January’s Debut YA Authors on Their New Year’s Resolutions

This month's debut YA authors share their bookish New Year’s resolutions, the inspirations behind their first titles, and more.

This month’s debut YA titles include thrilling history, cultural immersion, gritty fantasy, and, through it all, young people creating a better future for themselves. Here, four authors share their bookish New Year’s Resolutions, the inspirations behind their first books, and more.

 

KR Gaddy

K.R. Gaddy, author of Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis (Dutton; Jan. 7, 2020)

Do you have a New Year’s writing or reading resolution?
For 2019, I made a resolution to read (or listen to) 52 books. I met the goal and read a lot of great books, but in 2020, I want to slow down and read books in a way that will help my own writing, focusing on how authors use structure and language to tell their stories.

How did you first become aware of the Edelweiss Pirates? What compelled you to tell their story?

As an author (or aspiring author), you often get people telling you what would make a good book. Probably six or seven years ago, my partner Pete told me that a group of kids who resisted the Nazis in Cologne would make a compelling nonfiction book. He'd read about the Edelweiss Pirates on the internet but couldn't find very much information. He thought that since I knew German, I could read more about them. I wasn't sure the story could actually be a book. Was there enough primary source material? Were there good characters? Was there a compelling narrative long enough for a book? When I started researching the Edelweiss Pirates, I realized I had everything I needed to tell the story and that we needed their story of resistance. From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to use their voices and experiences to drive the story. They'd been ostracized, marginalized, and forgotten, but we have so much to learn from them.

 

Abigail Hing Wen

Abigail Hing Wen, author of Loveboat, Taipei (HarperTeen; Jan. 7, 2020)

Do you have a New Year’s writing or reading resolution?

I didn't until I read this question, and now I do! The Loveboat, Taipei tour kicks off January 6, and I'm excited to be in conversation and traveling with some amazing YA authors. I want to read their latest books before I see them. I'm also trying to carve out more headspace for writing in general. I have so many stories and ideas swimming in my head, and it feels like I don't have days enough to get them all out.

Like the characters in the book, you participated in a cultural immersion program in Taiwan as a teen. In the book, what did you pull from real life and what did you leave out?

The book and characters are fiction, but I include many quintessential experiences that Loveboat alumni will recognize: glamour shots, snake blood sake, sneaking out of campus, and the clubbing scenes, for starters. The talent show is a classic, and Lena's Bible study pops up from year to year. I left out many things that appeared in my first draft because they simply didn't fit with the story. Typhoons have played a big role in the program. My summer, the storm actually shattered windows and shorted electricity in our ten-story dorm in Ocean City, right along the northern shore.

 

Sylvia Zeleny

Sylvia Zéleny, author of The Everything I Have Lost (Cinco Puntos; Jan. 7, 2020)

Do you have a New Year’s writing or reading resolution?

I have both. I am working on a collection of short stories; I am exploring immigration, the idea of home, and living at the border (literally and metaphorically). The characters are young men and women who transit language and emotions in a very particular way. As for reading, I read mostly women and I am planning to start the year by reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and afterward a book with an author that starts with a B, then C, then...fiction, nonfiction, poetry.... It is an experiment.

Did you keep a diary as a young person? Why did you decide to format the story in this way?

I didn't; I started mine as an adult and, when I did, I regretted not doing it earlier in my life. It's just so cathartic and fun and enlightening! I did decide the format as a diary, but it’s funny—I hadn't thought about adding dates. My original idea was to use only small vignettes to establish boundaries between each piece. When [my publisher] Lee Byrd suggested the dates, I said, DUH! Why didn't I think of that?

 

Francesca Flores

Francesca Flores, author of Diamond City (St. Martin’s/Wednesday Bks.; Jan. 28, 2020)

Do you have a New Year’s writing or reading resolution?

I definitely want to read more! I’m aiming for about one or two books per week. Right now, I take anywhere from one to two weeks to read a book, but my reading list is getting frighteningly long, and I’d love to make a dent in it next year. For writing, I want to start rewriting a favorite project of mine that I first wrote five years ago.

What was your favorite fantasy as a teen? Did any of those stories serve as inspiration for Diamond City?

I adore the “Shannara” series by Terry Brooks. There are more than 30 books in it, and it spans thousands of years, starting from sometime in the 1990s, going through an apocalypse and seeing what the world turns into after that. Something I loved about those books, in addition to how in-depth the characters’ emotions and lives were described, was the way Brooks built settings. Every place in the books has its own personality and is always very clear to me visually. That inspired me to always look at how a place developed, its history, geography, struggles, and triumphs, and see how that would affect the people living there in their beliefs and relationships; and then, to see how the young people of that world, born into something their parents created, manage to cope and try to create a better future for themselves. My main cast is a group of teens who grew up in a civil war and its aftermath, and now they have to fight for something better against forces that don’t want them to succeed.

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