Today I’m hosting author Chris Pavesic as part of the blog tour for her new book, Starter Zone. She was kind enough to write a guest post explaining why she writes YA (young adult). Check it out below.
A few months ago a friend and fellow author, Dianna Gunn, posted an article focused on the reasons why she writes YA fiction. Since my novel, Starter Zone, falls into this genre, she suggested that it might be a good topic for me as well.
I like these types of articles because it gives readers insight into an author’s thought processes. Indeed, I enjoy reading Agatha Christie’s advice on writing mysteries and Stephen King’s thoughts on why people like horror novels/movies. It is fun to learn about an author’s inspirations.
YA novels appeal to me because I enjoy “coming of age” stories where a person journeys into the world and, through hard-won experience, gains knowledge and maturity. The heroes/heroines learn about themselves and their roles in the world. The various temptations and obstacles faced bring out their characters and develop their faculties, leading toward a greater self-awareness.
In many other types of novels the protagonists gradually accept the rules of society and learn to integrate themselves into its rules—to adapt their ways of thinking and behavior so that they can succeed in their life goals. But, in my opinion, the very best types of YA novels, the ones I love to read, blow that sort of “adaptation” idea out of the water.
Look at Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen for examples of how YA heroes/heroines forge their own path and shape the world around them. These protagonists achieve a realization about their roles in the larger society and see themselves as possessing the capacity to not only disagree with prevailing opinions, but to act out against them.
Many of the YA novels where the heroes/heroines strive to change society are set in dystopian or fantasy worlds. Dystopian themes touch many controversial issues faced in the world today, from terrorist attacks to evolving cultural gender roles. In the fantasy settings there is less moral ambiguity than in the real world. There are more issues painted black and white and fewer shades of off-white or dark grey clouding the picture.
The YA protagonists inhabit these types of dysfunctional story worlds and, as they awaken to the realities around them, determine how to take corrective action. This often puts them at odds with family and friends who do not share the same realizations. The heroes/heroines are a force of change within their societies and often stand alone at the center of a revolution, where their choices and actions have far-reaching consequences.
These are the types of novels I enjoy reading, which is why I started writing them. “Write what you enjoy reading” is advice I have taken to heart. I hope that you find these types of YA stories as compelling as I do!
When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.
Time to play the game.
Read an Excerpt:
YA/LitRPG series, The Revelation Chronicles.
was born into a world where silicone still ruled. Where the products of the
earth outshone those of the sea. Integrated circuits ran all electronic
equipment and scientists strove to make the conducting lines smaller and
smaller. Silicon Valley tried, and failed, to make chips fast enough to upload
Revelation came a few years later from the hydrologists. They designed a system
that did not use silicone, but instead worked with water molecules. The
hydrologists managed to imprint the consciousness of a human mind on a single
drop of water.
water was to be kept in self-contained, sealed aquariums—pure, undiluted,
eternal—where virtual realities were constructed to meet every need and desire.
All of human knowledge encoded and stored in literal pools of data and
integrated with the drops of human consciousness. It was, the hydrologists claimed,
obscenely rich were the hydrologist’s first clients, many taken near the end of
their lives. The procedure did not always work, but there were enough successes
to spur people’s interest. People suffering from terminal illnesses volunteered
to be inscribed, and the hydrologists worked and refined their process. Private
companies formed and competition forced price wars. Hundreds of customers grew
to thousands, and then to millions. There were landmark court cases arguing
whether or not health insurance should cover the cost of the
inscription—whether or not this was a medical procedure designed to save lives
or a form of physician assisted suicide. The law struggled to decide if life
ended when the body was drained to a dry, leathery husk, or if life continued
inside those glowing, sealed aquariums.
was thirteen when the governments seized control of the laboratories, first in
the Eastern European countries. Then the labs of Europe and the Middle East
were swallowed up. Terrorist attacks soon followed and destroyed most of the
civilized world over the next three years. The United States, Canada, and
Greece, those bastions of democracy, did not fall until the very end. Of
course, by then no one cared whether or not the government or the private
companies ran the uploading programs. Many of the aquariums ruptured in the
strife and the droplets, imbued with human consciousness, re-entered the water
cycle of the planet.
the sun hovers near the horizon, ready to dip below and plunge the world into
darkness, the weather changes for the worse. Clouds gather. Peeking out my
window and over the outline of rooftops in the distance is what looks like
thunderheads moving toward me in the invisible polluted gusts of wind.
try not to think about the coming storm as I methodically pull on my boots and
zip up my jacket. It is supposed to be waterproof, but I would not risk going
out in anything above a light drizzle. Water has a way of seeping through even
the best defenses. There’s also a lining that’s overly warm for a summer
evening. I’m already sweating and the discomfort adds to my nerves.
check the hunting knife strapped to my left leg. It was one of the first
weapons purchased for me by my dad back when the sporting goods stores were
still open for business. He didn’t think I was ready to handle a handgun at
thirteen, but he taught me to shoot a rifle in the open fields by our house,
helping me hold the weapon steady until I grew strong enough to support the
weight. Now, three years later, I have a handgun, a Ruger semi-automatic, but
bullets are scarce and loud noises are problematic. My small ammo stash sits in
the bottom of my backpack next to the gun.
