Sex in Young Adult Books

THE RISING-final coverI am currently writing my third and final novel for ‘The Painted Maidens Trilogy’. The first book ‘The Rising’ is available now on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, and iTunes. The second book ‘The Betrayed’ will be available this fall.

Without giving too much away, in the third book (tentatively named ‘The Taking’) the main character, Serena – who is 18 – makes the decision to share herself with her boyfriend. This is not within the confines of marriage because well, they are mermaids and they don’t get married.

I’ve done my fair share of research on sex in young adult books and am admittedly nervous to include it. I want to do it right. The best article I found so far is by ‘Writing Teen Novels‘. Advice in writing sex in young adult novels includes “how important it is to be honest, to be sober and to be in a committed respectful and loving relationship before you take the leap” and “girls should decide that they are in control of their bodies and of their decision-making”.

Another great article I found is by Amber Skye Forbes. Here the author says “Sexual experiences vary widely among teenagers, which is what is so great about YA literature. It encompasses experiences from a myriad of teenagers from all different walks of life” (like mermaids – LOL) and “sex between two teenagers doesn’t always have negative consequences”.

These are exactly the points that I want to portray in my book. My work up to the scene does include a lot of soul-searching for the main character as mermaid 2to why she is choosing to do this.

My next conundrum is how graphic should I get? I have to keep it PG-13 but I don’t want to completely gloss over the event.

One big benefit I have to this is my oldest son just turned 15 – and he reads this series. I can keep myself in check knowing he will be reading the book, but I can also include everything I want him to know about it wrapped into an entertaining fantasy story.

I would love to hear your advice on the subject – especially coming from avid readers, other YA authors, parents, and even teens. What lessons should I preach (without sounding too preachy, of course)? How graphic can I get? What were some of your favorite YA books that touched this subject?

My Journey from Scrap Paper to Novel; Six Times Over

Several days ago, I clicked ‘save’ then closed the document on the first draft of my sixth novel. ‘The Rising; Book One of the Painted Maidens Trilogy’ is now with my awesome editing team, and an equally awesome bunch of beta readers.  I welcome the break as I wait for the feedback, but my fingers can’t stay idle for long – it is a curse and a blessing.  They itch to get back to the keyboard.

I’ve already started on the second book of the trilogy, but want to take some time to reflect on my writing journey, and how it came to be.  My first novel, ‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’, took nearly ten years to write.  It started in high school, when I would be stuck in class daydreaming. I daydreamed of a cute boy coming into the classroom to sweep me off my feet. I’d dream of an equally cute villain coming into the classroom to take us all hostage. I dreamed of fighting the snobby girl next to me. How would I react? What would I do?

I went through the same daydreams over and over in my head, changing minor details until the scene was perfect – then I’d go over it again. I couldn’t stop. Finally, in order to keep some level of sanity, I began writing them down. They were just scenes; not even complete short stories. It worked well in class, I looked like a very studious note-taker.

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I graduated high school and tried my hand at college. It was…boring. So, I joined the Marine Corps. Boot camp wasn’t so boring. And neither was the first two years in the corps.  But things settled down, and the daydreams started as once again, I sat behind a desk, this time at work but in cammies and boots. I can’t sit still for long.

I got married, had a child, and went back to school to earn my bachelor’s degree. I also resumed writing.

 

After five years, I left the corps for a career in the translation business.  The job was good, but I still continued to write.  Eventually, I took all these little ‘scenes’, saved in a folder from my high school years, and melded them into a story. I typed them up, working on my lunch break at work, in the early morning, or in the evenings.

IMG_3576In September of 2011, more than ten years after I started, my first novel was finished. My second novel, ‘Air’, only took two months. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of writing, editing, and marketing. I have six books and seven short stories to my name, and I still have so much to learn and do. The ideas are still flowing – I’m not sure I will ever be done writing.

One thing I’ve learned from writing on scrap paper, literally on the back of my biology notes, and eventually turning them into an actual published novel – even if it takes ten years, never give up!

Keep pushing for your dreams. If you never quite get there; the journey itself will be worth it.

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Water Cover Image_FinalAir Cover ImageFire V2earth cover hand biggerThe Kindred Curse Cover

Between the Covers…continued!

This is part 3 of an ongoing dialogue with Christopher Starr and myself. Catch part 1 here, and part 2 on Christopher’s blog here.

 

Christopher: Here’s my other question for you: you’re a mother, a wife, a professional and somewhere in there, a writer. How do you balance all the demands on your time?

 

Terra: And that is the big question, isn’t it? Lots of people want to write a book. A few less eventually start a book. Significantly less finish a book – and very few people keep on writing after their first book. There are lots of excuses to stop writing; discouragement, health issues, work, kids….life. I try to look at it as little pieces at a time. Baby steps. Not to get all self-help on you here, but baby steps really do work. My consistent goal is 1,000 words a day. This comes out to about two pages, depending on how much dialogue there is. It is very manageable. My secret to making sure it gets done is doing it in the morning. I wake up by 5 am, and do it before anything else. Ok, I’m lying. I hit the bathroom and have coffee first. But THEN I do it before anything else.

I won’t even open e-mail, check twitter, or look at news or weather first. I ignore the mess in the kitchen. The dogs have to wait to be let out. I work until the kids wake up (anywhere between 7 and 8). If I hit 1,000 words and can keep going, I do. If I don’t hit 1,000 words I make it a priority to make that mark at another point in the day; even if it isn’t until 11:00 at night. It has turned out to be a good, sustainable habit. Most of the rest of my day is spent at my day job and soccer games or swim lessons for the kids. If I have extra time that is when I’ll do the marketing for my book. But writing always takes priority over marketing, at least until my first series is finished.

Christopher: 5am? Man…I’m having a passionate love affair with my snooze button at 5am. Curiously, given that I’m a night owl and you’re up at the crack of ass in the morning, and that I live in Seattle, I think we’re actually both up writing at the same time. And that, my friend, is synergy!

So for me balance is really about choices. I work at home so my big thing is getting outside at all. When my kids are in school, they get my time from when they come home until they go to bed. My wife does too. So does Game of Thrones. 1000-1500 words a day is pretty good but it’s not always on a book. I’ve learned a lot this year about the value of blogging and maintaining a consistent relationship between my blog stuff and my readers. I’ve been doing a series on villains for the last 6 months and that has really helped me improve readership and make relationships with readers. And provide focus. That gets me writing on a regular basis.

I tend to write in the evenings (well, at night) and am willing to sacrifice being sleepy in the morning for progress at night. But when I’m writing the books, I’m all in. They really do take over and I struggle to turn it off to focus on the rest of my life. This is my long-winded way of saying I have pseudo-balance. The image of balance. I’m still working on the reality.

Terra: That is funny, we probably are up at the same time. I tried writing at night for a month, but I kept falling asleep and my laptop took several falls to the floor. In the interest of saving my stories, I bought an external hard drive for back up, and I started writing in the morning.

I absolutely love Game of Thrones! Haven’t read the series, but can’t wait for Season 3 to come out. I’ve been told the TV series follows the books pretty closely, so I may just have to pick up a book instead of waiting until next spring.

Christopher: I haven’t read the series either but I did buy the first book to see if the fuss was worth it. I’m about halfway through it now. The fuss is worth it: it’s amazing. And the TV series does follow the nooks exceptionally well. Gotta give George RR Martin his credit: homeboy can spin a tale.

 

 

Thanks for hanging with us and check back in with Christopher next week to see the next installment!