Get Up Close and Personal with NY Times bestselling author, Jennifer L. Armentrout, author of Origin, bestselling author, Jus Accardo of the Denzean series, and newcomer, Christine O’Neil, who also writes sexy stories under the name Christine Bell. They’re steamy and we love them. We just love these ladies and think you will too!
If you have a burning question you want to ask one of your favorite Entangled Teen authors, post it in the comments section and we’ll send it onto them, and who knows, maybe your question will be the next one the authors answer.
This first question is for all three ladies, do you think it’s important to push boundaries in YA?
Chris: I DO. In fact, I feel like it’s crucial. Teens today are smart, savvy, and they have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. If they’re curious about something, all they have to do is Google it, so it’s only natural that they’ve seen far more than my generation ever did. If we, as YA authors, pretend it’s still a time when young adults say “Rats!” or “Gee willickers!” when they’re having a bad day instead of swearing, or we act like it’s not normal for them to experiment with alcohol or test the boundaries with their sexuality, then we aren’t writing for today’s teens. I want them to know I can relate, because I CAN. I’ve been there. Pretending otherwise is condescending. I don’t want to talk down to my readers. I know they’re smart enough to know that, even if I have a character who’s doing something they HAVEN’T done, that’s not going to make them go out and do it. And I also want them to read about characters that have SOME of the same struggles and choices they do. Now, granted, mine tend to have other issues, like fingers that can suck the life out of someone, or a beef with a council of demigods, but still. At the core, the books are about normal teenage struggles. Wanting to fit in, wanting to be liked and loved and accepted, trying to find themselves and grow.
Jus: I absolutely agree. Things like sex, drugs, drinking, and even violence, happen. To gloss over this stuff, or worse, exclude it completely, is a disservice to our kids. You think they don’t notice? They’re smarter than we give them credit for. I don’t imply that these things need to be gratuitous, but they do need to be present if the story calls for them.
Teenagers are out there finding themselves. They’re exploring the world and having all these new experiences. Peer pressure, first love… Their emotions are intense and they don’t always make the right decisions. That, in my opinion, needs to come across on page with our characters. Characters that teenagers can really relate to.
I got an email just the other day from a mother who’d read Touch and was appalled by a specific scene between Dez and Kale. She berated me because, in her day, books weren’t so gritty and real. And maybe that’s my point. It’s a different day. As Chris said, teens now know more at this age than we did at their age. They can find pretty much anything on the internet. They’re facing different challenges than their parents did growing up. The world has changed. Why push boundaries?
Because we need to change with it.
Jen: Yes. Mainly because I don’t believe there should be any boundaries in young adult. Creating rules and guidelines truly do a disfavor to teenage readers and when you’re doing so, books tend to “talk down” to the reader. I also find it disturbing that violence is so easily accepted in YA, but dear baby Jesus, if you have a hint of sex on the page, it’s like you’re breaking a rule. It’s basically saying that violence is okay and teenagers can deal with people being beaten, killed and maimed, but sex is way too mature for them. That confounds me.
So it seems that the consensus is that the characters need to be real and if someone is upset, you’ve done your job because at the end of the day, you pushed the right button, at the end of the day, you wrote about something real, something gritty, something every teenager can relate to.
Chris, this question is for you. Maggie is funny and snarky, which adds to who Maggie is, and I love. Did you put some of yourself in Maggie when creating her?
