Thursday, July 19, 2007

Partners in Crime

At ICRS 2006 I met with my regular editor and a second editor from Zonderkidz, the children's division. (These wonderful gals, if you remember, later came to my home in Idaho for a visit. In my blog posts about that memorable visit, I called them E1 and E2. E2 is the Zonderkidz editor.)

So we're at the meeting. E2 starts talking to me about a new YA (young adult) line that Zondervan plans to launch. YAs are huge in the general market, but that readership has been largely untapped in the Christian market. That's now changing. Z wanted to "get into the YA act" with a full line of novels representing numerous genres. In the summer of 2006 E2, the acquiring editor for the line, apparently found herself in the position to handpick the authors she wanted for various genres. She zeroed in on me for suspense.

To be honest, I wasn't interested. I really didn't need more books to write. And I certainly didn't want to be pulled off my target market, which is adults. Any YAs I did would have to be squeezed in between the adult novels, without spreading the latter novels any further apart.

However, E2 is a shrewd business woman. Her eyes lit up with this bright idea: "Don't you have a daughter about the age of our YA target audience?" [around 13-16-year-olds). "Why don't you write the books with her? Just think of the marketing opportunities for a mother/daughter team!"

That got me. A contract for my 16-year-old daughter? Wow. How cool would that be?

I ran the idea by Amberly, who was thrilled. With the help of our current agent, we figured out a series that intrigued Amberly. She agreed that she would help plot the books and work on the characters. She would also edit as I wrote, making sure my 16-year-old POV sounded right. She would fully earn her name on the cover of the books.

In the month of January, during her charter high school's "intersession"--a month-long tailored and intensive study of an elective, Amberly worked on studying characterization and plotting techniques. I wrote the curriculum for her. At the end of that month, we plotted the novel. So she earned high school credit while she worked on the series.

The three-book Rayne series features Shaley O'Connor, 16-year-old daughter of mega rock star Rayne O'Connor, lead singer in her band Rayne. It's an intriguing idea for teenage readers. What would life be like for the daughter of a famous rock star? In the first book Rayne is on tour, and things are going fine--until Shaley discovers the body of a tour member backstage. Worse, the victim is her closest friend on the tour. The books are written in first person from Shaley's point of view. This first book, currently titled Always Watching, is now about half written.

This YA series is a wonderful opportunity to capture some of the younger suspense readers and bring them on into my adult suspense. From what I've seen, many teenagers read both YA and adult novels. The main differences are that the YAs are 2/3 the length of an adult novel and feature a teenage protagonist.

Books 1 and 2 of the Rayne series will be published together in the spring of 2009. Book 3 will come out in the fall of 2009. We decided to hold publication of book 1 so there will be little time between all three books hitting the shelves. Teenagers are impatient, and suspense-readers are also impatient. Mix the two together, and you really don't want your readers to have to wait long between books in a series.

My husband and I thought carefully and prayed long before making the decision to do these books because of what it would do to my schedule. With 3 YAs being slipped in between 4 adult novels, that puts me writing 7 books in two years. I realize there are authors out there who do this on a regular basis. (Yes, I'm thinking of you, pal Angie Hunt.) But lemme tell ya--this is a hefty undertaking for me.

Then of course--what happens during my first of these 7 books? My snowmobiling accident. Big help.

This writing challenge has forced me to weed out what busy work I can in my daily schedule. Hence my need, at least for now, to blog less.

I hear there's a press release from Z floating around somewhere regarding the new YA line. I'll try to get hold of it to fill you in on the other writers and their genres.

Amberly and I had an interesting time last May touring backstage at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, the arena in which the murder in the first book takes place. (I had to do the tour in a wheelchair.) We needed to see the dressing rooms, how band members would get to the stage, and what outside exits they'd use. Plus hear tidbits on how the band members behave, what they tend to demand in their dressing rooms, etc. It's been fun research.

Even more fun will be the mother/daughter marketing. We're open to ideas from you creative BGs.


On blog tour this week: One Step Over the Border, by Stephen Bly.


Bonnie Calhoun said...

I think that is an awesomely cool idea...what better way to get to bond with your child! Cool...very cool!

I pray that God blesses this as much as He blesses your adult writing!

Nicole said...

