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Author Spotlight: Rebecca Jaycox

rebeccaAn Interview with Rebecca Jaycox

By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

I’ve written the first two books of my planned trilogy, “The Inheritance Series.” The first book is “The Other Inheritance,” and the second book is “The Other Queen.” The books are about seventeen-year-old Reggie Lange, who longs to be a normal girl but discovers she has extraordinary powers. The awesome book description says it better than I could.

otherOne girl. Two worlds. Hunted in both.

Seventeen-year-old Reggie Lang is used to dealing with her alcoholic mother and fighting school bullies, but fate has thrown her a curve ball.
A biker dude shows up in her dreams, babbling about magic and a world called the Other. As the incidents keep piling up—like bringing a frog back to life in class—Reggie has to confront the mounting evidence that she’s not the normal girl she craves to be.
Reggie’s life is changing, and she has no idea why. Or whether she should believe the man in her dreams, who claims she’s in danger and that only he can keep her safe. But if there’s one thing Reggie will learn, nowhere is safe.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

Brwyn, my Elf Changeling. He’s fun, powerful, and sexy. He wasn’t created until the third draft, but I’m so glad I went with my gut.

Fantasy is an exciting, but incredibly challenging genre to write in. What made you choose it to start your writing career?

It chose me. I discovered Star Wars at age 10 and never looked back. I might try contemporary fiction one day, but right now I’m sold on fantasy.

In The Other Inheritance, you’ve created an entirely new world full of magic and also a lot of danger. Can you tell us a little about your world building process?

When I start to write, I sketch out a rough outline of my world and then when I dig into the chapters I start filling in the details. Since my world is magicpunk, I like to look at steampunk images for inspiration.

What was your biggest challenge in writing a story that takes place in a world entirely of your own making?

Keeping track of the details! To make a complete world, you have to have rules and then keep track of those rules.

What authors have inspired you to write?

Some of my favorite genre authors are Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Anne Bishop, and Maggie Stiefvater. They write such exciting urban fantasy and fantasy fiction, and I try to measure up to their talents. I haven’t quite gotten there, but they are definitely writers I aspire to be.

What age were you when you started writing?

Ten.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Yes! It’s the worst. I can’t write and then I feel guilty about it. Talk about a vicious cycle.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I usually have a rough outline to start with that gives me the freedom to be a pantser a little during the process.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Sure. I’d love to get a drink with Brywn.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

“The Other Queen” just came out on April 1. It’s the second book in my “Inheritance” the other queenseries, and I’m very excited about it.

One world. Two girls. An evil determined to destroy them both.
Reggie has escaped the dark mage, Andrius, and finally made it to her guardian, Rhys. But if she thought things would be easier, fate has other plans.
Her father’s situation is more dire than she first thought, and she learns her mother and best friend are being held hostage by Andrius.
Her dreams are being haunted by the Black Queen, a bizarre, terrified girl begging for Reggie to save her. With her loved ones’ lives hanging in the balance, Reggie and her friends race to devise a plan to defeat Andrius. And the Black Queen could provide the key to breaking the dark mage’s hold on the Other.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Never give up. It will happen. And always try to improve your craft. Find a writing group and listen.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Um, I can no longer write on my computer. I wrote my latest release “The Other Queen” by hand.

What others are saying about Rebecca Jaycox:

“The excitement and the danger at every turn. It doesn’t let up. I love these kinds of stories- full of magic and adventure. Ms. Jaycox does a brilliant job of including the mystical element without making the book too fantastical and unreal.”

“This book is amazing. It is great to see a female like Reggie who is strong and brave and doesn’t need a man. The character and world building are just amazing.”

“Jaycox’s writing flows effortlessly and draws you completely into the story. Her descriptive passages make you feel as if you are actually in this ‘Other’ world. There was never a dull moment. Chase scenes, magic battles, and hateful evil villains. What more could you ask for?”


You can find more about Rebecca Jaycox at her YAAR page HERE.

Find her on Goodreads HERE.

Find her on Facebook HERE.

Don’t forget to check out more of the blog posts and interviews from YAAR HERE.

Author Spotlight

An interview with author Paul Mosier

By: Michelle Lynn

  1. What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Completed novels begin with Breakfast At Tuli’s, which I self-published in I think 2013. paulIt’s for grown-ups, and about a young woman with a compulsion to have relations with men she finds pathetic or repulsive. It’s narrated by her pet fish, who is in love with her and who is grappling with the hopelessness of his own situation while waiting for Tuli to find happiness. It’s very sweet when you get past the premise. My second novel is called Genre, but I haven’t done anything with it. It examines the origin of characters and the author’s ability to control them while poking fun at writers, writer’s groups, agents and genre fiction. The third is the first I wrote for a younger audience, and is called Story Girl. It is in some ways a young person’s version of Genre, but they are two different stories for sure. In fact 25 year old Shawnee encounters 13 year old Shawnee in a scene that appears in both books. It was right for those stories. Though Tuli and 25 year old Shawnee appear in each others stories in a scene that appears in both Genre and BAT. That was fun. I self-published Story Girl and had the first proof copy delivered to our hotel in Santa Monica for my older daughter’s 11th birthday. The next novel, Train I Ride, is also for younger readers, middle-grade specifically. It’s about a girl who turns 13 while riding a train from Los Angeles to Chicago, and who has nobody in the world but the strangers she meets on the train. Then since this book found me an agent and my agent found me a book deal, I am continuing to write middle grade, which I am happy to do! My next book should be out May 2018, and the one I am wrapping up now May of 2019.

2. Who’s your favorite character from your books?

I feel so much love for the characters in my stories. But since I also believe that happy is the writer whose favorite story is the one he is working on today, I’ll say Summer from Summer and July, the novel which will hopefully be an executed option for a third book from HarperCollins. Summer is a prototypical California Girl who is adventurous and apparently carefree, and who is viewed through the adoring eyes of a girl named Juillet, a gothic girl filled with fake phobias who is visiting Summer’s neighborhood in Santa Monica for the month of July. It’s hard for me not to adore Summer when I’m seeing her as Juillet sees her.

3. In each of your books, your protagonist is a middle-school girl. Can you tell us about the reasons behind that?

storyThe protags of my first two books were women in their 20’s, which is an age that I have some distance and perspective of. I first wrote a novel for younger readers specifically so my older daughter could read me before she aged into the first two I wrote, and I found it really satisfying. It was the novel Junonia by Kevin Henkes that made me feel I could write for 10, 11, or 12 year old kids with an emotional depth that would be satisfying. I should have known before then but I didn’t read much as a kid. Having girls who are now 8 and 13 puts me into their perspectives, and girls have always been more interesting to me than boys. Now that I have a contract that is specifically middle grade, the age is a must, and though I tumble boy characters in my mind, my protagonists always seem to end up as girls.

4. You’re a writer and a father of two girls. How does each of those aspects of your life affect the other?

Being able to share my work with my daughters is really satisfying. My older daughter Eleri in part inspired Maggie from Story Girl. They are big readers, and I think they think it’s pretty cool that I write. Making most of my livelihood as a writer gives me a lot of flexibility, which is a wonderful thing when you love your children and want to be around them. They enrich my life and give me a greater understanding of childhood, though I also remember it awfully well.

5. Were there alternate endings to Train I Ride that you considered?

My editor wanted to see what happened when the train arrives in Chicago. I felt like the ending I wrote was among the best things I could ever write, so I gave her what she wanted by having Rydr’s chaperone rehearse with her what she will be doing, so we see it without ever having to get there. But more to the point, I think, is that I knew that if she was met at the station by a rich uncle it would make the story meaningless and be a great disservice to the many, many children who have lives that resemble Rydr’s. I asked friends who are social workers what happens to a girl in Rydr’s circumstances, and the answers were heartbreaking. Where does she go? The answer is, does anyone want her? Is there a friend whose parents will take her in? Yet I think it ends on an up note. Not because of what she gets, but because of who she has become.

6. What authors have inspired you to write?

I feel like I am more directly inspired by poets and lyricists. In the case of Train I Ride, Elvis Presley and Allen Ginsberg. I didn’t read a lot as a kid. I write more than I read today. I try to read really well when I do read. In the last year that has been Douglas Adams, Harper Lee, Miranda July, George Orwell, and of course my writer friends! But I don’t write because of a love of books or admiration of writers, but because the muse keeps knocking me up.

7. What age were you when you started writing?

I remember writing when I was very young. I asked my dad what I should write a story about when I was about 6, and he said “write about a boy who runs away to join the circus.” I thought that was a terrible idea and asked for a better one. But I paid homage to that moment in Story Girl, decades later. By fifth grade I was ignoring schoolwork during class to write stories to entertain my classmates. I wrote through high school, though my writing was derailed by my being a practicing alcoholic until I was nearly 25. I never write a novel until NaNoWriMo 2011, in the month I turned 47.

8. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Happily I haven’t experienced writer’s block much if ever. Maybe because I believe I paul 2don’t have to see past the hood ornament of the story I’m writing. The day I began Train I Ride I had been writing a memoir-ish thing, and I asked myself when I would have my next novel idea. That afternoon the lyric train I ride, sixteen coaches long entered my head. I thought it sounded like a good first line for a novel, but I didn’t know who said it, boy or girl, man or woman, why they were on the train and where they were going. But I wrote it down, and the rest followed. I think my own head has very little capacity, especially for vast stories. It’s preoccupied with bills and healthcare and that kind of thing. But the muse has a gigantic hard drive, and she knows I believe in her, so she believes in me.

9. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Mainly I just write, like Dory. Or maybe its swimming that she just does. I end up outlining after I’m well into it, but I believe that if I outline a story before I am deeply involved with it, it can only deprive me of the surprises, the opportunities that may come without one. Outlines make the muse feel sketchy and unwanted.

10. Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

They aren’t? I guess I don’t really believe that they aren’t real. I do however feel such strong affection for them that I have felt sad at writing the last words, and a sense of duty to them– their entire life is the one that comes through my fingertips, and I want it to be as beautiful as possible. Or stand out of the way of their expressing their beauty. I feel like they’re just characters that the universe presents to me. I don’t create characters, I meet them. If I tried to create a character I think it would be a cliche.

11. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Breakfast at Tuli’s was a screenplay a few years before I tried to reverse adapt it for NaNoWriMo, which is kind of cheating versus those writing brand new ideas. At least it was my own screenplay, and it was substantially different in that I had to choose who tells the story, and decided upon Tuli’s pet fish, Fish, who is inert in the screenplay. It was a good choice. Then it’s all a challenge, Writing is difficult. Editing it at writer’s group. Having 110 agents say no to it– I think it’s a lovely book but it’s a bit strange. Making the physical book when I finally decided to was comparatively easy. I formerly made my living as a painter so I did the cover. Createspace has tools such that if one’s book looks terrible, there’s nobody but the author to blame. Maybe 200 people have read the book, but I’m very proud of it. Nobody forgets Tuli or Fish.

12. Most of the authors we interview on this blog are self-published or with small publishers, but you’re with HarperCollins. Can you tell us what it’s like to have such a big publishing house behind you?

Having self published I can tell you that it’s SO GREAT TO BE WITH HARPERCOLLINS. I feel very fortunate. The distribution is great– there’s like 20 copies at the library in Singapore. I went to the Powell’s in downtown Portland, where it was a staff pick, and signed the 14 or so copies they had. And then at their airport store in Portland. Having strangers throw back favorite lines to you on Goodreads. But the people at HarperCollins also make it a better book than what I could have done myself. My editorial group edits authors like Neil Gaiman. They’re very good at what they do. From my editor, to the line editor, and the typographer, who is responsible for the whole look of the book, under the jacket and on every page from front to back, and the cover artist, and the marketing people and publicity people, the school visits coordinator– they spend an average of 2000 hours on every book they do, which is considerably more than I did. And it’s everywhere. Because of who they are, Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and everyone else reviews it. Happily all of the six most important reviewers gave it a positive review, three of them starred reviews. And money. An advance that made me consider quitting my job on the spot. So to summarize, IT FEELS AMAZING. I haven’t come down since my wonderful agent called me the morning of July 15, 2015. (takes sip of water.) I feel very lucky. Don’t wake me up.

13.  Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

The second book of my contract is another middle grade novel called Echo’s Sister. It’s paul2different for me in that it bears a strong resemblance to my actual life– it’s about a 12 year old girl whose little sister has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. This is what my family has been going through for the past year and the next year. It’s not our story, but it’s very much informed by it. I don’t think I would have ever been interested in writing about cancer because it sucks and because I’d be superstitious. I initially resisted when it played in my head like a novel, but I think it’s a mistake to refuse the muse. I knew I’d write a happy ending before I began. I finished it about 9 months ago but am wrapping up the edit this week. It’s been difficult for a lot of reasons, but I think it’s gonna be damn good.

14. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I don’t take criticism very badly. I usually think I’m right and the critic is wrong. I do take a lot of suggestions at writer’s group. But working with a Big 5 editor is a new experience. If you pay someone to edit your book you can fire them or ignore them, but when they pay you a ton of money to edit the book and try to make it the best book it can be, it’s different. As they say, you’re the writer, it’s your book, but it’s their money and their name on the jacket, too. And the editor will one day say “I published that book.” They don’t say “I edited it and HarperCollins published it.” A publishing house is filled with editors who publish books. The last thing I’ll say about criticism is that if you put a book out there, before you read reviews on Goodreads, look at the 1 and 2 star reviews of your favorite book ever. Look at the 20,000 people panning Catcher In The Rye. Then you can look at your first 2 star review and say another 19,999 and I’ll be as terrible as Salinger.

15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

I won’t say read, read read, which I don’t think is valid advice. I’d say write, write, write. Show the scene playing in your head. Don’t think you need to see the whole thing before you begin. Trust the muse. Keep a journal. Carry it with you.

16. Do you have any strange writing habits?

Not really. I find that certain locations are better suited to it. My couch late at night. Certain coffeehouses and cafes but not others. I still use my journal to write about what I’m writing, but I can only write the prose on my MacBook Air. Every novel demands a novel approach to tackle the problems it presents. But generally it gets easier and I get better at it. Oh, I do find that I can only write successfully when the laptop is open, the power in on, and I am sitting at it. That is a bit odd I suppose.

What people are saying about Paul Mosier:

“Not afraid to delve into difficult subjects but also capable of showing optimism.”

“Mosier is quite respectful of his young audience. Sad. Funny. Moving. Complex.”

“Heartbreaking, funny, poetic, smart, and tough.”

Paul can be found on Facebook HERE!


Check out the YA Author Rendezvous new releases HERE. We have some great ones!

See our five steps to getting published HERE!

Check out the YA Author Rendezvous’ talented authors HERE!

Why the Agony of Writing for Teens is Worth It

Girl reading a book on the floor.Written by K. R. Conway

Writers can become burned out.

I don’t mean the hyperventilating, “OMG I have no story ideas!” type of burn out. I mean the grind of the words, the constant push to out-write your last book, the stiff necks, the time crunches, and the piecemealing of a life outside of your characters’ worlds.

You try to balance the requests from bookstores, the demands to meet deadlines, the desperate need to spend time with your family and your children, and (for many of us), the 9 to 5 of a day job as well.

Novel-writing is the ultimate act of endurance, with a finish line that seems to never fully reveal itself. And once you have finished one story, polished and in print, you immediately are looking to churn out the next book.

I started to feel the burn out when I was finishing up CRUEL SUMMER.  In the past 2 years, I had churned out close to 300,000 words related to the UNDERTOW series. Let me tell ya – that’s a lot of freakin’ words!

I’ve worked as a writer since 1999, and in all those years, I never got burned out as a journalist. But in all those years, I didn’t have the fans I have now. And they are like – HARDCORE FANS. They burn through those 300k words in just a couple of days, because they can’t put the book down. Because they must keep going, or they will obsess about Eila and her crew all day long, which is great and all, but I start to panic and think, “I need to get another book done for them, like, YESTERDAY!”

And my fans are voracious readers. I often get messaged that this kid or that kid has read STORMFRONT in a day (112k words) or that they are re-reading UNDERTOW for the 5th TIME! I don’t even think I’ve read Undertow cover to cover more than twice, and that was when it was in its editing phase! Some fans buy EVERY cover version, because they must have them all (0_0)

So, when I start to feel the burn out lurking in my life, I remember those fans. Those that flip out so entirely over the characters, that their Christmas lists are loaded with Undertow stuff.

I don’t get to usually see fans outside of book events, but the other day I saw one reading my book, and what I saw filled me with determination to work even harder.

You see, I drive a school bus during the day, filled with my target audience. While I can only really see the tops of kids’ heads when I drive, I do have to walk to the back of the bus when I pull up to the middle school to unload. The other day, while I walked to the back of the bus to disengage a warning button, I saw one girl sitting and reading, oblivious to the fact that we were at the school. At first I didn’t pay much attention, but then I did a double-take.

I knew that font.

I knew that line.

She was reading STORMFRONT. I didn’t bother her, but kept going and unloaded the bus, but she hung back, sliding into the seat behind my driver’s one. “This is so unbelievably awesome,” she says to me. “I was up from, like, 8 to 11 last night reading. And I reread Undertow over the weekend, but OMG. I love this!”

I thanked her and blushed a tad, thrilled she was enjoying it.

