Lisa T. Bergren is the author of more than 40 books, and — as her social media followers know — she always seems to be working on something new. YA is a relatively new venture for this prolific author, though.
“I entered into YA for a very personal reason — my teenage daughters were reluctant readers, and I wanted to write a story just for them, in a way that captured their attention,” said Bergren.
With her daughters in mind, Bergren started working on her first YA series. The popular River of Time series features a pair of teen sisters, Gabi and Lia, who are stuck in Italy for a summer while their mom works at an archeological dig site. When they start poking around in an ancient tomb, they discover a pair of handprints painted on the wall. Placing their own hands over the prints (because who can resist that?), the girls are whisked back in time to Medieval Italy—and they land right in the middle of a battle.
“Because it was only fast-paced stories that seemed to [capture my girls’ attention], I set off to write something along the same lines, and yet unique too. To do that, I studied the bestsellers of the time—most notably, Twilight. I’ll be forever grateful to Stephenie Meyer for dragging my older kiddo into the world of fiction. Say what you want about the series, I’ll forever champion it,” said Bergren.
The success of Waterfall, the first in the River of Time series published in 2011, and the fun Bergren had working on it and interacting with its fans, has led her to write six more YA books, with a seventh coming out March 3rd.
“What I love about YA is that it makes me think back to when I was 17 years old…when everything was possible and I wasn’t too jaded to believe it was so. In a lot of ways, it inspires this middle-aged woman to give people and tough situations another chance, hoping for the best.”
Bergren not only writes fabulous YA, she loves reading it, too. “My two favorite books of  were The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park.”
She also believes YA should be embraced in a classroom setting because, quite simply, YA engages readers.
“Honestly, I believe that any book that engages a teenager’s mind should be offered to them. We’re battling for data space in their brains and what’s the alternative? More 3 second Snapchat messages, 6 second Vine videos or pictures on Instagram. That’s what’s taking up brain space for the vast majority of them now.”
Bergren, whose Christian faith informs her writing, encourages teens (and all readers) to read diversely. She has faced the negativity many authors of faith meet, and argues that faith-based works are just as valuable to a diverse literary canon as any other perspective.
“I’m not out to convert anyone—but I write from a Christian’s perspective, just as a Muslim or Jew or Buddhist would write from theirs. I try and make faith natural for the characters I write, not shove it down a reader’s throat,” said Bergren.
For Bergren, the power of storytelling is both personal and universal. She deeply values the ways in which books of all kinds, but specifically YA, open the reader up to new experiences.
“1984 was the first dystopian I ever read. All those in the growing genre have made us more aware of the capacity for depravity among those in power, the importance of freedom, and the power that an individual truly wields. Those are awesome themes for everyone in society to contemplate,” said Bergren.
And, like so many YA authors, she stands behind the librarians and teachers who work to bring YA books to teens.
“Carry on, brave friends. We need you out there, fighting for fiction that engages young minds.”