Authors celebrate importance of YA at Books of Wonder

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(l to r) Bookstore owner Peter, Kristi Cook, Phoebe North, Jonathan Maberry, Sarah Beth Durst, Nancy Ohlin, and Kit Grindstaff talking about YA’s importance.

When you have a mix of experienced author and debut authors, and throw them together for an event at Books of Wonder, you’re bound to have a fun event – and a packed crowd.

Books of Wonder hosted Heart Pounding Teen Reads on September 7th, inviting a whole slew of fantastic authors to celebrate young adult literature at their store: Kristi Cook (Haven), Sarah Beth Durst (Conjured), Kit Grindstaff (The Flame in the Mist), Jonathan Maberry (Rot & Ruin), Phoebe North (Starglass) and Nancy Ohlin (Thorn Abbey).

The authors started by talking about their books and doing readings, before jumping into the questions. Bookstore owner, Peter, asked the first question, then alternated with the audience as to who asked the questions. With so many authors, they were only able to answer a couple of questions, but the authors made the most of it.

Authors were passionate from the get go – especially when it came to why they wrote YA. Jonathan Maberry shared that he started writing young adult because his agent told him a novella he wrote was really the beginning of the Rot & Ruin series, but it was something he quickly adapted to.

“One of the reasons I enjoy writing YA is because I remember the journey myself…the world I grew up in was destroyed by discovering the real world,” said Maberry.

“I really think books are magic and the reason I read and write is to touch that magic. I think that being a writer is like being a wizard,” said Sarah Beth Durst, author of Conjured.

It was a lure she could never resist.

“It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” laughed Durst.

When an audience member asked the panel why so many YA books seem to be set in boarding schools, Kristi Cook – whose paranormal Haven series takes place in a  boarding school – laughed.

“Boarding school are a wonderful way to get rid of parents without killing them off,” said Cook. Parents who are involved in their teenagers lives can make the story harder to work, but the teachers in a boarding school can still offer some parental-like guidance.

Nancy Ohlin, author of Thorn Abbey, agreed. Thorn Abbey is a retelling of the classic Rebecca where the character marries and moves in to an older man’s manor – a manor that is just as important to the story of Rebecca as any of the characters – and a boarding school made much more sense than a literal manor.

Audience members wondered if hiding out in a super store like Walmart was the best option in case of zombie apocalypse.

“Food distribution center is much better. It’s a brick building with no windows and no loading dock. Costco has windows,” grinned Maberry. The Rot and Ruin author thinks he can survive the zombie apocalypse so long as the zombies aren’t fast.

Phoebe North, author of the sci-fi Starglass, was asked if she was afraid of drifting into space after doing her research. She is. She can’t watch popular space shows like Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” because they unnerver her, no matter how good they may be.

“I found the most terrifying thing in the world is the idea of space without aliens,” explained North.

And then the usual question came up: how did these authors start writing? And what would they advise other aspiring authors?

North reported that she’d written several books, but ended up finding inspiration for Starglass in a very non-traditional format. She was reading an agent’s blog post complaining about the trend of dead parents being ridiculous. In response, she wrote the first few pages of Starglass and then just kept going.

“I would say keep at it and really dig deep,” recommended North.

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(l to r) Kristi Cook, Phoebe North, Jonathan Maberry, Sarah Beth Durst, Nancy Ohlin, and Kit Grindstaff.

Kit Grindstaff’s debut with The Flame in the Mist also had an unusual start. Her day job is as a songwriter, but she wanted to take a writing class. The first assignment was to write three different synopses, and while the first were nothing special, the third clicked with her and became her The Flame in the Mist.

Durst told the audience about her love of writing lasting since she was very young. She also recommended “not the old adage, write what you know, but write what you love.” Conjured was meant to be something completely different, but the introduction of one character and her story made Sarah fall in love with this girl and changed the story entirely.

“You’re always hearing these conflicting things of what sells and what doesn’t sell,” said Maberry with a roll of his eyes, advising people not to care the supposed trend. It’s mostly important to write the story in your head.

“That’s what makes us a writer – we see the world differently and we want to talk about it.” Maberry also used the example of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s when nobody wanted to directly talk about racial issues, but fantasy and sci-fi fiction indirectly allowed people to discuss the problem.

“We could talk about [race]because they were aliens,” said Maberry.

As for how they handled rejection? Well, Harry Potter wasn’t considered sellable and A Wrinkle in Time was too complicated for the young audience, yet now they’re some of the most beloved stories around. The authors made it clear: keep reading what you love and someday, big things can happen.

For more information on Books of Wonder, visit their website.

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About Author

Julie Daly

Julie Daly is sometimes known as Julianne. A recent college grad, when not job hunting, Julie is watching Netflix, talking about YA on twitter, or trying to make her cats play. In 2009, Julie joined a group blog called Bloggers[Heart]Books and her obsession with all things YA has grown exponentially. Though she no longer blogs, she did create #quietYA and is a cofounder of Blogbound Con. Julie has also interned at several publishers and sometimes plays bookseller. Follow her on Twitter at @DailyJulianne.

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