At the end of the day, I drove her home with a bus full of half-crazed teens. I was focused on getting the kids home safely and not losing my mind, so I wasn’t really paying close attention to what she was holding as I unloaded at her stop. But as I saw her walk away, I realized she had gotten off with the book tucked under her arm. I watched, floored, as she walked towards her home, Stormfront in her hands as she read.

She wasn’t on her phone. She wasn’t hanging with the other kids and talking. She was lost inside my book, living alongside my fictional characters, reading as she walked. Suddenly that lurking burn-out vanished and I remembered why I write.

I do it for teens like her, who want to fall so entirely in love with a story that their own reality tumbles away.

I write for the fans, and in turn, they are my creative jolt.

They power me past the burn out.

They are my army and my saving grace . . . and I pledge my undying loyalty to their awesomeness

Know Thy Audience. ALWAYS.

Know Thy Audience Always - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

If there is ever a phrase that sends chills through my body, it is: “Well, I’m not really sure if my COMPLETED manuscript is exactly aimed for teens. Maybe it is more middle grade? But then again, I guess it could be adult.”

Oh, dear lord.

There is nothing, NOTHING more important than knowing WHO you are writing for before you even put pen to paper. You need to know EXACTLY who your audience is – from how they live, talk, socially function, what would make your book appeal to them, WHY they would buy it in the first place, blah, blah, BLAH. How do you sell something if you have no clue who would want to buy it? That’s like designing a hot air balloon that can’t fly and saying, “I know this will appeal to SOMEBODY.” Well, heck – you would be 112 years old before you figured out WHO would buy an unfloating air balloon (FYI – this would sell to those funky, futuristic tent designers who want some killer fabric and who would upcycle the basket parts. SEE??? I know my audience!!!)

As cool as your story may be, it NEEDS a set audience to S-E-L-L. So . . . let’s take, uh . . . OH! The Shadow and Bone series by Bardugo. Dark fantasy set in a brutal remake of a Russian-like empire. Totally awesome. Love it. Go read it. Well . . . go read it IF YOU LIKE THAT TYPE OF THING. See???? Audience. I like dark and creepy with a few well placed bodies here and there. I can do fantasy as long as the fairies are the type to murder you in your sleep while acquiring your tooth.

So Bardugo’s audience is the type that:

A. Likes dark fantasy. This would include those who enjoyed the last few books in the Harry Potter series best, and those who liked Lord of the Rings and (if you’re ancient like me) The Dark Crystal.

61sIOGA4rqLB. They are 14 + (maybe a few, high-level 13-y-o readers too). She appeals to those who like vivid world building over smooching scenes. People who are willing to see a character fail and have mixed feelings about the “bad” guy (who happens to be a hottie).

C. Her readers tend to be thinkers. People who like puzzles, especially the ones that require you to out-manuver an opponent. They are the people who tend to be the quiet ones, but their imagination is always running and it isn’t playing Cinderella scenes over and over, if you get my gist.

D. They are bold, but not for the sake of others. They will pierce their tongue not to fit in nor stand out, but because doing so speaks to who they are as a person. They don’t follow the crowd.

E. They like twists and unseen complications. They like to see the characters fail as well as conquer. Romance is okay by them, but it is not the only reason they read the story. In fact, the romance aspect is low on their list of must-haves and they like that the main characters are a bit tortured in their love for one another.

You may say, “Holy heck, Conway – that is a TON of detail. How are we supposed to know that much about our audience?!” Well . . . that’s part of being a writer, and I was a journalist before I was a novelist. As a journalist I had to always, ALWAYS sell my story – not only to my editor, but to my potential readers. I needed to pitch every story to my editor and tell them WHY it was timely. WHY people would read it and WHO would read it. I needed to tell them how I would learn about the topic I was pitching and LEARN ABOUT WHO IS INTERESTED in such a topic.

I basically became my audience, every time, for every story. To become my audience for UNDERTOW, I began reading any and all YA books that were a bit similar. I started watching every teen movie I could find, plus those that were not aimed for teens but had young main characters. I shifted my playlist in the direction of pure Alternative music, hard rock, and a bit of metal.

I was willing to be a teenager – jump on beds (okay – my daughter’s bed at least), leap from the Town Neck bridge, argue over t-shirts at Abercrombie, and generally act like I was 16 rather than . . . well, older. I began to look at the world as a high schooler again – to understand fully what they loved, what tormented them, what mattered to them. Now-a-days it is easy for me to shift from the “run for your lives, MOM IS PISSED!” mode into a full on, nag-worthy, “Can we please, PLEASE, PLLLLLEEEAAASEEE go to the movies???? Can we go dye our hair??? Can we go hang out at the beach with our kites??”

If you have any doubt in my ability to be a teenager, just ask my daughter and her friends. They will tell you I am full-on nuts, but 100% wildly fun. Well . . . until you pick on your little brother or dare to sass me.

Then it’s GAME-ON-EVIL-MOTHER MODE.

And yes – I will totally write my Mean Mom character into a novel at some point . . . as long as it fits with the audience I am writing for. As for now, I work exclusively for the teens I strive to please, and always, always for my fans.

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How I got past Writer’s Block

How to avoid writer's block - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

At some point in every writer’s life, writer’s block kicks in, and when it does, I think you can agree it’s the absolute worst. Even though you know you’re capable of writing the story in your head, the words just won’t come out.

What I’m about to say is by no means the only way to defeat writer’s block, but this is what worked for me, so hopefully I can help a few of you out if you’re struggling too.

My writer’s block began after I’d published my first book, ‘Reality is in a Dream’. I had a short break before beginning the writing process of book 2, ‘Mourning Memories’, and when I started to write book 2, I was very enthusiastic that the process would be swift. However, about 20,000 words in, I began to hate everything that I’d written up to that point, and then I re-wrote the whole lot.

This put a massive spanner in the works. I’d completely lost my flow, and although I had a very descriptive plan, I just couldn’t find the motivation or inspiration to do any writing. At this point, I was also hand writing everything, and then typing it up later. It was a slow process, and in the end, it took me 18 months to write book 2. That didn’t include the edits, and formatting time.

Because of this extremely long process, I kept putting off the writing of book 3. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a plan out, because without this, I couldn’t start writing, or that’s what I told myself anyway. But then NaNoWriMo came around, and with the encouragement of a few others in this group, I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t write book 3 of my trilogy for NaNo, as I was still procrastinating about that one, but I did manage to write 50,000 words of a different book, the fastest I’d ever written a book in my entire life. I was no longer hand writing, simply typing directly onto Microsoft Word, and the words just kept flowing. I had a plan for this book, but I think I only looked at it once. The story ran away with itself, and turned into something I’m extremely proud of.

50K50Days - Day 50 - Lauren Mayhew Author - Young Adult Author RendezvousSo, when I finally decided to write the third book in my trilogy, I took inspiration from NaNo. I set myself a new challenge, to write 50,000 words in 50 days. I posted every day on my social media accounts, letting my followers know about my progress, and that pretty much forced me not to give up. I still hadn’t finished the plan for the book, but once I’d started, the characters took over, and before I knew it, the story was written.

Having less of a structured plan to follow, a daily target to reach, and followers on social media expecting updates, I managed to overcome my writer’s block. In the space of four months, I managed to write two books. Neither of them are close to being finished, but the story is there to be edited, and that’s sometimes the hardest part for me. I’ve given myself a break from both of them, but I’ll be going back to the third book in my trilogy soon, and hope to have it published by the end of summer.

Set yourself a challenge, and you may be surprised what you’re capable of!

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

My mother is a wise soul.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s kooky and crazy and lives out loud, but she’s got this inner Zen thing going on that makes her come out with some true treasures of insight every once in a while.

One such gem was pretty simple: she said real writers, WRITE. They don’t perseverate, they don’t make up excuses. They just write – nose to the keyboarded, possible drink in their hand (hello, Hemmingway), and a brilliant fire in their belly that demands they tell the story.

I didn’t have that drive to write when I first messed around with UNDERTOW, but once I got really rolling inside Eila’s world, I loved it – the feel of the abused keys under my fingers and how the voices and scenes washed away the world as I worked. I mean, literally – the house could catch fire and I may not realize it.

So anytime I try to excuse myself from my keyboard, I remember my mother’s words (and the fact that my readers will get on my case if I don’t finish my next novel) and I get back down to business.

But I like to think that I’m actually a storyteller first, a writer second. The tough thing about being an obsessive storyteller is that you have a MILLION stories to tell. And because the new characters and tales are screaming to come out, I sometimes think I can weave them ALL into a current WIP (work in progress). Sometimes I do, but sometimes I control the urge and tell myself they deserve their own novels. Most of the time I spin so many stories in my head, that they all jockey for attention at once, which literally melts my brain.

