My “Fab Four” Introduction

For those of you who don’t yet know, I am now one of the “Fab Four” bloggers on my boss Melissa A. Petreshock’s blog. This is my introductory post over on her Dragon Blog. Read it below, or on her site.

What are your favorite parts of “regular” teen life?
1. As cheesy as it sounds, knowing that this is the beginning of the rest of my life (especially with college applications fast approaching).

2. Being halfway between childhood and adulthood is particularly great because while I am gaining more responsibility, I don’t yet have to deal with taxes and other annoying adult concerns.

3. Hanging out with my friends is always the highlight of my day: whether it is to study for school or to watch a movie, we always have a good time—and amidst all the stress of being high school Juniors, any relaxation is welcome.

Your least favorite?
1. The amount of work I receive. While I do have the need to always be busy and doing something productive, I do wish I had more down time to write my own novels, do my job as Melissa’s assistant, or to just relax.

2. The stress that accompanies all the work. Deadlines make some people productive, but for me, they make me more anxious than anything else.

3. Not being fully independent. I know I’m being self-contradictory, but as a teen, I still want more freedom than I have now.

What are your favorite YA novels?
1. The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read this book a long time ago on the recommendation of my older cousins. It was the first book I remember reading as a young child. The hard facts and choices represented in the novel shaped my world, and continue to influence other books (e.g. the Choosing Ceremony in Divergent by Veronica Roth). Greer can tell you more about that during one of her #ClassicLitLove posts. Anyway, this is my #1 favorite YA novel. Read it, and you’ll love it too.

2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Northern Lights if you’re British). Another one of my cousins’ recommendations, this philosophical novel also has a very special place in my heart. It’s fantastical take on childhood spirit imbued me with a love for creativity and curiosity that I hope stay with me for the rest of my life. The rest of the His Dark Material Trilogy is also great, but this was my favorite.

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (buy the whole series if you haven’t already). This was by far my favorite literary introduction on behalf of my cousins. The idea that we have magic powers that can be used for either good or evil, at our own discretion, to change the world has been one of the most powerful lessons that I still carry with me today.

What do you wish was portrayed more/less in YA fiction?
1. “Normal” female characters. I do love the precedents set by Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, and Tris Prior, etc, but while all of them are relatable, they all possess a “bigger than life” quality. Shailene Woodley has said in many Divergent movie interviews that she liked her character (Tris) because she’s a normal girl faced with huge challenges. I disagree, but that is just my opinion. I am not saying get rid of these fierce role models, just add a few more truly awkward characters into the mix (like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell).

2. Less emphasis on romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love romance, but when it comes to books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, people are dying, we don’t need to zoom in on the romance. I believe the latter kept things in better perspective (I mean 1701 children died in previous Hunger Games before the first book takes place, and we focus on the love triangle). **annoyed rant over**

3. A bigger role of family. I know, I know. Half the adventures couldn’t take place if there were hovering parents, but to never mention them creates a bizarre expectation that parents are obstacles to all fun. And that’s definitely not true (my mom is one of my best friends and we have great times together). The Prior family (Divergent), and its precedent in The Giver are shown before the main character separates from them (in one way or another), and I would like to see that in more YA books.

How do you juggle school work with your writing career?
1. To Do lists and prioritization. Homework first, and hopefully I have enough time to write. The weekend it’s reversed. It’s not a perfect system, but I have yet to let the ball drop on either. And you know what they say: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

2. If I’m ever feeling particularly stuck (writing or homework), I switch for an hour. It resets my brain to be more productive, and it works like a charm in getting everything I need done.

3. Whenever it feels like too much, I take a break to eat a snack and listen to music. This may sound like wasting time, but getting into the right mindset is so much more conducive to productivity than puttering around for hours on end. Once I’m back to “normal,” I use the aforementioned tactics.

How do your teen struggles influence your novels?
1. My existential crisis (yes I had one when I transferred to my new high school) has helped me create a lot of internal character conflicts concerning their places in this world.

2. As an addendum, being a teen means my emotions are much more volatile than any of my older relatives’ (bad when I’m trying to stay calm, good when I’m writing novels).

3. Similar to Melissa (who writes strong female characters so her daughters have good role models), I use my life lessons to create admirable characters for future audiences. My characters go through similar struggles I do (obviously tweaked and heightened, but the emotion is the same).

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