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 https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=426&category_id=69&manufacturer_id=214&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1)
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007SUBG5I/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_g351_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0G9K8D9095WABAYH929J&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=467128533&pf_rd_i=468294
Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Summer-of-the-Eagles-ebook/dp/B007SUBG5I/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1335798074&sr=1-1
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 - http://rosgemmell.blogspot.com (children’s writing)
Reading and Writing – http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.com (main blog)
Romancing History – http://romygemmell.blogspot.com (historical)
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.