At night I go running for a few miles, music blaring in my ears, seeking the muse within. While I pound the pavement, those stories that are whispered in my mind suddenly come vividly to life. I no longer see the road, but rather an entire scene playing before me like a ghostly movie screen. Literally, I no longer have any sense of where I am, only that I SEE the scene in front of me. The stories that win the right to be the next one written, are the ones that build scene after scene, night after night as I run.

Tonight I went walking with Kalli, and while we strolled she suddenly asked me why I was feeling the leaves.

I didn’t even know I was doing it.

I was walking under a low slung oak branch and my fingers were trailing through the tips of the leaves above me. But in my mind, I wasn’t touching them – my character was and the leaves weren’t soft and green, but curled and windburnt.

I turned to my daughter and simply replied, “I’m writing,” as I dropped my hands and shrugged.

Of course, she thought I wasn’t normal and commented as such. A minute or two of silence sat between the two of us as we walked in the near darkness. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye as she fiddled with her phone, seeming flustered, but then she finally huffed in aggravation and halted. “DAMN IT! Now I’m gonna obsess about what you’re writing!”

I smiled like the cat who ingested Tweety and pointed to the tree, sitting content and deep green in the night air, and said, “The leaves, in my mind, are burnt and the damage isn’t from nature. I see it every night when I run.”

Kalli looked at me, a stone-still stare that she has perfected over the years, and only her lips moved. “You are so weird.”

Yup. That’s me. The weird one.

I am my mother’s daughter. Apple. Tree.

My daughter is totally doomed to inherit that gene.

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

Author Spotlight

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Author Spotlight:
Barbara Renner

By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home – This is a story about a baby loon looking for his home. He tries to convince his mom where he would like to live but discovers there is only one place he can call his home.
Lonnie the Loon Learns to Fly – When Lonnie is a little older, he asks his mom a lot of questions about nature that surrounds him. He discovers more about life than just learning about his surroundings.
Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call – This is a story about a loon coming of age. Lonnie forms a relationship with his dad as he learns the four common loon calls. Readers can listen to the loon calls using a QR Code Reader App.
Lonnie the Loon Flies South for the Winter – Lonnie and his friends fly south for the winter and end up on a desert lake when they are blown off course. Lonnie forms a friendship with a little quail named Quincy who teaches him about living in the desert. The reader can hear animal sounds in this book also.
Quincy the Quail Leads His Family on an Adventure – Quincy is a little clumsy, but he is still the leader of his family. He takes them in search of food in the desert, but it turns into an adventure as Quincy is almost washed away during a sudden rainstorm.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?barbara-1

I’m fond of both Lonnie and Quincy. I’m excited about Quincy because he’s a little clumsy, but that doesn’t hold him back from considering himself as a leader. I’m a little clumsy myself! I want children to realize that even though they may have shortcomings, they also have strengths.

As a children’s book author, which comes first – writing the story or creating the images? Is there a reason for that?

I’m not sure about other authors, but I write the story first and then give the manuscript to my illustrator. My illustrators have been wonderful about working with me and revising their illustrations to match what I have in mind. When I write, I probably describe the scenes with a little too much detail. Then I have to delete words once the illustrator can picture the scenes in his/her mind. My new illustrator for Quincy put together a storyboard, which makes it easier for her to picture what I want in the book. I just have to quit writing so many words and have the illustrations speak to the reader! I’m still learning!

barbara-1A quail and a Loon are the stars of your children’s books. Why did you choose these animals when they’re less recognizable to kids?

When my husband and I first starting going to Minnesota for the summer, I discovered loons for the first time. I fell in love with them and did some research about Minnesota’s fascinating state bird. I thought everyone should know about loons, so that’s why I wrote my Lonnie the Loon books. I have facts about loons in my books, so children can learn about them too. I’ve had adults who’ve lived in Minnesota all their lives tell me they learned something new about loons. When I started promoting my books in my home state of Arizona, they didn’t sell as well as in Minnesota. That’s when I thought of writing a series about Quincy the Quail. I love watching the little quail covey run down the street in my neighborhood, so I tried to incorporate that visual in my books. I’ve had a lot of interest in my quail books here in Arizona and am enthusiastic about writing three more books about Quincy. My Quincy books have facts about quail also. I love reading my books to elementary school classes so they can learn about loons and quail – and receive a little geography lesson too.

Do you hand draw the images or are they computer generated? I doubt most of our readers are familiar with how children’s books come about, so what is the process for that?

I’m not sure how my illustrators create their images. I’m pretty sure Davina Kinney, illustrator of my Lonnie the Loon books, does all her illustrations digitally. I think my Quincy the Quail illustrator, Amanda Wells, makes sketches by hand first and then transfers them to the computer. Davina lives in Florida, but Amanda lives here in Arizona. It would be fun to have a book signing with her some time so she can explain the process to our customers. I think the illustrations are fantastic – and I’ve had a lot of compliments about both Lonnie and Quincy.

What authors have inspired you to write?

I enjoyed reading Mercer Mayer and Stan & Jan Berenstain books to my children. I also love Shel Silverstein, all of Dr. Seuss’s books, and all of the Amelia Bedelia books. I guess that tells you what era I’m from!

barbara-1What age were you when you started writing?

I wrote goofy little stories and melodramas when I was in elementary school, and my friends and I acted them out. I took a creative writing class in high school, but didn’t pursue my writing then. During my career hopping as an adult, I wrote and edited a variety of newsletters and journals. I started blogging when I was 61 because it was the thing to do! When I retired from teaching at age 63 I was bored to tears. That’s when I wrote and published my first two Lonnie the Loon books.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

All the time!! I don’t write enough – that’s the key. I need to write every day to keep the creative juices flowing.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I outline in my head – crazy. Then I sit down at the computer and hammer it out. That’s when what I thought I was going to write about changes directions and the story takes a different path. I haven’t written anything longer than 5,000 words, so if I write a novel, which I plan on doing one of these days, I may have to outline my story on paper or post-it-notes first.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

The only challenges I had were trying to decipher the 30-page contract with the publishing company; learning all the buzz acronyms like POD; and writing the book blurb! I jumped in with both feet and didn’t do enough research about publishing; but it turned out okay and I’m pretty happy with who I chose. However, what I thought was going to be a hardcover book the size of “Make Way for Ducklings” turned out to be a paperback the size of the Berenstain Bears.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

My first three books aren’t written using a typical storybook model. They don’t have a conflict or a climax or a solution to a problem. They are more educational. But, I’m okay with that; I’ve sold over 200 copies of each book. If I had to do it over, I probably would have written a better “story” and get involved with a critique group. Instead of asking my hubby and friends for feedback, I should have joined a critique group. I thought I could do it all by myself. As far as publishing goes, I’ve learned that it’s very important to have a spine on your books, which mine don’t. Libraries and bookstores don’t like to display your books on a shelf without the title and publisher printed on the spine. I would have found a different publisher to ensure my books had spines.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’m continuing with my Quincy the Quail series, and they will have sounds that the readers can listen to. In the next book a hummingbird bullies and scares Quincy’s chicks.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I guess the toughest criticism comes from Arizona residents when they ask “Why loons?” My friend told me, “I don’t get it.” I look at rejection as criticism also. I sent copies of my Lonnie the Loon books to The Audubon Society and The Loon Preservation Committee to see if they would carry them in their online gift shops. I never heard back from them. Other than compliments on the illustrations, the best compliment I received as an author was from a librarian when I showed her my first book. She said she liked the fact that there weren’t a lot of words on each page because fewer words were better for children ages 3-5. She said a lot of picture books are too wordy for small children.

barbara-1Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

I guess I would say to read a lot and write a lot, whether it’s writing stories, blogs, newsletter articles, etc. The cliché is “practice makes perfect.” Nothing is perfect, but practicing will make everything you write a little bit better. Also, become involved with a critique group. You can read the works of other writers as well as have them give you critical feedback on your own writing.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Well, I don’t have any good luck charms like blue Smurfs sitting on my desk. Sometimes I get my story inspirations when I walk or hike, then I type the story on my computer. After I type it out, I let it rest or “cure” for a couple of days and then go back to it to revise it.

What others are saying about Barbara Renner:

“Getting my niece to last to the end of the book is usually a miracle. With this, she wanted me to read it again. She was mesmerized by the birds and the way they’re portrayed. It was really great to see.”

“Lonnie the Loon Learns to Fly is a great book for a small child to read as they start to take notice of the world around them.”

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!


See all of Barbara’s books HERE!

Find Barbara on Goodreads HERE!

Like the Young Adult Author Rendezvous on Facebook HERE!

