Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Friend - Rosemary Gemmell and Tween Fiction

A warm welcome to today's Friday Friend, Rosemary Gemmell, who tells us about writing for the tween market:

Many thanks to Paula for inviting me onto the lovely Heroines with Hearts blog and allowing me to talk about tween fiction.

Considering I’ve written short stories and articles for the women’s magazine and general market, and my first published novel last year, Dangerous Deceit, was a historical set during the Regency era, writing for tweens might seem a surprising departure. But my recently published short novel, Summer of the Eagles, is aimed at the 10-14 age group.

I was asked about the difference in writing for younger people and suddenly realised I’ve often used younger characters in my stories. One short story awaiting publication in the woman’s magazine, My Weekly, is told from the viewpoint of the 14 year old protagonist, while another story that won a major Writing Magazine competition some years ago was told in the first person voice of the 16 year old heroine. Then three stories aimed at the 8-10 age group were published in three different anthologies from Bridge House Publishing.

I reached the conclusion that I write for whatever age group suits the story I want to tell. Summer of the Eagles was always going to be a full length story about the 13 year old heroine, Stevie. Although I partly wrote it for the teen still in me, I aimed it at young people on that cusp of puberty between carefree childhood and teenage angst, but made it even worse by making Stevie an orphan. My own father died when I was twelve, and it affected my eleven year old brother even more deeply.

But I’m not a big fan of purely issue-led children’s novels, unless they contain some added adventure, mystery or fantasy. I know there are two trains of thought on this, but personally I think young people have enough real-life traumas these days, in their own lives or experienced through television, film and media, and I particularly enjoy some kind of escapism in my own reading. Since I also love wildlife (like many young people), I added a bird sanctuary and danger from poachers, which allowed Stevie to develop an interest outside of her own grief.

My main interest, however, is the fantasy/allegorical character of Karig, the strange boy in the hills with his closeness to the eagles. Stevie is a young girl coping with loss, physical hurt, and the trauma of being sent to an island and aunt she hardly knows. We all need someone in whom to confide and Stevie finds it in Karig. As well as my own fascination with eagles and their symbolism, I hoped this would be an added interest for young readers. The story seems to be appealing to older female readers too - perhaps a hint of nostalgia for their own youth.

Although I make a conscious effort to write in a slightly snappier way for younger readers, it’s best not to use current slang that might date too quickly. I think it’s more about trying to understand their interests and outlook while telling a pacy enough story. Since Summer of the Eagles is published by a Canadian company (with an American editor), and is largely for the transatlantic market, that was an added consideration. A steep learning curve in some ways as our expressions and formality are so different at times. While allowed to keep UK spelling and Scottish expressions where appropriate, I did have to change my usual style a little. I truly appreciated making my writing more active and immediate, while getting rid of certain unnecessary repetitions, and it’s something I’m taking into all my writing. Summer of the Eagles is a long way from the more formal writing style of my historical - but in exactly the same way, it’s all about finding the right balance for the target reader.

Although I’ve had some lovely reviews from adult readers, I’m hoping to get some feedback soon from a couple of younger readers. And that’s a more scary thought!

Blurb: Summer of the Eagles

Thirteen year old Stephanie (Stevie) loses her parents in a terrible accident, leaving her lame. Stevie’s dreams of running for Scotland are over. No longer able to cope with Stevie’s moods, Gran sends her to an aunt on a Scottish island.
Although Stevie gradually makes new friends and discovers an interest in the bird sanctuary, she soon falls into danger from two bird poachers intent on harming the eagles.
Karig, a strange boy in the hills, helps Stevie to heal. Does he have anything to do with the eagles or the painted rocks and legends of the island?’

Summer of the Eagles is available from MuseItUp Publishing
Amazon UK 
Amazon US

Rosemary Gemmell is a prize-winning freelance writer of short stories and articles in national magazines, the US and online. Three children’s stories are published in different anthologies. Now writing full-length fiction, her first historical novel, Dangerous Deceit, was published by Champagne Books in May 2011 (as Romy). Her first tween novel, Summer of the Eagles, is published by MuseItUp Publishing (as Ros). She is a member of her local writing group and the Scottish Association of Writers, the Society of Authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Scottish Fellowship of Christian Writers. She is married with two grown-up children and loves to dance!
Flights of Imagination - (children’s writing)
Reading and Writing – (main blog)
Romancing History – (historical)
Twitter: @rosemarygemmell

Thank you so much for being with us here today, Rosemary, and for sharing the background of Summer of the Eagles with us. We wish you every success with it, and with your future writing career. 


