3 Questions with YA Author Tera Lynn Childs
Interested in learning about YA (Young Adult) the hottest "new" genre to hit the proverbial pike? Then you could do a lot worse than listening to talented RITA-winning author, Tera Lynn Childs, who knows more than anyone I know on the subject. We recently tracked her down for three questions.
BtO: I've been enjoying checking out a few great YA (Young Adult) reads in the past two years, and found both your clever debut, OH. MY. GODS! and the follow-up, GODDESS BOOT CAMP, fresh and fun, with their secret island high school for the descendants of the
Greek gods. Which leads me to my first question, why launch a whole new world (and series) with the release of FORGIVE MY FINS?
TLC: Honestly? Well, there are two reasons. Partly, I made the switch because the sales for the OH. MY. GODS. books started out kind of slow and my publisher wanted to start something new while we waited for them to pick up momentum.
But that's not the only reason. I'd started FORGIVE MY FINS way back in 2006, right before I sold OH. MY. GODS. We'd been getting rejection after rejection and my agent suggested I start something new. I was in Florida for the summer, spending lots of time on the beach. Growing up, I'd been a competitive swimmer and I still fantasized about magically turning into a mermaid. One day, I decided it would be cool if a merperson could bestow their magical powers with a kiss. And then, being a writer, I added conflict and wondered what would happen if a mermaid accidentally kiss the wrong boy.
Being a water baby and a wannabe mermaid, this was a book close to my heart, and my critique partner (Sophie Jordan) always thought it was my best. (Plus, we both love, love, love Quince.) So, when my editor asked for something new, I jumped at the chance to finish FORGIVE MY FINS.
BtO: Can you tell us a little about the heroine, Lily Sanderson, and give us a sneak preview of the fix she's gotten herself into?
TLC: Lily is the princess and sole heir to the underwater kingdom of Thalassinia. She's awkward and self-effacing and loyal to the core. Three years ago, she learned that her late mother was a human and decided to go live on land to learn more about that world. She only planned to stay a year, but then she fell head over fins for her crush, swim star Brody. And if she has to put up with her obnoxious biker-boy neighbor, Quince, to stay close to Brody, then that's a price she's willing to pay.
In the mer world, a kiss forms a magical bond between the kissers and grants mer powers if one of them is human. Lily's 18th birthday is only weeks away and, if she isn't bonded to her mermate by then, she'll lose her place in the succession. With Quince's help she's supposed to meet Brody at the school dance, confess her feelings, and hopefully--if he feels the same--be bonded and on her way home in plenty of time. Only the meeting doesn't go as planned (shocking!) and instead she accidentally kisses bane-of-her-existence Quince. Now she needs to get Quince home to Thalassinia asap, get her dad the king to perform a separation, and get back to making Brody see they should be mermates before time runs out. Guess what? Things don't sail quite that smoothly.
BtO: Okay, it's official. I cannot wait to read this book.
Some of your readers might be surprised to learn that I got to know you through a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Can you share with us how writing YA is similar to romance, and what are the major differences?
TLC: I can't tell you how many romance authors have asked me about writing YA, insisting they never could. Nonsense! Teens today are not the foreign creatures we melodramatically believe them to be. While their environment might have changed (they text instead of write notes, they face increased security measures, they spend more time on facebook than on the phone) teens today go through the same things teens have always gone through. First loves, first kisses, first betrayals, friendships, enemies, worrying about the future, trying to define themselves, trying to live up to expectations. Tell me you didn't go through that in your teen years.
As for the writing, the only difference between YA and romance is the fact that the main character is a teen. That, of course, leads to teen-specific situations (like high school and summer camp) and teen-like reactions, but otherwise the rules of writing are the same. You needs lots of believable conflict. You need sympathetic characters with adequate motivation. You needs a strong voice--and, no, you don't need to change your voice to sound teen, just stay true to your voice
People have tried to tell me there are "rules" in YA, things you can't write about or certain things you should do. Also not true. In fact, there are fewer rules in YA literature than in romance. We don't necessarily have the happily ever after ending. And there is no such thing as an off-limits topic. There have been YA books that address sex, drugs, alcohol, abuse, rape, suicide, incest ... you name it, the YA genre has it. These may be scary or uncomfortable topics, but the reality is teens out there are facing these issues everyday. Not writing about them doesn't make them any less real. The only rule in YA--and this is a rule that should apply to all fiction, no matter the age group or genre--is "If it serves the story, write it. If it doesn't, leave it."
BtO: Thanks so much for stopping by, Tera, and I hope FORGIVE MY FINS makes a (wait for it...) big splash on the YA scene!