 

Spring Fever Giveaway

 ** This Giveaway has finished. Follow our blog to be the first to know about any future giveaways! **

 

enter

We all need to get away after months of cold, dreary, monotony. But even while we’re dreaming of white sand beaches and rolling waves, our regularly schedule life must go on.

But does it really? Getting away is a lot easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of spare time, an open mind, and a good book. That’s why we’re giving away tons of books! There’ll be over TWENTY winners.

And one grand-prize winner will walk away with a signed, first edition hardback of Witch and Wizard which just so happens to be written by one of the biggest names in fiction – JAMES PATTERSON! On top of that, they get a $100 amazon gift-card! 

And all if takes is a minute or two and a few clicks of the mouse.

DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE!

Check out these other amazing prizes we have for you.

Signed copy of XODUS by K.J. Mcpike!

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Signed copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home by Barbara Renner

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Signed copy of Order of Seven by Beth Teliho

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Signed copy of Choices by Michelle Lynn

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Signed copy of The Keeper of Dragons by J.A. Culican

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Signed copy of The Hereafter by Jessica Bucher

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Signed copy of Autumn in the City of Angels by Kirby Howell

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Signed copy of Reality is in a Dream by Lauren Mayhew

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Signed copy of The Other Inheritance by Rebecca Jaycox

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Signed copy of Orangutan by Rita Goldner

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Signed copy of Glitter and Sparkle by Shari Tapscott

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Signed copy of Into Shadow by T.D. Shields

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Signed copy of The Convergence by Tenille Berezay

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Signed copy of Counteract by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Dawn of the Dreamer by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of On Delicate Wings by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn.

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Signed copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Audio version of Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn

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Kindle copy of Shine and Shimmer by Shari Tapscott

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Kindle copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Kindle copy of Spark by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call by Barbara Renner

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Kindle copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s Aviation Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s History Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Bookmarks

Glitter and Sparkle series journal

Orangutan notecards

Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 3 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Michelle Lynn.

Cheese. Oh glorious cheese, how we love you so; on our pizzas, over our pasta, just basically in our bellies any and every way. Don’t stop coming. Never quit melting. You are beautiful and wonderful and oh so very tasty.

On our plates you shall stay and from our brains you’ll keep away. Ok, so I’m terrible at rhyming. I’m a fiction writer not a poet and it’ll stay that way. Hey! Another one! Stopping now. I promise. Back to the fiction writing thing, one of the series I write is romance. Don’t laugh at me, or do as long as you buy my books. That was a joke – if anyone out there is a little humor challenged.

Romance gets a bad rep and sadly, a lot of what is said is true. Some people don’t like the steamy aspects that seem to be creeping in to more books than not. Mine tend to be on the cleaner side- I mean, come on, my DAD reads them so I only write what I’m comfortable with him seeing. Some people hate the predictability of romance books- well, sorry folks, most of the time the characters are going to end up together. If they didn’t, there’d be hell to pay from angry hordes of romance readers.

But, forget all of that for a moment. It doesn’t matter, at least to me. When I read a romance book, I stop at the nauseating, eye-roll worthy, puke inducing cheesiness. I firmly believe that every romance has its cheesy moments, but COME ON!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWhen you read a book, or write one for that matter, you’re imagining yourself in that story. Book boyfriends/girlfriends are real things in the genre because people fall in love with the things the character says or does. Just picture it, the leading man comes to you- all hooded eyes, wicked smile, and chiseled physique- he opens his mouth to pour his heart out and says “You’re the light to my darkness.” Or “I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, I just didn’t know it yet.” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably do one of two things- Laugh despite trying to hold it back or make tiny little gagging sounds.

I’m a realist, sometimes a cynic, and I tend to write like one. That isn’t to say that extreme cheesiness doesn’t occasionally creep in, but it’s usually caught before publication. I just sent my new book, Confessions, off to the editor after a couple rounds of beta readers. Wanna know some of the stuff one of them caught? I actually said “The truth will set him free”. I didn’t catch that while I was editing. See, even us anti-cheesers do it sometimes. Anti-cheeser- I like that word!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWords can be cheesy too. It doesn’t have to be full sentences or ideas. Some people have visceral reactions to certain terms. I know at least five people who cringe when someone says “moist” but that’s different. I’m talking about the cutesy poo, lovey dovey words or phrases. Some books make my eyes hurt from all the rolling they do when they use the terms “snuggle” or “cuddle”. I picture my two-year-old niece looking up at me and saying “Wanna snuggle?”

I have the same reaction to certain words in steamier romances, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. I know, I know. You want to hear them, but this is a blog for people who read YA and clean romances. Jeeze, guys, cool your jets!

Anyway, it’s simple. This is my no-cheese policy – or just the ramblings of an incoherent, brain jumbled writer. Your pick.

YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, challenges people to write 50,000 words in 30 days, that’s an average of 1667 words per day. I’ve struggled to write that many words this whole year, let alone one day. You can read more about NaNoWriMo here.

I went into this challenge very pessimistically. Both of my published novels are around the 50,000 word mark, and they each took me around a year to write. Doing this in 30 days wasn’t just going to be exhausting, but mentally challenging too. However, I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I haven’t finished the book yet, which is encouraging, as this may turn out to be the longest book I’ve ever written! Chapter six is completely missing, and I haven’t written the ending yet, so I’d hope there’s at least another 5,000 words to add, not including all of the edits I’ve already made in my head!

NaNoWriMo challenged me to write in a way I’ve never written before, and I think I’ll continue in this way from now on. I wrote everything straight into Microsoft Word. Normally, I write by hand and type everything up later. There was no way I’d have the time to do that with NaNoWriMo, and it’s helped me to write quicker which can only be a good thing.

But I’m not the only one who took this challenge head on! Quite a few of us here at YAAR decided to give it a go, here’s what they have to say about their experience, seven days after it’s over.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate - Young Adult Author RendezvousThis was my fifth NaNoWrMo and my fifth win. I love November. It’s the only month of the year that I truly write every day. My challenge now is to keep going until I finish this book … oh and to have fun with my local NaNo peeps at our “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!” on Saturday. – Debbie Manber Kupfer

Every November I get excited. Not only because it’s the holiday season, but the creative juices around the world start reeving up and it’s addictive. Especially in the book world. And it’s all because of NaNoWriMo This is my second year to join the movement, my first year to “win”, and it was such a wonderful experience. Yes, I have mega bags under my eyes and I’m seriously sleep deprived, but the words that flowed, the relationships that were built (both literal and fictional, the stories that will come of it… EPIC.)Lili Mahoney

For the first time in my writing career, NaNoWriMo actually coincided with a time when I was able to get a lot of writing done. It really truly motivated me to write every day, which is something I rarely do. In the span of only 30 days, I was able to get 50,000 words written AND plan out the rest of the book (which will likely be over 100,000 words). Having others do this at the same time was awesome!Patrick Hodges

I had grand intentions for NaNoWriMo… I was going to finally get back in the habit of writing every day! I was going to finish my book! I was going to remember that I love writing and it’s something I do for fun, not as another chore! In the end, I didn’t write every day. I didn’t finish my book. I eked out my 50,000 words by the skin of my teeth on the last day. But I did it and most of all I rediscovered my love of writing, even in the midst of my crazy life!!T.D. Shields

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years, but this was the first year I ever made it to 50,000 words. My secret was getting up to speed by writing 1,000 words a day during the previous month. You really discover which parts of a book you’ve thought through and which parts you haven’t when you have to produce three to five pages a day on it.Paul Briggs

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I finished my book with 60,000 chaotic, raw, heartfelt words. I’m not sure what I’ll discover when it comes to editing, but having that rough draft done feels amazing! I’d say overall my experience was overwhelming, intense, beneficial, and gratifying. I’ll be ready to do it again next year…or in 2025.Tenille Berezay

Nanowrimo was like going on a literary bender, but with not nearly enough booze.K.R. Conway

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I completed my first draft of a novel that I first had the idea for over ten years ago. The challenge gave me the opportunity and the excuse to write it, and I am absolutely in love with the manuscript. Keep an eye out for my novel, Paranormal Painless.Shannon Rieger

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Author Spotlight: Gina Azzi

Young Adult Author Rendezvous Author: Gina AzziInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Gina Azzi.

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Sure! My books are in the young adult and new adult genres. The first book I wrote is entitled Corner of Ocean and Bay. It’s a mature young adult novel that highlights the friendship of Nessa and Jacie during the summer before their senior year of high school. Primarily focusing on teen topics such as underage drinking, family issues, and first loves, the novel explores how Nessa and Jacie navigate these challenges and the impact certain situations have on their friendship.

