|Left to right: Melissa Marr, Martina Boone, Maggie Hall, Rachel Hawkins, Marie Rutkoski|
For quite a few, that passion--at least within their current projects--seemed to center around empowering young women, or exploring the different ways in which power is taken away from women through fiction. That idea of empowerment is, for me, the reason that I wrote the books, and the reason that I wanted to write for teens in the first place. I write for the girl I was, for my daughter, and for the incredible woman my daughter is becoming.
That core translated into my trilogy in several key ways. It gave me:
- Readers I picture as I write. At the beginning, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the girls who might read the book. That would have seemed too daunting or presumptuous, and now that I've met my readers it is both more terrifying and wonderful. But picturing three specific young women to whom I wanted the story to speak fueled me from the first page and fuels me every day.
|Nichol, a beautiful teen reader wearing Barrie's necklace at |
NoVaTeen Book Fest! (One of my favorite moments of the day!)
- A main character with passion. I love stories where the main character kicks butt and uses her sword or a gun to plow through the opposition. Even more, though, I love the stories where the the mc uses her brain to accomplish her goals, and yet those stories can feel intimidating too. My daughter has a learning disability and a no gun or sword. (Although she did recently ask for a machete for Christmas because she'll be spending the summer in the jungle of Madagascar, but that's another story.) She doesn't realize how smart she really is. That's why I wanted to create a main character who isn't brilliant or strong or particularly anything special. Even the one very small magic that she was born with seems very ordinary to her and more of a nuisance than anything special.
Like most teens, Barrie doubts herself. She doesn't see the raw material she has to work with. She begins the books having lived a very sheltered life, and she's constantly balancing the need to exert her own individuality and claim some power for herself against the need to be loved and accepted. As it does for many girls, this leads her to make mistakes, but that's okay. Mistakes are how we grow. Barrie hands up for herself, she fights for what she thinks is right. She may be wrong sometimes, we all are. But if something is important to her, she doesn't let anyone tell her otherwise. That passion is a kind of strength of its own, the best kind of strength.
- A framework for the story. There are many different themes embodied within Compulsion. Because this is only the first book of a trilogy, many are only iceberg tips for what is coming, but there's the longing for friends, for sisters, for family who understands you and loves you unconditionally. There's the love of self versus the love of a boy, and the hope of being loved for yourself instead of for something you reflect. There's the sense of isolation girls can feel sometimes, being put in their places or their boxes by the men in their lives, or by society, or by their perceptions of how they look. There's also the question of gender identity, what makes a woman a "woman" or a man a "man"? As the series progress, these themes blend into more of the historical context as Barrie digs deeper into the mythology and history of her family and the island and comes face to face with her own misconceptions about love and gender and race and family and the history that she learned in school versus history viewed through the lens of the different people and families who lived it.
As I had the enormous pleasure of chatting with Melissa Marr, Kristen Simmons, Rachel Hawkins, Maggie Hall, and Marie Rutkowski on the three panels I did with them, and then listening to other panels during the day, the thing that struck me over and over was the many different ways that who they were and what was important to the authors connected them to readers through their stories. That passion was contagious, it transmitted to me as the authors spoke, and it electrified the audience. Having read their books, I can say that it also translates to the written page.
|Left to right: Kristen Simmons, Martina Boone, Melissa Marr|
If there's a magic formula to writing a book that resonates with readers, I think it must be passion. But that passion has to be there in multiple ways. At minimum, the author must have:
- Passion for the concept of the story -- the "pitch" that makes the story unique from the millions already out there.
- Passion for the characters who live within the story.
- Passion for the lessons and choices the characters have to make.
- Passion for the readers who are going to be taking that story and those characters to heart.
- Passion for the core of the story, the kernel of "truth" or the thing in the execution that you would never, ever, ever change even if it meant walking away from the book deal.
Do you find all those things in the books you write? The books you love as a reader?
Ready for a giveaway?
How about a copy of Jodi Meadow's THE ORPHAN QUEEN? You know you want this one, right?