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.