I started arguing over who got the Betty Neels collection because they are so good. (Also, we both have fond memories of discussing the books with mom after we finished reading them.)
I highly recommend her books and some are available for ereader at both Amazon.com and eHarlequin.com.