by Alana Saltz
If you’re interested in learning more about Young Adult fiction, the newest craze in the literary world, Lauren Strasnick can give you the inside scoop. She’s already published three successful YA novels! Her first novel “Nothing Like You” was a RWA RITA award finalist. Her second novel, “Her and Me and You” was a 2012 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. “Then You Were Gone” (Simon Pulse/S&S), Lauren’s third book, was published in January 2013.
Lauren is known for her page-turning plots and quirky characters. If you’ve been dreaming of penning your own novel, Lauren is offering a class called A Novel Approach: Tackling the Long Format Writing Project that begins Saturday, March 8th. You’ll learn how to craft a compelling premise, develop unique characters, and create conflicts that keep readers wanting more. In this class, Lauren will help you finish or revise at least one act of your book!
Lauren answered a few questions for us about why she writes YA fiction and what inspires her work. She also shares some great advice for aspiring novelists of all genres.
How did you become interested in writing Young Adult fiction? What drew you to the genre?
I’ve always adored YA books. It was a love I just never outgrew. I’m pretty girlish by nature, so any story that allows me to explore the inner workings/ramblings of an eighteen year old feels very easy and right to me. I’m not sure what that says about my level of emotional maturity! But I’m fairly certain it gives me a leg up when it comes to writing YA.
How much of your own experiences as a teenager do you draw from when writing your novels?
I definitely draw from my younger years a bit, but I think I take more from my life now. I’ll get fixated on an idea or a person or a relationship, then I’ll find a way to explore it through that teen lens — it takes a lot less manipulation than you’d imagine.
Your books have provocative premises that pull readers in. What are some techniques you use to create mystery and suspense in your books?
I think there are things that can be done within a scene to heighten tension and really drive up the dramatics: timing, dialogue, select details, etc. I love complicated characters who get themselves into emotionally messy situations. I think the more waves you make for your characters, the better. As for crafting a suspenseful mystery, I’ll offer this: A TV writer friend of mine told me once to “write two stories: the one you tell the reader, and the true one.” That helped me tremendously with my last book.
You’ve already written and published three novels. What advice do you have for writers who are struggling to finish their first book?
I think the thing that slows people down most is the need to be perfect. It’s something I struggle with myself. So my advice would be: just write. And let yourself be messy. You can always fix the mess later.
You’re about to teach a 5 week novel writing class. Can you give us a preview of some of the things you’ll cover?
I think it’s important to identity what each character wants; it’s what drives your story forward. It also helps to map out the actions your character might take to get where they need to go, and to identify the obstacles that block them from getting there. You can piece together the skeleton of a story with character wants, actions and obstacles. It’s really amazing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who want to get their novels published?
Be patient, persistent, open to revision, and try not to internalize all the rejection that comes along with pursuing publication. Remember, this business is so subjective, and it only takes a few people — an interested agent, an enthusiastic editor — to get your foot in the door.
Thanks, Lauren! That was so helpful. We can’t wait for your novel writing class!