Although a hefty undertaking (no pun intended [:)]), what a privilege to work with your daughter and for her to work with an excellent, first rate author. This is just too cool.

Christina Berry said...

Since Mom and I have been writing together for 8 years and remain unpublished, I think we'll sit back, watch intently, and "imitate" all your marketing. Maybe once we've hit the bestseller list, we could do a mother/daughter book tour. All four of us together? ;-)

Angela said...

I think it's very cool that Amberly WANTS to write a book with you! (My daughter thinks my job is the most boring thing in the world--too bad, because she's a good writer.) Kudos to you and Amberly--let me know when the books come out and I'll push them in our youth departments!



P.S. Did "the book" arrive yet?

Kristy Dykes said...

Congrats, B. and Amberly. Hey, there's one marketing thingie: A & B, daughter-mother writing team. I think this is so cool, neat, exciting! If you tout daughter-mother, it connotes youthfulness, and since they're YA books, that might be a good plan. I think you're going to get piles of miles out of this. I think bookstore people and newspaper/article writers are going to clamor to get to feature you. This is so neat. I wish you the best.

relevantgirl said...

What a lovely thing! Congrats to both of you. My daughter is writing her first article for publication, so I'm experiencing a little of that joy. So cool.

And, just like you, you made the announcement suspenseful! You go, girlz!

Richard Mabry said...

Congratulations to you both. And a word of advice to Amberly--despite what your mother may say, try not to kill off anyone on the first page of the book.

Jason said...

This sounds way cool for you and Amberly. What an opportunity for her, but a great chance to deepen what sounds like an already great relationship.

We understand why you're so busy, and we look forward to all the blogging goodness you can spare.

(Did you think how you can *develop* readers and prepare them for Seatbelt Suspense - whoa...)

Pam Meyers said...

Woo hoo, that make three generations of writers in your family! Is Amberly coming to the conference in September? Will we have a duo emcee team?

Congrats to both of you. Sounds like a blast.

Domino said...

I can't wait to see the bestseller list announcement:

"Awesome" Amberly and "Bring It On" Brandilyn spring to the top of the bestseller list with their YA suspense series.

Next in line at the top of the list is a trilogy by Amberly, Brandilyn, and "Marvelous" Mama Ruth.

Becky said...

I am so glad to year YA is being revived in CBA. Just a year ago editors where sounding the death-nell for the books.

My question is, where does this idea come from that YA books have to be these little short things? Um, anyone notice the size of the last few Harry Potter books? How about Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (560 pages)? Or The Bartimaeus Trilogy?

And about that wait thing ... how long has it been between Potter books?

It's silly to say that fans will melt away or that YA'ers won't read long books. These are stereotypes Christian houses would do well to break away from since they certainly don't hold true in the ABA.

Meanwhile happy writing to you and your daughter, Brandilyn. That really is cool.


Gina Conroy said...

Very exciting for both of you! I'm already making my gift list for that book!

Since we're on the subject of kid/teen authors, my ten year old might have a fiction book published BEFORE I do.

He won a contest for Sylvan Dell Publishing and he's 1 of 58 manuscripts considered for 2009. Of course when they asked for any marketing ideas, I shifted into selling gear. I'd be thrilled if he gets a contract before I do and how exciting it would be to help promote his children's book!

Lynette Sowell said...

Great news! :) Enjoy the ride... ~ Lynette

Nicole said...

I totally agree with Becky's post. My soon-to-be 14 year old granddaughter zips through the YA novels in nearly one sitting, ready to devour the next one. She needs more depth. And for that matter, her younger sister, soon-to-be 12, does the same.

(Of course, I'd agree since I write sagas. :) )

Another thing for those YA writers--please don't sell them short in the spiritual department. More than anything else, they need to read, hear, and see the truth. BC is an expert at weaving in the beauty and truth of the gospel, perhaps where one least expects it.

Cara Putman said...

What an awesome project for the two of you! Sounds like a lot of fun.

Tina said...

What a wonderful opportunity for Amberly! Congrats to her! And mother must be so proud of her. Of course she will earn her name on the cover, as Brandilyn stated in her post. They don't just hand out book contracts you know. I can't wait to read the series.

My daughter is always bugging me to let her write a book with me. She is eight. :)