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Posts from the ‘Canadian YA novelist’ Category

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (March 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its third month of articles for 2013, from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for March 2013

Are Teen Novels ‘Genre’ Fiction? by Elizabeth Wein

Using Art In My Teen Novels by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Writing ‘Unlikable’ Characters In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Selling Your Teen Novel Manuscript by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Unreliable Narrators In Teen Novels by Beth Revis

My Novel Writing Process by April Henry

Editing A Novel: The Necessary Evil by Lish McBride

The Process Of Writing And Revising My Novels by Monika Schroder

Finding A Good Literary Agent For Your Novels by Paul Volponi

Research For My Teen Historical Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Developing The Story For My Novel ‘The Puzzle Ring’ by Kate Forsyth

What Is At Stake For The Characters In Your Teen Novel?  by Diane Lee Wilson

Voice In My Teen Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Love To Set Novels In British Columbia by Sam Hawksmoor

Setting Up A Suspenseful Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

On Novels That Are For-Teens-By-Accident by Bernard Beckett

Beginning Your Novel With A Great First Chapter by Pauline Francis

Getting An Agent And Publisher For Your Novel by Andy Briggs

This month’s articles and writing my teen novel

Sarah Mussi wrote: A strong opening must promise the reader that something worthwhile is going to happen because this will make the reader feel it is worth carrying on reading. This sounds simple but it’s a bit more tricky than it seems.
Firstly, ‘something worthwhile is going to happen’ should not be confused with curiosity. Mere curiosity, or not knowing something, is not enough to stimulate the interest of the reader over the course of a novel. Secondly, the willful withholding of information in order to ‘arouse interest’ or ‘create a surprise’ can be extremely annoying.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a book like this knows the feeling. It’s counter-productive. It’s BOOK DEATH! So you have to be very cunning.

Monika Schroder wrote: Once I have finished a full draft it goes through numerous revisions and each of these revisions focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript. In an early stage when I revise for plot I tweak and streamline the events along the story’s arc. I cut scenes or write them more tightly. Another revision focuses on the character development, making sure that I have kept his or her development clear and the character’s traits are consistent throughout the story.
After the larger structural problems are fixed it is time to improve syntax and word choice.

Kashmira Sheth wrote: Our inner world is colored with our outer world. The physical surroundings, including weather, seasons, terrain, plants, animals, and people have a profound impact on how they express themselves. For example, a character living in a desert might use a spiky cactus to describe a prickly personality, while a character living near a rocky beach may compare it to sharp rocks. A character’s profession will also shape the way they talk and think.  A poet may describe a sunset differently than a scientist, even though they are both watching the same sunset at the same time and same place. The metaphors and similes our characters use or don’t use reflect their environment and their backgrounds. This makes up part of their voice.

For my own teen novel in progress, set in 1939 Poland and discussed further in the January and February Month In Review Updates, my approach includes going back to revisit the first chapter as part of the editing and rewriting process to ensure it performs the important role of effectively introducing readers to my main character and drawing them into the story. As Sarah has suggested, there is a difference between skillfully crafting a sense of anticipation and story momentum by raising unanswered questions in readers’ minds as part of a satisfying story experience versus simply withholding information you would otherwise provide in the belief that withholding this information will create suspense.

Of course, while the first chapter of a novel holds a special place as readers’ entry point into a novel, it is not just the first chapter that can benefit from being re-shaped with the benefit of the big picture context gained from of a complete draft of the novel. With this big picture context in mind, the essence of each scene and the contribution it makes to the story (eg. revealing character and dynamics between characters, and showing character-change and changing dynamics between characters) can be fine-tuned so the components of the story work in unison to more effectively convey a satisfying reading experience.

Kashmira’s point that ‘our inner world is coloured by our outer world’ is something I have considered, and continue to consider, in relation to my novel. My main character, as a teenager in 1939 Poland, does not have day-to-day familiarity with contemporary things like computers or the internet, television, rock music, mobile phones (or even widespread access to home phones) and other electronic or communications devices, passenger aircraft, widespread access to motor vehicles, widespread commercial use of plastics, the United Nations, the Holocaust, the outcome of WW2, nuclear weapons, the Cold War, satellites, space travel, and whether there was intelligent life and societies on neighbouring planets. This means many concepts which could come to mind for a contemporary character cannot come to mind for my character in 1939 Poland. Day-to-day concepts which come to his mind may have more to do with things like agriculture, livestock, horses and horse-drawn carts, railway travel, communicating by posting letters, the outcome of WW1, instrumental music, folk songs, books and paintings. Contrasting a contemporary character with one from the past provides a clear example of how a character’s ‘inner world is coloured by their outer world’, but this applies equally to different characters within the setting of a novel. Each character in a setting does not experience the absolute entirety of that setting, just as no person experiences the absolute entirety of the planet, country, region, state, city, street or even the house where they live, due to the physical limitations of only being in one place at a time. Each character will experience different parts of their setting and have different thoughts than other characters, which will influences which parts of the setting they subsequently experience and what they then think, and so on, building up in each character a unique ‘inner world coloured by their outer world’.


‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

You can connect with Steve Rossiter on Facebook or on Google+.


Writing Teen Novels

Why I Love To Set Novels In British Columbia, by Sam Hawksmoor

Choosing British Columbia as a location for my novels is practically cheating. What’s not to like about mountains, beaches, the Pacific Ocean, fiords, a sophisticated city in Vancouver with at least 1000 great restaurants, a choice of theatres and cinemas, skiing on Grouse Mountain in winter and walking up the Grind in summer.  Then there are the Whistler Mountains, the huge winding Fraser River that snakes down from the wine country and through the vast forests towards the Pacific, the amazing islands in the gulf and the vast splendour of Vancouver Island.  It’s the best place to live on Earth.

In 1886 Vancouver was the newest city on Earth and in June that year it had burned to a crisp. So everything starts after that date. Everyone wanted a piece of the action and Vancouver has always been about real estate and immigrants.  The town where my family still lives have street and shops signs in Korean now.  The face of Vancouver is Chinese, Korean, East Indian and of course First Nation and the original settlers from England, Scotland and Europe. This dynamic mix is transforming the culture and wealth of British Columbia.  There are two great world-class universities, UBC and Simon Fraser, busy producing future business and scientific leaders.  Just below UBC you can enjoy the best skimboarding in the shallows once the tide goes out. Twenty years ago I was inspired by a quirky event on that very beach when walking with my dog and came across a pair of shoes with someone’s feet still inside them!  It made its way into a novel I wrote under another name (Mean Tide) when I relocated to London.  ‘No experience wasted’ is my motto. Sport is threaded through life in BC, where the bike is king and sailing and kayaking practically compulsory.

This leads me to Vancouver and British Columbia’s dark side: the gangs, the drugs, the violent crime and family breakdowns as people struggle to live in some of the most expensive real estate in North America.  You only have to stroll to the edge of the tourist area of Gastown to Hastings and come face to face with undesirable types and see the mask slip from the face of paradise.  It’s an immediate reality check and drugs in particular draws in teens. No city is without its bad side, but this is spread right across the province and there are causal links to this, from bikers to teen runaways, inadequate parenting, poor role models and more. Yet it’s also full of ambitious kids, good kids and generous kids who want to make their mark on the world. Some of them even survive the terrors and pressures of high school – a literary genre I wouldn’t dare to contribute to.

All this is why British Columbia is the most perfect location for me as a setting for Young Adult novels.  Everything happens in British Columbia and it is full of possibilities.  The tragedy is that most publishers haven’t been there, can’t see it and moan if your book is set anywhere but the UK or USA.  I would love to set a novel in Cape Town for example – another fantastic city with mountains and possibilities - but they shake their heads and just mutter that Africa doesn’t sell.  There’s a lot of location prejudice.  They are wrong of course.  Think of your favourite movies and there’s a good chance some of them were shot in Vancouver: from Twilight to Juno, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Butterfly Effect and Hot Tub Time Machine.

One of the best sights I ever had was sailing back from Vancouver Island past Galliano Island. A forest was on fire on the island, aircraft were bombing it with water and the smoke trail went on for miles, as a pod of whales went right by. My niece Tabytha and I sipped our wine, amazed, and along came the best sunset ever.  That’s life in British Columbia, and that’s where my heart lies.


Sam Hawksmoor’s author website:

Sam Hawksmoor’s bio page


United States (and beyond)


United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

The RepossessionThe Hunting     Necromancing the StoneAngel DustTarzan: The Jungle Warrior: Bk. 2Code Name VerityDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)

Writing Teen Novels

What Makes Great Young Adult Fiction? by Sam Hawksmoor

The world isn’t perfect.  You learn this the first time you hear the word ‘no’ and more bad luck for you if all you ever hear is ‘yes’, because you’ll never develop self-discipline and if you never develop self-discipline you never develop self-worth. This is an unfashionable view but that doesn’t mean that it is wrong). Great Young Adult (YA) fiction is quite often about young kids who for one reason or another rate their ability to make a difference,  if only they are given a chance.  I’m not really talking about heroes – more often than not it’s about kids who know their weaknesses and have to raise their game or take decisions on their own for the first time. Take the fantastic and much neglected The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac. (Aside from the fact that it is criminal you can’t easily buy this outside of Canada, this is one of the most inspiring openings to a trilogy you’ll ever read).

