‘This is Teen’ brings authors and teens together at The Bookworm
Ryan Summerlin November 11, 2012
“This is Teen” is an event focused on conversation between authors and teens. Headlined by authors Emily Hainsworth and Brenna Yovanoff, The Bookworm’s children’s book specialist, Franny Gustafson, will get the authors’ take on current trends and controversies in young adult literature.
“Are some books too sexy? Too violent? So much has changed in teen lit, and this event is a great opportunity to get opinions from the authors, as well as the audience,” Gustafson said.
Hainsworth was raised in upstate New York but quickly fled its gray skies for the sunny Rocky Mountains. Her fantasy fiction book “Through to You” is a haunting story that will take you by surprise.
Yovanoff, a Denver resident, penned the paranormal romance “The Space Between,” a story of identity, discovery and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.
Hainsworth and Yovanoff, who visit The Bookworm of Edwards recently took the time to answer a few questions.
Vail Daily: Why did you start writing books for teens?
Emily Hainsworth : Young adult fiction was the genre I escaped to when I was a teenager. I loved thrillers, mysteries and, of course, the occasional paranormal romance. I clearly remember reading YA novels between my high school classes and thinking those were the kinds of books I wanted to write someday.
Brenna Yovanoff: This is actually a very interesting question because … I don’t know! I studied creative writing in college, and pretty much all of my stories were about adolescent characters, but the program I was in had such a heavy focus on literary fiction that the idea of YA as a genre never even came up. My professors referred to the things I wrote as “coming of age” stories. Which is to say, I guess the short answer is, I started writing YA because it’s what came naturally – it honestly never occurred to me to write any other way!
VD: What are some books that inspired you when you were a teen?
EH: As a teen, I was inspired by everything Christopher Pike wrote. His books are one of the primary reasons I became a writer in the first place. He has dozens in print, but I think my favorite was “Master of Murder.” It’s about a famous teen mystery author who ends up getting framed for a murder.
BY: When I was growing up, all my favorite books were absolutely full of dysfunction! I mean, overflowing with it. My personal trifecta of favorite books consisted of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Lord of the Flies” and “A Clockwork Orange.” Basically, I loved anything that offered an incisive look at society – however skewed -and bonus points if it also featured a psychopath.
VD: How do you come up with your story ideas?
EH: I don’t really know how to describe the way I come up with ideas. Sometimes, they’ll come from a thought I’ve had knocking around in my head for years; other times, it’s a quick flash of inspiration. For “Through To You,” I had been thinking about the way small choices can dramatically impact the course of life, and then I watched an old music video. Somehow, the thought plus the visual clicked together and became the beginning of a story.
BY: I am exceptionally bad at tracing my story ideas back to their genesis, but what I can say is this: I tend to stockpile things I find interesting. I don’t know exactly how it works, but they seem go into some forgotten attic area of my brain, where they sit in the dark all jumbled together – sometimes for years – and eventually, after enough time has passed, they’ll start to blend together and eventually turn into something that jumps out at me suddenly and announces that it’s an actual story.
VD: How do you handle writing about controversial topics?
EH: I feel like the only way to approach controversial topics in books is to be as honest as possible. Things like swearing and cigarette smoking might strike one reader as completely unacceptable, while another reader will find they make the book seem that much more realistic. I won’t include these things in a novel unless I feel they have a good reason for being there, which is where the honesty comes in. I couldn’t imagine trying to write about an angry, grieving, 17-year-old boy who doesn’t swear, for example. As much as his mother, teachers and even the person reading about him might not approve, it just wouldn’t seem realistic to me. But controversial topics are very subjective.
BY: My answer to this one really goes back to that earlier question of inspiration and my own controversial reading preferences as a teenager. My teenage years were a time when I was profoundly curious about controversy in general, and I think that’s true for a lot of people. I believe that controversial topics should be handled in a mindful, nuanced way, but I also think that’s something that holds true regardless of whether someone’s writing for teenagers or adults. My personal approach is just to try and do the best job I can and not to feel straitjacketed or like I have to stay away from topics that would have seemed really important when I was younger, because I know that if I chicken out, my younger self would just be so disappointed in me!
Kelli Kostroski is the marketing and events manager at The Bookworm of Edwards.