Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Guest Post: Author Kristin Bailey

After her parents died in a fire and her grandfather disappeared, Meg Whitlock thought her life had come to a standstill. But when she learned that the pocket watch her grandfather left her was really an intricate key, Meg, with the help of a stable hand named Will, uncovered the Amusementists: members of an elite secret society dedicated to discovery and shrouded in mystery.

Now the Amusementists are convening in London, and Meg is determined to join their ranks. But being the first girl in the Order has its difficulties, and with Will away in Scotland Meg fears she can’t trust anyone but herself. Her worries are only supported by the sabotage happening at the academy, with each altered invention being more harmful than the last.

With threats lurking around every corner, and while trying to prove her worth as the first female Amusementist, Meg must uncover the identity of the academy’s saboteur before the botched devices become deadly. And after she finds evidence of a sinister and forbidden invention, Meg must stop it - or risk the entire future of the Amusementists.
Writing into the Gap

Hi everyone, and thank you for inviting me. I want to write about a phenomenon I've seen in the YA world that helped prompt the idea for THE SECRET ORDER trilogy.

When I decided I wanted to write Young Adult, I remembered the the time in my life when I was twelve and thirteen and I loved reading. I desperately used the books I read to try to make sense of the world around me. I also read them to have fun. I wanted to see in them, characters, especially girls I could aspire to be. Like the roller-coasters I loved so much, I wanted my books to be a wild ride. I loved those stories, and they inspired me to learn and grow.

According to the American Library Association, the Young Adult genre spans the ages from twelve to eighteen years old, though there are obviously adult readers as well. Middle Grade is usually defined as ages nine to twelve. So, between MG and YA books, there should be a smooth gradient of childhood reading with content for every age in the spectrum, with the fuzzy break happening for kids who are about eleven and twelve years old.

The problem is that there has been a trend to push toward older and more mature stories and characters in YA novels. So much so that former "YA" books broke out into a new genre called New Adult. Content for young adult novels has grown darker and edgier, pushing content that is solidly intended for an audience of sixteen and up. I don't know if the influx of the adult readers into the genre has helped to push characters and contact toward this higher "maturity" but the trend seems pretty clear.

I watched this trend unfolding and it broke my heart, because I saw a gap opening where I could find less and less books that formed a bridge from shorter middle grade novels into the young adult genre.

I wanted to write into that gap even though it terrified me. It meant going against the trend and writing for the kids that are just coming out of Middle Grade, but not quite ready to wrap their minds around content intended for older teens.

So for just a moment, I'd like to stand in defense of immaturity, and I hope you will join me, because I'd hate to leave the girl I was at twelve alone in the dark.

Here are some of the things I did when I was young.

I instantly fell in love, frequently. I found nothing at all wrong, weak, or abnormal about this process. I also never saw it at a failing of my personal character. Some of the people I loved so intensely I could feel the constant ache in my chest were, Legolas Greenleaf, Christian Slater, the entire cast of Young Guns, several rock stars from the eighties and early nineties that had amazing hair, at least half of my brother's friends, and one boy I completely made up in my own head.

I hid old skool Romance novels under my bed and read them with a flashlight late at night when my mother wouldn't catch me, then became baffled by the mechanics of what I was reading, and even though I was curious, I tended to regard some of those scenes with the morbid fascination that one uses when trying to figure out exactly what animal a lump of road kill used to be.

I refused to kiss a boy in a closet during a game of spin the bottle because I just wasn't ready for that and didn't want my first kiss to be a game.

I later regretted that decision when I found out all my friends did.

Then later didn't regret that decision as I grew up and learned my instincts were right.

I made stupid impulsive mistakes, over and over again, including an attempt to buy a year book for my middle school by showing up for school super early, which had the unintended consequence of terrifying my parents because they thought I had run away.

I was not allowed into a club called the "Odd Squad" because I was too odd.

And I survived all my own foibles with enough self composure that I can laugh about them now.

We need books for the young end of the YA market. We need books for the awkward, crazy girl I was, because she needed the example of how to grow and mature. To do that, sometimes we have to start young. Sometimes we need characters who show that same immaturity, and we have to give them the room and faith that they will grow and become stronger. They will show us the path so that maybe, just maybe, that path will be easier for another crazy odd girl shouldn't have to grow up so quickly.

Happy Reading,

Kristin Bailey
 About the Author:
Kristin Bailey grew up in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley in California. As a kid she enjoyed visiting the beach, camping and skiing with her two brothers.

Now she is a military wife and mother of two young children. She is also terrible about spoiling her pets. She has one fluffy mutt, two cats who think they own the world, and a fish tank with a quartet of fat fish, and two secretive striped ninja-assassin snails.

In the course of her adventures, she has worked as a zookeeper, balloon artist, and substitute teacher. Now she enjoys writing books for teens who enjoy mystery and adventure as much as she does.

Kristin loves hearing from readers but asks that all Goodreads messages stay on the subject of books. E-ARCs are available through Edelweiss.

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