of the gun, I carry an extra-light crossbow as my go-to weapon. I can hand-make
the bolts so I don’t worry about running out of ammunition and the shot is
relatively silent. I carry the spare bolts in a quiver strapped to my right
leg. It’s awkward when running, but I can draw the bolts fast when needed.
little sister, Alby, has loaded her own backpack. I lift it to test the weight
and then pull a few things out. I place them in my own pack without comment. I
help her position the lighter pack over her shoulders, tightening the straps so
that it will stay balanced. She always tries to do more than she should, but I
don’t like the way her face has a perpetual pinched, strained look or the deep
shadows under her eyes. She looks far older than her seven years. This scares
me more than everything else and that fear threatens to register on my face. I
force myself to stay calm.
check her raincoat and boots, making sure everything fits snugly. I help Alby
pull up the hood of her coat, tucking in a strand of dark hair that has escaped
her ponytail. As frightened as she is, she manages to give me a smile. I smile
back, trying to present a brave front. As my dad used to say, “fake it till you
make it.” Over the last few years, I’ve
been faking confidence more and more often for Alby’s sake.
to go?” I ask with all the false cheer I can muster in my voice. I take one
last glance over the motel room that had served as a temporary home for the
last few days, looking for anything that we might have left behind. The room is
swept clean. No trace whatsoever that we had ever been there.
nods. “Ready, Cami.”
we get separated, remember to keep going north,” I say. “Follow the road till
you get to the park, then take the walking paths. No matter what happens, keep
going. Stop when you get to the Stone River. I’ll meet you at the bridge in the
center of the park where we used to feed the ducks, okay?”
nods again, looking up at me with those dark eyes so full of trust. I hug her,
because if we do get separated, there isn’t much hope we will ever see each
other again. I need to keep up the pretense of hope, though, because that’s all
we have to keep us going.
River Park is at the very limits of the city and the area surrounding it is
relatively unpopulated. I figure that once we are out of the city, our chances
of survival will dramatically increase. After reaching the park, we can follow
the Stone River north. There’s bound to be deserted houses in the country and
less chance that any of the gangs would be interested in the meager pickings
outside of the city. We might even be able to find a place to stay before
crack open the door of our motel room. It is still light enough to stain
everything with graying shades of color. The setting sun casts long shadows
between the buildings, so I depend more upon my ears to find signs of other
humans. I hear no motorcycle engines and no voices, only the wind, blowing and
moaning, and the far-off call of a bird. The coming storm appears to have
cleared the streets. They are deserted except for empty, crashed vehicles abandoned
in every lane.
and I had been lucky to reach the motel a few days ago. The single-story
building is on the outskirts of the main town and catered to big rig truck
drivers and other traffic from the interstate. I had found the skeleton key in
the motel office after climbing in through the bathroom window. Alby and I
spent the nights scouring every room for supplies.
one had broken into it before we got there. Too many other rich targets to go
around. But inside each room was a mini-fridge filled with snacks. Even though
the electricity had been turned off, the chocolates and small bags of
honey-coated nuts were edible. The tiny bottles of alcoholic beverages in each
fridge did not seem useful, but I kept a few. They might be helpful in starting
a fire someday when we made it outside the city. We even discovered coffee
filters and a small bottle of chlorine bleach—a major score for treating our
I hadn’t spent days secretly peering out the dark windows of the motel, I might
believe my sister and I were the last two people left on earth. But I know that
out there, behind the ruined buildings and boarded-up windows, there are at
least a few pairs of eyes whose owners would kill us without a second thought.
My eyes flick toward the two bodies hanging from the traffic lights in the
nearby intersection. They hadn’t been moved. Good.
looter-gangs, each with spray-can marked territories in bright displays of
color that start on the buildings and drip down toward the pavement. The gangs
wear something marked as well, usually a jacket or bandanna that will stand out
from a distance. The snipers hole up in their nests and target anyone who
encroaches on their gang’s territory. They particularly looked for members of
other factions trying to increase their terrain.
tags don’t show up well after dark, though, so the gangs have started leaving
their victims as warnings to others not to encroach on their holding. These
bodies have been hanging undisturbed in the intersection for several days,
indicating a lack of activity in the area. I can only hope that the gangs have
moved inward, toward the center of the city and more supply-rich targets.
one is ever going to catch the murderers, or the ones who strung up the bodies
like macabre trophies, and put them in jail. They’ll just go on and do it again
and again. Like animals in the jungle—except that animals are not cruel.
were lucky to go unmolested by the local gangs. Heaven knows we don’t look like
we have much of anything, and we don’t look threatening, but that will only
last for so long. Someday someone will try to kill us, possibly for no other
reason than wanting to watch us die. The whole world, it seems, is at war, and
no one is on my side except Alby. We only have each other.
streak of lightning splits the sky almost directly overhead, making me wince.
It is followed by a heavy clap of thunder. As frightening as it is, the bad
weather is to our advantage. No one wants to be caught outside in the rain.
Everyone is more afraid of fresh, untreated water and what it can do than they
are of each other. But I believe we can make it out of the area and to shelter
before the rain poses any danger.
fact I’m betting our lives on it.
loves Kona coffee and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing
projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on
an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. She
blogs on www.chrispavesic.com and Tweets @chrispavesic