The Droughtlanders gets to grips with climate change, revolutionary politics, regime change, circuses, cowardice and the terrible price of jealousy and revenge.  Carrie Mac must have once had an awful time with a brother or sister to understand just how competitive and harsh brothers and sisters, especially twins can be to each other.  Here we have twin brothers (in a Romulus and Remus situation)  Seth and Eli, one all gung-ho for violence, guided by an evil father who rules the Keylanders (outside the city walls) with an iron fist, the other brother is painted as a coward who deplores violence, worships his scientist mother, who works on crops and making things grow.  Little do either brother realise that their mother is in fact working for a Droughtlander terror organisation that wants to bring down this cruel regime.

Outside the city walls a disfiguring disease runs rampant and anyone who has it is shunned.  Their state controls the weather and has stolen the rain from the rest and impoverished millions. The mother is blown up by the father, the Eli runs to the outside, the Seth pursues, vowing to crush any rebellion and kill his brother if he has to. But they have another relative – a sister they weren’t aware of… and she is working the other side. Within the text you discover the outside world riddled with poverty and disease and bravely, for YA fiction, sex and the consequences of sex; babies. Babies brought into a warzone. Carrie Mac does not shirk from dirt, sickness sheer folly and manages a giant cast with consumate skill.  She also displays a fantastic knowledge of circus life and Cirque du Soleil in particular, which again marks out her fiction as totally unique. Do all you can to find these books.

The Triskelia trilogy works because it mines age-old themes but addresses contemporary issues in an engaging, electrifying way.  It’s simply a damned exciting read that doesn’t shy away from the consequences of violence or sex.

This is why I read YA fiction.


Sam Hawksmoor’s author website:

Sam Hawksmoor’s bio page


United States (and beyond)


United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

The RepossessionThe Hunting     The DroughtlandersAcross the UniverseSparkTracksKeeping Corner

Writing Teen Novels

What Is The Appeal Of Teen Dystopian Novels? by Sam Hawksmoor

Dystopian stories are fashionable. It’s not just The Hunger Games. They can be set in the ruins of society or even deliberately created. Michael Coleman’s The Cure takes us back to year zero in his novel. In the Uglies and Pretties series by Scott Westerfeld he explores the obsession with perfection, a whole society warped by plastic surgery. We are attracted to dystopian stories because they offer an alternative to this world and perhaps point the way to a better life than the one we have.  (Bleak and harsh they may be, the success of Final Destination series demonstrates the endless flexibility of the great fight against oppression.) Add Divergent, Blood Red Road, and yes many seem to have strong female gladiators in the lead who can be trained to kill and maim and not seem to suffer any emotional trauma. So many are published now they all tend to merge into one, but some have a unique twist. Here are two dystopic novels to consider.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver is on a journey through a well-trodden future – where love and feelings are illegal.  Writers such as Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and even Jean Luc Goddard were thinking about totalitarian worlds where passion and poetry were forbidden for the sake of peace and humanity way back in fifties and sixties.  George Orwell also used sex and love as a rebellion against dictatorship in 1984.  There is also the movie Equilibrium where Christian Bale’s job is to kill anyone who feels anything and eradicate art or poetry that might inspire ‘rebellion’.

In Delirium we live in a future United States where love is a disease in need of a cure.  Reading Delirium the tone and feel of the text is a lot like the beginning of the amazing ‘Forest of Hands and Teeth’ but this is no zombie novel.  It is a very real world where a seventeen-year-old girl Lena is just 95 days away from the ‘cure’ and to be honest she can’t wait.  First she has to be evaluated (a very tense time where they test your psychological state and wellbeing and then depending on your score, match you with a boy with whom you will spend the rest of your life in a loveless marriage) A bit like a face to face eharmony moment and you get just five choices of who they think you are most compatible with.

Lena is nervous, not because, as you would expect in this kind of novel, she wants to rebel and experience love, but because she so totally believes in this ‘cure’. Lena, along with her best friend and running partner the beautiful, Hana, are on the countdown to ‘freedom’ from pain.  The cure is a surgical procedure that will remove all longing - give them the emotional range of a Stepford Wife.  Superficially, it might seem attractive to any heartbroken teen to have a cure that will stop the pain.  The same idea was also used in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where you can have memories of your last relationship erased.  But what would it be like to live in a society where boys and girls at the age of 18 are psychologically neutered?  What is there to live for if there isn’t love?  Where do you go if you don’t want the procedure? Life in Maine seems to go on to be sure, but unlike Ms Oliver, I am not absolutely convinced it would be so normal or that people would be motivated to carry on. This is just an observation mind. It seems to be a life without hope and anticipation and that’s kind of hard to live with. 
There are the wilds beyond the border (electrified fences keep people in) and the beyond that the bombed out ruins of towns and cities that would not succumb to this loveless dictat.  America is safe (at peace) but beyond its borders all is chaos and pain because they allow ‘passion’ to rule.