After writing Corner of Ocean and Bay, I started working on The Senior Semester Series, a new adult and college romance series that follows four best friends as they embark on their senior year of college, new adventures, and love interests! The first book in the series, The Last First Game, focuses on Lila Avers as she completes a medical internship in California and meets football player Cade Wilkins at the airport! Their romance is a whirlwind but things grow complicated as Cade deals with the fallout of a sudden illness and Lila struggles to be there for him. The second book in the series, Kiss Me Goodnight in Rome, follows Mia Petrella to Italy and chronicles her romance with hot Italiano Lorenzo Barca. This book deals with body image issues, family financial concerns, and a looming long-distance relationship. The third book in the series, All the While, focuses on Maura Rodriguez and Zack Huntington and will release January 17, 2017. And the final book is Emma’s Story which is set to release next Spring.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

Ah, what a tough question! I really like Lila a lot – I think she’s really laidback, fun, and easy to get along with. At the same time, she’s incredibly loyal, family-oriented, and genuine. I also really enjoyed writing Lorenzo’s character as he is rough around the edges, a bit arrogant, and pretty cocky before he falls for Mia.

In your book, The Last First Game, you tackle some pretty huge issues – namely cancer and sexual abuse. Is there a reason you chose to write about these massive topics?

In all of my books, I try to write about themes that are relatable and age-appropriate. The cancer element was really difficult to write about but it’s also something that most people can relate to – having known someone close to them that is struggling with an illness. How do they cope and handle these challenges? How does it change their relationship with this person? Sexual assault was a really important topic for me to include since statistics show that 1 in 5 women on college campuses experience sexual assault. That is mind boggling! It’s also a topic that is finally being covered in the media, discussed in politics, and receiving attention and education on college campuses. The Obama Administration launched the It’s on Us campaign in 2014 to combat sexual assault on college campuses. I think it’s a huge issue that deserves attention and awareness and I wanted to help do so through The Last First Game.

What advice would you give to someone writing about a topic that people tend to have very strong opinions on?

Be sensitive to the opinions of others, be factual in the information you provide, but never be afraid to write about something you believe in/believe deserves attention.

Amidst these big things that are happening to Lila and Cade, you manage to give them some normalcy as they fall in love and learn to rely on each other. Was this difficult?

It wasn’t that difficult since it’s very common for young people to experience a lot of challenges or things that bring them stress and pressure – and in the midst of all of that, still fall in love, form meaningful friendships, have these important relationships with other people. I think people are always dealing with things that are difficult for them but at the same time, trying to cultivate a support system is important, and connections with other people can’t be overlooked.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

No! haha! I was pretty set on the ending of The Last First Game – I actually wrote it before I finished a good portion of the middle bit!

What authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve always loved reading – I was totally that kid that read under the covers by flashlight at night! Some of my favorite books growing up were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Harry Potter – all of these books and more and so many talented authors have inspired me in different ways to write.

What age were you when you started writing?

Super young! I suppose about 7 or 8 – I used to write and illustrate stories to read to my friends!

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Totally! Sometimes I have to take a step back from my work for several days and just do something completely unrelated before I can go back to it. Having that break from the story usually helps me look at the content with a fresh perspective.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

A little of both. I usually make a general outline with major plot points, themes, scenes and then just free write from there. Most of the time, I begin without knowing the ending and at some point, I sort it out and then write the ending, sometimes before I finish how the story arrives at that conclusion.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Haha not really – they’re real to me because they exist in my mind anyway!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

It was totally trial and error. I went the self-publishing route as I liked the idea of having complete creative control. I did some research about how to go about the process and spoke with some other self-published authors. Through learning about their experiences – and reading a lot of blogs! – I learned about how to find an editor, a cover designer, a formatter. Little by little it fell into place. Something I love about the self-publishing route is it’s a constant state of learning – and that is pretty exciting by itself!

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

No – mainly because I really enjoyed the learning process and feel like every step of my journey has gotten me to where I am today. It’s tough to skip steps and even the mistakes I’ve made have taught me a lesson. I think experiencing these lessons first-hand is really important for me in order to value what I do and to encourage me to keep writing.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Sure! All the While is a new adult, college romance book releasing on January 17, 2017. Here’s the blurb:

Consumed with grief for her twin brother Adrian’s death, Maura Rodriguez is spinning out of control. To cope with Adrian’s loss, she numbs her pain with bottles of vodka and sex with random men.

Consumed with guilt for his best friend Adrian’s death, Zack Huntington is yearning for a past that no longer exists. Reaching out to the familiarity and comfort an ex-girlfriend offers, Zack aims to recreate what once was but can never be again.

When their worlds collide while running on the trails along Boathouse Row, Maura and Zack find comfort in each other and in the memory of their shared connection, Adrian.

From their unlikely friendship grows an undeniable attraction, an irrefutable desire, and an unexpected love. While Maura and Zack struggle to heal, to forgive, to accept, they also learn how to let go and allow themselves to fall in love, a truth they’ve both known but resisted all the while.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism has been that my characters lack depth. That’s hard to hear as I really want my characters to resonate with readers and if they’re not, then I have to try harder to create more layers for them. Another criticism is the lack of sexual content in my books – I tend to imply sexual encounters rather than write more graphic content. The best compliment is when people tell me how much they could relate to a character and understand his/her challenges, point of view, experiences. That makes me super happy!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing! If it’s something you love to do, keep it up – even if it’s for your own peace of mind!

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I’m not sure – I like to write at coffee houses and cafes with my Spotify playlists and a sweet treat! I feel like that sounds pretty boring though.

What others are saying about Gina Azzi:

“This book tackled some very serious issues and it did so with a cautiousness I appreciated. I think it was a true representation of what might happen to a very young, very new couple when faced with these issues. They were very human.”

“Her characters are well-drawn, realistic, and could be people that you actually know (or knew). Her stories are invariably sweet and romantic, stories written about love and all the highs and lows that go with it.”

Find Gina on Amazon

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The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

At a recent talk, I cited The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) as the first YA dystopian book, but at the time I hadn’t read The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson. First published in 1975, it has been in the curricula in elementary and middle schools for years, and many adults of my generation cite this book as their first taste of the dystopian genre.

A book about post-apocalyptic Chicago might first bring to mind the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, but The Girl Who Owned a City might best be compared thematically to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I don’t say this lightly–Atlas Shrugged is one of the heavy hitters of the genre, but consider the situation in this children’s book:

A great plague has swept the country, killing everyone over the age of twelve. Without public utilities, services or adult supervision, children band together in family groups for protection, and must forage and steal in order to get the food and supplies they need to survive.

Though it doesn’t fit my stated definition of a dystopia as a twisted version of perfection, it’s an excellent example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Lisa, the ten year-old protagonist, makes some interesting observations about human nature as she struggles to survive and defend her home and the other children in her suburban Chicago neighborhood against marauding pre-pubescent gangs. In doing so, she becomes aware of her desire for liberty in a way that makes this a very timeless, and timely, read.

In one scene, Lisa discusses a group of children who’ve been adopted by her friend Jill. The children whine and bicker over their few communal toys, and Jill is constantly admonishing them to share. Lisa thinks the children will be happier if they are given jobs, and the opportunity to earn new toys that will belong to them, and only them. Out of earshot of the children, Lisa says, “I’ve been watching your children for days, Jill. Just watching and thinking about them. They do too much sharing and it isn’t working at all. They have nothing of their own—no real duties, no real way of helping. It’s nice to share things if you want to, but it’s stupid to force people to share or be nice. These are things people have to do on their own. Otherwise it’s no good.”

Jill argued that the children are frightened. They’ve lost their parents and their sense of the world. They need coddling, not jobs.

Lisa replied, “I don’t think they’ll ever be happy if you do everything for them. They need to work and be proud of themselves. They need to be able to say to themselves, “I worked hard and did a good job and earned my toy.”

The narrative goes on to say, ‘Lisa wanted to say something about how she had lost her own fear by solving problems and staying busy. It seemed to her that fear was what you felt when you waited for something bad to happen, and fun was what you had when you figured out a way to make something good happen.’

Despite Lisa’s attempts to create a neighborhood militia to protect the children on her street from the Chidester gang, and her idea to learn to drive a car so she could go to a grocery warehouse for food and other supplies, the gangs stage multiple attacks. She despairs until she notices a school building which has a wall around it, like a fortress. She decides to move everyone from her neighborhood into Glenbard and make it into a walled city. Everyone is enthusiastic about the plan, but after they move in and organize the school according to Lisa’s vision, some of the children begin to grumble that she calls Glenbard her city. Lisa’s response is a response worthy of a young Ayn Rand protagonist:

“Lisa, why do you keep calling it your city—saying it’s your property?”

“Because it is! I thought I told everyone that on the very first day.”

“But we’ve all helped build it, haven’t we?” argued Jill. “The kids are starting to call you selfish. They don’t like it when you call it yours.”

