... the perfect time to celebrate our love affair with other worlds, a page at a time.
First of all, a big thank you to Gill and the rest of the Novel Points Of View crew for allowing me the limelight for a little. I love reading YA. I don’t write YA myself, preferring the seemingly safe MG haven (far from it, I assure you!), but I got a chance to throw myself into the YA world proper last week. Why?
|Teri Terry in Inverness|
Because last week I was privileged to host a school and Waterstones visit from YA royalty Teri Terry, prolific author of the acclaimed Slated/Fractured/Shattered trilogy, Mind Games and soon to be published Book of Lies. (As an aside, Teri Terry is her actual name – the result of marrying a man called Mr Terry when your first name happens to be Teresa.)
So - it’s Valentine’s Week, and like most YA titles, there is plenty of romance in Teri’s plots, although it rarely takes centre stage. The nature of her psychological thrillers is that her heroines usually have other things to worry about, such as surviving being hunted by an evil government or figuring out their own identity in the face of danger, deception and death. Turns out that Teri writes these kinds of stories because she relates to them. As a child who rarely lived in one place for long, swapping countries and schools and friends with unsettling regularity, Teri ‘gets’ tales of outsiders, identity and messy relationships.
Anyone in that position inevitably learns to observe. It goes without saying that she loved libraries: ‘a safe place to hang out’ whenever she was new to a school, they met her needs: an endless supply of stories beyond The Lord of the Rings which she re-read and re-read when young. As I write this, I have driven more than 3 hours through sleet and snow to take my daughter to a basketball event. I parked the car in Stenhousemuir and looked for a place to sit, to write, to be warm. A place that wouldn’t empty my wallet. And there it was – the local library. I love it, too.
Back to Teri. Loving stories is one thing, but sustaining a career as a published author is quite another. Things are going well for her at the moment: her books are popular and she enjoys a high profile. As a result she has a little more control over what she does next than most authors, but she concedes that these decisions are influenced by her publisher’s views. She gave a word of warning to aspiring young authors at the Waterstones Book Group event: ‘You really have to love your book. You’re going to write it and edit it before sending it away. It comes back for structural edits and copy-edits and line-by-line edits and you are going to re-read it endlessly. Then when it finally gets published, you will spend months and months reading it aloud and talking about it, over and over again. I’m telling you – you’d better love it!’
As writers, maybe this is the question we should ask ourselves when submitting to publishers and agents: do I really have a love affair with this story? Can I commit to this tale with a contract and possibly years of my life? Is it love?
It wasn’t love at first sight with Teri who didn’t consider writing as a career option until she moved to the UK. Born in France, she had lived in Canada and Australia before moving to the UK, acquiring qualifications as a lawyer, optician and microbiologist somewhere along the way. It doesn’t matter: she is living proof that what you have done isn’t as important as what you do now. She committed herself to developing her writing, producing eight other novels which haven’t yet seen the light of day - and, in her own words, ‘some of them shouldn’t!’ Of course, rejection is an inevitable part of the writing life, and some young readers were shocked to hear that even at her stage of success, Teri receives rejections. They might come in the form of publishers not liking an idea she loves, or in the form of a scathing review on Goodreads. You will be hurt; even heartbroken - it is impossible to avoid - but like in any grown-up relationship, the best writers are faithful despite their disappointments. Stick at it – perseverance pays off.
And as Teri rolled her flowery suitcase towards the airport terminal, and I drove away, watching her figure recede into the distance, I reflected that behind any story you or I love, there is a human like Teri. Someone who may blend into a crowd and yet whose mind has gifted us those precious, precious jewels which last well beyond a bunch of wilting roses. Lasting images, characters who live on, indelible imprints of stories left behind on our minds.
Behind every story there is someone like you or me. Stories - the perfect matchmakers between readers and writers.
Now there’s a love worth celebrating.
Barbara blogs at write4bairns.wordpress.com