This is such a funny question, because I never intentionally add bits of myself into a character, but for me, it seems inevitable. Like, the only place Maggie can get those snarky one-liners or oddball ways of thinking is from my brain. And I AM notoriously dry and a bit sarcastic. My son actually said to me, “I could almost hear you saying some of those lines.” That said, I try to give each character a personality separate from me because if we don’t do that as authors, you’re going to have a hundred versions of the same character out there running around. With Maggie, I let her get a little closer to me than most characters. That said, she’s braver than I am. She hates vegetable and I love them. She is very comfortable in her skin for a teenager in the physical sense in that she doesn’t spend a lot of time comparing herself to others or worrying about her hair. That’s a trait I wish I had. I’m much more self-conscious than she is. I think that’s more what I try to do. Mix up traits I have, or people close to me have, with traits I admire, or traits that are interesting and quirky. That’s important, because above all, people are frigging weird, right? We each have weird habits or characteristics that are specific to us. I try to make sure that all my characters feel real, and in order to do that, they need layers. Invariably, one of those layers is me! 🙂
Jus, next one is for you. Why did you choose to write about the seven deadly sins? If you were one of the deadly sins, which one would you be and why?
I had the idea for Jessie and the Darker Agency before the Sins came into the picture. I got the idea while still writing Touch, and by the time I’d gotten around to writing Darker Days, I had the idea to add the Sins. So, really, I didn’t set out to do it. Like everything else with my books, it was totally organic. I’m not a plotter at all. I start a project, see where it takes me, and go from there. 50% of the stuff I start winds up abandoned on my flash drive.
As for the Sins, I think I’d be Wrath. I inherited my mom’s fiery Italian temper, lol. My husband thinks it’s hysterical. He swears when I’m angry, my city accent comes out. I think he’s crazy, but, who knows.
Jen, your books are so sexy and you are able to push boundaries without going over the edge, how do you accomplish that without putting sex on the page?
Well, in my YA series, sex is most definitely on the page. There is just not the same kind of detail that you’d find in a New Adult or an Adult novel. Basically, I don’t typically name body parts, and as I’m writing the love scene, I keep the age of the reader in mind while also realizing that I’m truly not introducing them to anything to new. As I said above, I also find that if a book has violence on the page of any sort but shies away from sex on the page, I find that to be a disturbing double standard that I don’t want to be part of.
So it seems like the ideas flow naturally, but all three of you keep in mind your audience and still manage to write what you love.
Chris, we have to know, why mythology?
So many reasons! First and foremost, you want a good villain? Ancient gods are GANGSTER. They will smite your ass for looking at ‘em funny and then go out for an ambrosia breakfast without blinking an eye. Second, because there are so many ways to flip it and change it and make it fresh. Everybody pretty much knows the standards vampire lore. They suck blood, move fast, sometimes they have the whole bat thing, sleep in a coffin. Werewolves have the full moon things, silver bullets, etc etc. but gods (and, by extension, demigods and the paranormal beings in Chaos, semi-gods) have the floor wide open. I can assign them any powers I want, pretty much. There are no boundaries. That’s a great asset for world-building.
And Jus, did you want to write something completely different with the Darker Days series?
I think every author is out to write something completely different. Obviously though, there are no new ideas, ya know? Everything’s been done in one way or another. The key is to put your own unique spin on it. Inserting your own flawed characters. Add updated twists.
Finally, Jen, inquiring minds want to know, what was it like creating Katy and Daemon? Everyone knows their names and loves them, but where did the idea first come from?
Katy’s character came first. I’d liked the idea of exposing a normal girl to a paranormal world. To most people, that isn’t anything new, but all of my previous books were told from the perspective of a girl who was heavily involved in the paranormal world. So writing it this way was something fresh. Once I established Kat’s voice–that she loved books and gardening, was dealing with the loss of her father and was the kind of girl who could stand up for herself, Daemon’s character was created. Both of the characters naturally fed off one another and evolved together. Daemon manages to be likeable in Obsidian only because Katy holds her own against him. If she didn’t, I don’t think people would’ve liked him so much.
Thanks for joining us today on the hot seat with the Entangled Teen authors. Ask questions, and they’ll answer. If you’re lucky, maybe even their characters will come out to play. Perhaps Mac or Katy or Dez or even Daemon will come out to play. Till next time, this is Constance Brooker, signing off and remember to leave your questions in the comment section because you never know what they might answer next.