  1. Fascinating, Ros. Really agree with you about children needing escapism too, a touch of magic. Going to push Summer of the Eagles, already loaded on my Kindle, up the reading list now. I fancy revisiting that time between childhood and adulthood!

  2. G'morning, Ros! Ah I've missed your clear, pointed writing. You have the gift, lassie.

    I found myself about 12 or 13 while reading Summer of the Eagles, both in terms of the emotions and the fascination I felt for being swept into the wing-like arms of a sheltering being. Yes, I hope you will get feedback from teens, girls and boys alike. I think you'll find that they'l have a pure insight into your purpose without all the trappings of more adult interpretations.

    I sincerely wish you huge success and even greater happiness. Slán, Erin O'Quinn

  3. Hi Maggie - thanks a lot for that comment and for reading the book. I'm glad you like the escapist element too!

    Morning Erin - many thanks for that lovely comment and insight! And thanks again for reading it, and for reviewing S of the E so beautifully.

  4. It's a wonderful thing for an author, isn't it, jumping age groups and genres? Exercises those expressive writing muscles! Thanks for sharing this background with us, Rosemary.

  5. I think I already love your book, and want to give to my granddaughter, age 8. It sounds like you've layered Stevie's reality with Nature, discovery, and healing. This is absolutely perfect for tweens, I think. Thank you!

  6. I've read both Summer of Eagles and Dangerous Deceit and loved them both. Ros's ability to switch from genres is amazing.

  7. How soon will it be in hardcopy, Rosemary? Neither Hannah nor I have a Kindle.

  8. You appear to manage to switch genres so easily,Rosemary.I guess we won't know quite what to expect next?

  9. Thanks so much for all these lovely comments! And I've just had the first response from a younger reader - the 10 year old son of my daughter's work colleague. He really enjoyed it, especially as he loves the real island that inspired the story - and he's interested in writing too! I'm feeling humbled.

  10. Hi Anne - you, too, know about writing for different genres and ages and, yes, it's great creative exercise!

    Hello Ana - thank you so much for that lovely comment. I would love your granddaughter to read the book. It's only in ebook at the moment, but I'm hoping to have it in print at some point. Please keep in touch and I'll let you know. One of my email adresses is on my blogs - and I'd definitely announce a print version on the blogs.

  11. Hi Melanie - that is such a lovely thing to say, thank you! I really appreciate your support.

    Hello Myra - thanks for dropping in! And you'll just need to wait and see what might happen next!

  12. Hi Rosemary,

    Thanks for joining us at Heroines with Hearts today.

    I am always in awe of writers who can write across genres. I read a lot of YA (geared a bit above the tweens), but writing one would scare the heck out of me.

    Good luck with those reviews from young readers!

  13. Hi Debra - thanks a lot for allowing me to be here! And thanks for the good wishes.

  14. Hi Rosemary, thanks so much for visiting us today. I've always wondered how writing for teens/tweens is different from writing for adults and how you go about making that change. It's great you can find two different voices and therefore maintain your ability to write for adults and tweens/teens. And I think my daughters would love your book!

  15. Hi Jennifer - it's great being here, thank you! I do hope your daughters get a chance to read it sometime.

  16. You wear many hats writing for different ages. That is a gift, but I can understand how different stories beg to be told by heroes/heroines in various stages of life. I was amazed at how you had to re-write a bit due to the Canadian publisher, Muse It Up, which incidentally is mine too, American editor, and your English language. Interesting. Best wishes

  17. Hi JQ - thanks for coming over to comment! I had a very good editor and, even though I've written articles for an American company in the past, I still had to work on getting rid of some passives - all grist to the mill of writing experience!

  18. Rosemary, I'll add my admiration to everyone else's about your ability to switch genres and therefore your style of writing.

    So pleased that you got such positive feedback from a 10 year old. I'm sure there will be a lot more.

    Thank you so much for being our guest at HWH, and very best wishes for your future writing!

  19. Thank you so much for having me here, Paula - it's been fun!

    And thanks again for all the kind support, everyone.

  20. Dropping by a bit late to say hello! The 10 year old son of my friend did really enjoy your book (as did I) and now his 8 year old sister is now determined to read it too!

  21. I recently finished Summer of the Eagles and enjoyed not only Stevie's inner struggle and growth throughout the book, but also the setting. That Scottish island and its pathways, beaches, and painted rocks was a character on its own, and I felt as if I was right there. Nicely done, Rosemary. Keep up the good work! Wonderful interview, ladies.

  22. Just noticed two more comments! Thanks for dropping in, Vikki.

    Many thanks for that lovely comment, Pat. I do appreciate it and I'm so glad you enjoyed the story!