“Selfish? I guess I am. But there’s more to it than that. Don’t forget, it was my discovery. The place was sitting here empty…I found it. I planned it, filled it with my supplies, now I run it.

“I know you like to share things, but it just doesn’t work the way you’d like it to. In the first place, nothing would ever get done. With no one in charge and no one to make decisions, the group would argue all the time about whose property should be shared. And then …they’d be too busy to accomplish anything.

“I do own this place. I didn’t force anyone to come here…Call me selfish if you like, but I don’t want to own anybody. I don’t want anyone to own me…Freedom is more important than sharing, Jill. This is my city. I plan to run it well and build it into something good. But I have to do it the way I think is best.”

Lisa decides the best way to run her city is to offer something better to her citizens than they can find anywhere else.

Bumped and The Handmaid’s Tale: A Comparison

Bumped by Megan McCafferty - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

“The United States of America once ranked above all industrialized nations in the realm of teen pregnancy. We were the undisputed queens of precocious procreation! We were number one before, and we can be number one again!” –President’s State of the Union Address, Bumped

What’s to be done when a country faces an infertility crisis? Women of childbearing age become the most precious commodity, the most sought-after natural resource. Will they be celebrated and pampered—or subjugated—to spur the creation of the children essential to the society’s survival?

That’s the question in both Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The societies depicted in these novels both formulate plans to replenish their populations through surrogate mothers, and their governments launch propaganda campaigns that sanction and even glorify using women as breeders.

Though teen sex is glorified in pop culture and slang in the young adult novel Bumped, the actual details of bumping are kept appropriately veiled, while in the dystopian horror story The Handmaid’s Tale the rituals of mating with a surrogate are relayed in stark detail.

Religion and its influence on people’s attitudes toward procreation is central to both stories. In Bumped, the Goodside religious community seeks its own solution to the country’s infertility issues, and in The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic government blames the lack of healthy children on a permissive, promiscuous society, and aims to correct the problem by properly subjugating women.

In Bumped, 75% of the teenagers in Melody Mayflower’s high school class are infected with HPSV, the Human Progressive Sterility Virus, and will go irreversibly sterile sometime between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays. These stats are the norm nationwide, and the teens in Bumped are bombarded with songs whose lyrics glorify pregnancy. Trendy stores at the mall that sell provocative clothing and “fun bumps,” strap-on bellies that show the girls how sexy they’ll look when pregnant. Even school clubs like the Pro/Am Pregg Alliance put the focus on procreation.

Teens are pushed to have as many children as possible before they reach the age at which they’ll become infertile. They use the drug Tocin, which lessens inhibitions and causes memory loss, to help set the mood and make it less embarrassing to bump with partners they barely know. Later, they’re told, after they become sterile, they can attend college, get married, and adopt children of their own, and build their lives with someone they love. But for now, bumping with lots of partners is a way to keep the human race going until the full effects of the virus are known.

“A free society cannot force girls to have children, but a free market can richly reward those who do.” Ashley and Tyler Mayflower, PhDs, Princeton University

Melody’s parents, both economics professors, adopted her when she was a baby, and they’ve spent her entire life developing her brand and molding her into the perfect Surrogette—beautiful, accomplished, and intelligent. When she was fourteen, Melody’s virginity was brokered to the highest-bidding couple, which was a radical idea at the time, but now pregging for profit is something to which teen girls aspire. Melody received a six-figure signing bonus, and, In exchange for giving birth to a healthy child, she can count on a new car, liposuction, and college tuition. She’s been paired with Jondoe, the most genetically flawless bumping partner available, and they’re scheduled to do the deed as soon as possible. Melody’s been preparing for this her whole life. So why is she having reservations?

It turns out there’s more than one obstacle blocking the successful execution of her parents’ plans.

The first hitch shows up on Melody’s doorstep, in the form of her long-lost identical twin, Harmony. The girls were separated at birth, and Harmony, the frail, sickly twin, was adopted into a religious sect called Goodside. Now, Harmony’s run away from her community to save her sister from a life of sin. And she’s got a few ideas about saving herself, too.

Though Harmony has been reared to believe that life for a woman is JOY: Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last, she’s not comfortable with all the tenets of her faith-based community, and is especially distressed by the scripture in 1 Corinthians, which dictates that the wife’s body belongs to her husband. Early marriage and procreation are of paramount importance in the theocratic communal society of Goodside. Girls are raised to be mothers, nothing more. Harmony’s not sure how she feels about arranged marriage, and she flees rather than commit to a lifetime with someone she doesn’t love. When Jondoe mistakes Harmony for Melody, she’s more confused than ever.

Melody’s BFF, Zen adds to the problems. He’s sweet and charming and would be the perfect boyfriend, except he’s not “upmarket” enough to be Sperm for a Surrogette like Melody. Though he’s desperately in love with Mel, is Zen destined to be just an “Everythingbut” for a professional pregger like her?

Neither situation is healthy for these young girls. Melody feels responsibility as the president of her school’s Pro/Am Pregg Alliance to set an example of pregging for profit that influences other girls, for better or for worse, never mind that she’s the oldest virgin in the club. The girls in Otherside may believe it’s easy to stay emotionally detached while having sex, giving birth and then turning their children over for adoption, but Melody learns that’s not always the case.

Harmony rebels against her austere and restrictive upbringing, while Melody rebels against her parents’ plan for her. But at least in Bumped, the girls retain some autonomy. The decision to bump or not to bump is still theirs, despite peer pressure and a growing demand for children to adopt. Many teens will enter the baby market, but they won’t have to pregg at the point of a gun.

Not so for the unfortunate Handmaids.The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood - Young Adult Author Rendezvous

“Our big mistake was teaching them [women] to read. We won’t do that again.”

The Handmaid system of repopulating the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States) came about after a decline in healthy births in the late 20th century, which was attributed to many factors, including the rampant use of birth control, abortions, AIDS, syphilis, nuclear accidents, and the uncontrolled use of herbicides and insecticides.
At first, surrogates were hired, but when the number of healthy births continued to decline, the government declared all second marriages and non-marital liaisons adulterous, arrested the women in those relationships, and confiscated and adopted out their children to upper class families. The women were given the option of becoming surrogates. But it was never really an option.

Childless or infertile older women were recruited as Aunts to help run the Handmaid indoctrination programs, and wives who were unable to have children of their own took part in and supported the system that made sex slaves out of other women. After all, a little power is better than no power at all.

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

Commanders, men highly placed in the regime, chose Handmaids for their households from among the indoctrinated women who had demonstrated reproductive fitness.

“Not every Commander has a Handmaid; some of their Wives have children. From each, says the slogan, according to her ability; to each according to his needs. We recited that, three times, after dessert. It was from the Bible, or so they said. St. Paul again, in Acts.” Take away free access to information and enslave.

The mating ritual was an absolute horror which forced Commander, Wife, and Handmaid to take part in a regimented copulation designed to reduce the Handmaid to nothing more than a vessel held by the Wife to receive her husband’s seed. To say that it warped the sex act for all concerned would be a gross understatement.

Many Commanders of the regime came in contact with a sterility-causing virus developed by scientists, Pre-Gilead, which were intended to be used on the Soviets. But it was against the law to insinuate that a Commander could be sterile, so Commanders, Wives, and Handmaids went through the horror of the mating ritual, month after month, until the Handmaid either conceived, went insane, or was traded in by the family for a better specimen. Younger men of lower classes were shut out of marriage entirely. But Handmaids often risked their lives to use these men as studs when their Commanders failed to impregnate them. The risk was great, but the reward for producing a healthy child was even greater: it guaranteed that a Handmaid would never be sent to any undesirable location, never be made to shovel up the polluted waste in the Colonies or be a prostitute at Jezebel’s gentleman’s club.

Handmaids were identified by their red full-length robes and veils, and were tattooed on their ankles, a “passport in reverse…supposed to guarantee that they will never be able to fade, finally, into another landscape. I am too important, too scarce, for that. I am a national resource.”

The narrator in The Handmaid’s Tale never gives her real name. Handmaids were stripped of identities other than “Ofglen” or “Ofwarren” which associated them with their Commanders. If they changed households, they changed names. Handmaids were discouraged from forming relationships of any kind with the families they served.

“We lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.”

Both novels demonstrate how far things can spin out of control when people are forced into unnatural behaviors and brainwashed to believe that it’s just business as usual.

Author Spotlight: Miracle Austin

Young Adult Author - Miracle AustinInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Miracle Austin.

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Doll is my debut YA Paranormal novel—it is story about mean girl (Pepper Fox) versus the outcasts, since junior high. Outcasts are now in high school and so fed up with Pepper and decide to seek help from the paranormal world to teach Pepper a good lesson, but will they get what they always wanted or something much more they never expected. Twists, spells, and social awareness issues breathe in this work.