It’s not all peace in Portland, Maine where Lena lives with her aunt and uncle and their two kids. (Grace and Jenny.  Grace is mute – rebelling in her own way about what life has dealt her).  If you rebel in any way, listen to unauthorised music or read a banned love poem, the regulators and enforcers will hunt you down, club you unconscious or even kill you or throw you in jail and throw away the key.

This is not the kind of America you’d like to live in.  Romeo and Juliet is a compulsory read as a warning to just what can go wrong if you stray from the norm. Why is Lena so keen to be ‘cured’?  Look no further than her mother who committed suicide rather than submit to the cure.  She suffered so much, they had to treat her three times to try to ‘cure’ her of love, but it failed.  Lena fears that she has inherited the ‘disease’ from her mother and does not want that much pain.  That is until she meets Alex, part time student, security guard, not yet matched.  Alex is cured, so should be ‘safe’, but Alex has a secret and clearly likes her. 
What is this terrible feeling she has for this golden boy with a killer smile. It can’t be?  But it is. A heart doesn’t lie. 
Keeping secrets in a totalitarian society is tough and every day she gets one closer to the cure.  Delirium is an intense portrait of a militaristic Amish America - a love story to savour with characters you can believe in.

Pastworld by Ian Beck

Lose yourself in Old London – delight in the antics of adorable urchins begging for change

It had to happen; some bright spark decided to write Westworld for kids. (If you don’t know what Westworld is, it’s a cowboy resort where you can experience the Wild West – see a lawless life in the raw, witness real gunfights and death and go home again to your modern, safe world afterwards. (Only something goes wrong… and the cowboys aren’t quite what they seem).

That said, PastWorld by Ian Beck is a great yarn and will impress young readers.  
It is set in 2050; London has been converted into a giant, lawless Victorian theme park complete with Dickensian beggars, thieves and murderers, séances and airships that glide over the city. There are authentic smells, fogs, steam trains and yes you can meet the muffin man, experience the murder trail and if you are very unlucky be eviscerated by the Fantom who will literally rip your head off and steal your heart.

The children who live there don’t even know this is a resort and, like the Truman Show, believe it all to be real. 

Eve, a young beautiful girl with piercing blue eyes lives in this world, has grown up here, guarded by the blind man Jack who is very protective of her.  She is a virtual prisoner, cooking and cleaning for her Jack. She has no knowledge of her parents and sees only this damp foggy world.  She longs for more and keeps a diary recording her thoughts.

Meet strange blue eyed Caleb, visiting with his father from the outside to Pastworld for the first time.  He is excited to be wearing period costume to fit in, little suspecting that his father knows much more about the workings of this world than he has let on. Caleb is scared and thrilled and they have been invited to the great Halloween party by the owner of the resort, the mysterious Mr. Buckland. 

 But someone is looking for Eve.  An evil man who wants to do her great harm and she, unsuspecting of the terrible fate that awaits her and unable to take the boring confines of her world anymore, has fled to the circus and is training to be a tight-rope walker. 

 Then there’s Bible J, who is a tea-leaf and works for the fake medium Mr. Leighton and in the streets lie the evil ragged men who work under a spell of the Fantom.

Eve discovers she has a special talent. Caleb watches his father be kidnapped, the blind man killed and he is suddenly wanted for murder. Bible J has fallen for Eve, and the cat lady knows her secret.  Eve thinks she is safe hidden in the world of the circus people but she will be betrayed by her very talent.

Ian Beck has conjured up a convincing and very detailed Victorian world populated by lifers (the ones who belong there) and gawkers, (the ones pay for thrills). 

 The plot is very Phantom of the Opera and even harks back to Metropolis.  Perhaps there are no new plots in dystopia.  Nevertheless spending time with Caleb, Eve, Bible J and Sergeant Catchpole of Scotland Yard whose job it is to find Eve before the Fantom does is a lot of fun and there are many surprises along the way.


Sam Hawksmoor’s author website:

Sam Hawksmoor’s bio page


United States (and beyond)


United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

The RepossessionThe Hunting     Delirium (Delirium Trilogy)Pastworld: A Mystery of the Near FutureGenesisMy Brother's ShadowThe Puzzle Ring

Writing Teen Novels


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