Teen Read Week is officially October 16th through 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you author interviews and profiles and reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us.
Gordon Korman. Cassandra Clare. What do these two have in common besides both writing for teens?
Well, for one thing, they are both highly recognized by YALSA. A number of Gordon Korman‘s books have been featured on YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Best Books for Young Adults–including Losing Joe’s Place, The Toilet Paper Tigers, and Son of the Mob: Hollywood Hustle. Cassandra Clare has been featured multiple times on YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten list.
But more recently, they were in the same place on the same day. The two spoke back to back at the Teen Tent at the National Book Festival. Both spoke generously about their work, and then took countless questions–with people left over.
But the most interesting part is that they both spoke about the same thing–in different ways of course: research.
Gordon Korman believes that when you’re writing a novel, the research almost writes the story for you. “The fact writes the fiction,” he says. In the case of his most recent 39 Clues books as well as others in his repertoire (of which there are many), the research is what is most important in developing the story. You can’t write about a trek up Mount Everest, for instance, without first considering who has climbed it, what equipment they might have used, who never made it, and why. There’s no use creating daring and awe-inspiring feats on the Titanic without first looking to see what might have actually occurred on the ship.
Things like this are important to Korman, who writes adventures, above all else.
For Cassandra Clare, research can even be dangerous. As a writer who trespasses on private property and occasionally gets an accidental eyefull, she’s willing to do many things to see and document places that she would like to feature in her novels. Initial research is important as well–“There are so many places in a city,” she says, “that you don’t notice or know about, even if you walk past them every day.” And when you’re writing about downworlders, these places can be unsavory as well–overgrown cemeteries, dark courtyards, even parks after twilight. But if you’re going to write them, you have to research them first.
Both authors had additional sage advice for writers in their audience.
Gordon Korman, who never lets the dogs die, works in the way of Jerry Seinfeld. “Did you ever notice that…” “Did you ever wonder about…” Take these thoughts and write. And take advantage of opportunities–a sentiment that might have backfired for him when he was asked to look at someone’s book during the Q&A (though he happily complied).
And for Cassandra Clare? “Make writing part of your daily life,” she says. Write about anything and everything. Write your own “Very Secret Diaries.” And figure out on your own whether you’re a “planner” or a “pantser”–someone who, like her, has to outline and discuss everything before writing a word, or someone who will write (with impressive results) by the seat of their pants. Either way, just write.
So many authors graced the stage of the Teen Tent and a number of other tents at the National Book Festival. But there was definitely a theme among authors of all topics and kinds: no matter how much they like to talk about themselves, authors love their readers.
— Jessica Pryde, currently devouring Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire.
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