Boundless will be my second release. It will be a very eclectic collection of micro and short stories (some less than 20 words while others are over 5,000 plus words) with many social awareness themes weaved in. Some works will be light, while others will be much darker…May need a flashlight for a few…Make sure you have extra batteries, just saying…

I’ve written various short stories and they have been traditionally published in anthologies or ezines. I love writing short stories and will continue…

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

This is hard one. I will confess Lisette from Doll is one because of her inner and outer mystery…she is more powerful than she actually realizes… Tomie (Toe-me) is also one of my faves because he has no idea what breathes inside of him…I have others, but will discuss another time.

Doll is quite the creepy book – that’s a complement by the way. Lol. Is it difficult to go from writing parts of the book to living your normal life? Difficult to get out of that frame-of-mind?

Thank you so much. I absolutely take that as a lovely compliment. It was not difficult at all to write. In fact, I rushed home each day to dive into Frost High and its related worlds—they were my escapes, in fact every time I write, I have a chance to enter the character’s worlds—love that!!

The heart of Doll is about getting back at bullies, whether they do so in the right way or not. What made you take on this topic?

I took on this topic because of what I witnessed in junior high/high school/college, being a past victim of bullying myself, and my awesome mom sharing a story with me that ignited me to write Doll.

If she had not shared that story, then Doll would never be. In fact, my mom (so appreciate her) is my biggest inspiration for writing my stories—she has shared some pretty amazing stories growing up in the 40s in Crawford, Texas, (a lot of secrets live in small country towns) and living in the 50s-today. I just use my fictional magic to bring one story at a time to life.

I love the New Orleans voodoo feel of Doll. What kind of research did you have to do to get this right?

I did very little research because my mom lived in the Louisiana area for a short time. I utilized her experiences, she was the majority of my research.

What authors have inspired you to write?

So many—R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, Shirley Jackson, William Shakespeare, and so many more….

What age were you when you started writing?

Probably around 13

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Sometimes—I will take a break, listen to some awesome music—classical, 60s love songs, or a little lite rock helps me find my way back to writing. I will also Netflix it or Hulu watch…I catch ideas from anywhere, which helps me write.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I do both, but now for longer works—the outline has become my writing/dance partner.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

No, because they are real to an extent. I know each character is a little part of me, others I know/observed, and/or mash-ups.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Short version–Doll was never supposed to be a novel, only a short story, maybe 10k words. It was only a distraction because Boundless was supposed to be published first. It met over 315 rejections. —I kept persevering.

I finally landed a small publisher and everything, but personal things in publisher’s life caused my rights to be returned back to me, which was a huge blessing in disguise. It sat untouched with the publisher for almost a year. After being inspired by other Indie authors, I decided to pursue self-publishing and BOOM for Doll!!

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

No, definitely self-pub all the way from what I had to endure for almost two years.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Not so nice reviews, but I’m okay with criticism, but there is a way to express it in a constructive way versus being, well you know the rest… I know that not everyone will love my works for various reasons, but I write what moves me, like many writers, and there will be others who will enjoy. Best compliment—Cannot wait to read more from you!!!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

A few things I would share:

Never allow someone to tell you not to write what you feel in your soul.

Don’t rush your teen years—take the scenic route

Surround yourself with positive bees because there will always be negative bees who will try to steal your honeycombs.

“Pay attention to those who don’t clap for you…” not sure who said the last one—love it and so true.

Praise for Miracle Austin:

“The characters were well-realized, and Pepper was deliciously evil (and I couldn’t wait for her to be taken down!). And even though one might think the ending would be predictable, it wasn’t. There were plenty of twists that I wasn’t expecting.”

“This story is dark, and full of so many twists and turns and suspicious characters that I had no idea what to expect. There were moments that sent shivers down my spine. There were moments that made my heart skip a beat. This story has everything: magic, revenge, romance, suspense…”

“With a flawless plot, descriptions and style, this book is the perfect combination of horror, suspense and a little teenage drama and romance. A definitely must-read for this year!”

Anthem and City of Ember: A Comparison

The City of Ember by Jeanny DuPrau - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is a perfect stepping-stone to prepare middle grade readers to embrace and appreciate Ayn Rand’s 1938 novella Anthem.

The main characters in both books seek light, though in Ember the literal search for light is necessary for survival, and in Anthem, the light is not as much about the electricity discovered by the young man Equality 7-2521, as the illumination of the mind and soul that comes with an intellectual awakening.

The underground city of Ember was created and stocked with supplies to last two hundred years, which its Builders assumed was long enough to protect its people from the fallout from a nuclear war. An escape plan was in place, but somewhere along the way, the instructions detailing exactly how to get out of the city were lost.

Now, the city has survived well past its life expectancy, and the citizens of Ember are running out of food, clothing and supplies. Their electric generator is slowly dying, and temporary blackouts become more and more frequent. A few people try to venture into the vast darkness beyond the lighted city, but return in defeat.

Life goes on within the city, and twelve year-olds are given their first work assignments. Lina is assigned to work below the city in the Pipeworks, while Doon draws the job of messenger. Paper is scarce, and messengers have the very important job of delivering verbal messages all over town. Both children are disappointed with their job assignments. First jobs are for a three-year period, and may be switched if the young worker shows more aptitude for another job. But Doon can’t wait that long. He knows that the light brought by electricity is essential to Ember’s survival, and he’s determined to find a way to make electricity that can be carried, so people can search for a way out of the dying city. He asks Lina if she’ll trade jobs with him, and she happily agrees.

Lina and Doon discover corruption within the government. The mayor has been keeping a secret stash of supplies for himself so that when everyone else runs out, he’ll still have food and light bulbs. But they also find the Instructions for Egress left by the original Builders. The instructions have been badly damaged, and they have to literally piece together what remains and solve the puzzle that will help them find the secret door out of Ember.

When they report the Mayor’s hoarding to the city guards, they are accused of spreading vicious rumors, and a warrant is issued for their capture. The only way to escape from the guards and save everyone in the city is to follow the Instructions for Egress, which leads them to the thing they most fear—the rushing Underground River.

City of Ember offers an introduction to many dystopian themes, including:

-corrupt leaders that cling to a crumbling society

-a system where individuals are assigned jobs with no regard for their aptitudes or preferences

-frustration for individuals who can make legitimate contributions to better society, but are turned away by those in power

-the freedom found in exile for those brave enough to seek it

Anthem by Ayn Rand - Young Adult Author RendezvousIn Anthem, as in City of Ember, there are secrets to be discovered and adventures to be had in the tunnels under the city streets. But Anthem paints a grim picture of a collective society that punishes any form of individual expression. Family units exist in City of Ember, but in Anthem, children never know their parents. They are raised by the state, educated by the state, and given life Mandates, assigning them to jobs when they are fifteen years of age.

Equality 7-2521, the protagonist in Anthem, desires more than anything to be assigned to the Home of the Scholars and to be allowed to study science. He hopes to advance technology beyond the latest invention, which was found only one hundred years before, of how to make candles from wax and string. When he is assigned to be a Street Sweeper, he is crushingly disappointed, but accepts the Mandate as a way to atone for his sins against his brothers. For any thought that does not consider everyone is a sin. But he is unable to keep his thoughts strictly collective.

He singles out one young woman, Liberty 5-3000, and holds her in higher esteem than any other woman, which is strictly forbidden. In his mind, he calls her the Golden One.

He collects things that interest him and hides them in a tunnel under the street. After two years of study he builds an electric lamp. He presents his invention to the Council of Scholars, but instead of being grateful for his service to society, the Council demands that the lamp be destroyed. He escapes with the lamp, but is damned to exile the Uncharted Forest. Two days later, the Golden One joins him in exile. After many days they come upon a house from the Unmentionable Times, and sets about learning the wonders of the civilization that has passed away.  They live as a young couple in love, and start a family. Equality 7-2521 takes the name Prometheus, who in mythology was the bringer of light, and renames the Golden One Gaea, after the mother of the earth.

In both City of Ember and Anthem, the main characters find freedom in exile, and plan to share the wonders of their new worlds with people who are trapped in the societies they left behind.

What Ember doesn’t, and shouldn’t, examine are the horrors of life in a totalitarian collective society that brainwashes its population with statements like, “What is not thought by all men cannot be true” and eliminates the singular pronoun from the language to deprive people of the sense of independent thought.

Ayn Rand states in her introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Anthem that “reason is the property of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain.”

I’ve mentioned in other posts that the nucleus of the idea for COUNTERACT, my first novel, began as a writing prompt proposed by a student I was mentoring. His exact words? “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?”

If there is no such thing as a collective brain, collective thought would only be possible if it were coerced.

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