Foreword Reviews

Spectacular Debuts by 3 Young Adult Novelists


3 Debut YA Authors

Spectacular Debuts by Three Young Adult Novelists

Back again this week with more first-timer fun from the authors featured in our Debut Fiction special section of Foreword Reviews. From a total of twenty-two writers, today we’re featuring three young adult authors.

Knowing that first books can be the writing equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest barefoot, we asked the newly launched virtuosos to pen a paragraph or two about the process of completing their debut. The answers make for some fascinating reading, so we thought we’d share some of their stories in the next couple installments of Foreword This Week. Below, you’ll see that we also included a snippet of the Foreword review, as well as a link to the full review as it appeared in the special section.

Young adult fiction fans, you’re in for a treat. There’s no doubt in our mind, these newly-crowned novelists will have long, successful writing careers.

Mary Watson and The Wren Hunt cover
Mary Watson

The Wren Hunt, Bloomsbury

Excerpt of Review by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers:

“In Mary Watson’s The Wren Hunt, druids are still in the world, but they’re hanging on by a thread. Once a powerful group, their unity is long gone, victim to internecine factions that have divided their three branches into autonomous groups based on magical affinities. The first book in a new young adult contemporary fantasy series, The Wren Hunt is a compelling take on druid mythology combined with a dash of family mystery.”

Mary’s big news meets with a seven year old’s skepticism.

“When my agent called to tell me that The Wren Hunt was being sold, I was standing on top of the kitchen counter between the toaster and the coffee machine. We’d scheduled the call, but my first born child came to me minutes before to tell me that his head hurt. The kiddie drugs had mysteriously vanished and I was investigating whether the blister pack had been swallowed by the kitchen cupboards when the call came in. I was distracted, so I didn’t entirely register what had happened until after we ended the call and had to send a quick message: “Hang on, did you just say…?”

Afterwards, I told my children, aged between two and seven at the time, that the most amazing thing had happened: the book I’d been working was going to be published. They were not particularly impressed. “Does it have magic in it?” they asked. “Definitely,” I told them but they were still not too fazed. “How does it happen?” they wanted to know. “How does a book get made?” I told them that I dreamed it up in my head, typed it on my computer and sent it to people who did things which turned it into a book, the kind we found in the shops and the library.

After processing this, one looked at me and said, “well, now that is just like magic.” And it occurred to me that in many ways it is. There’s a special congruity in making of a book, where people bring together skills and talent. Where they take the words typed on a computer in a solitary room, and form it into this wonderful, often beautiful object, that is then read, and remade inside a reader’s head. It is the perfect confluence of dream and reality, of a joined effort where people become connected through the imagination. Where new worlds can be dreamed up, and each reader experiences the same thing differently. There’s certainly magic in that.”

Michelle Barker and The House of One Thousand Eyes cover
Michelle Barker

The House of One Thousand Eyes, Annick Press

Excerpt of Review by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers:

“In Michelle Barker’s The House of One Thousand Eyes, it’s 1983, and the German Democratic Republic is on lockdown. Orphaned when her parents died in a factory explosion, all seventeen-year-old Lena Altman has left are her aunt, uncle, and job cleaning Stasi headquarters. There’s no love lost between Lena and her aunt, but Lena adores her uncle. When he disappears, the ‘simple girl’ [also] disappears under the revelation of her life’s complexity and trauma.”

Michelle’s self doubt nearly undoes her, until the protagonist’s voice shows up in her head.

“Not long after I developed a synopsis for The House of One Thousand Eyes, I remember being on a flight from Toronto back to Vancouver. I was returning from Word on the Street and had brought a thick history book on East Germany in which to immerse myself in preparation to write the novel. Writing a historical novel is not like writing poetry—for which I depend largely on inspiration. Nor is it like writing the picture book I’d done, which was based on a true story—I’d had my mother’s life to guide me on that one. This was largely an unfamiliar world for me, and as I waded through the facts and figures I found myself growing more and more afraid. You’re in over your head, a little voice kept repeating. There was so much to learn. But I forced myself to push through, took pages and pages of notes, and kept reading as many books as I could until the world started to feel like home—for Lena, and for me.

The turning point came when I discovered Lena’s voice. As soon as I heard it in my head, I began to believe the novel would be possible. I wish I knew how that happened so that I could replicate it, but I don’t. I was writing in my notebook and somehow Mausi showed up. I still had to do a lot of research and I tackled big and small questions throughout the writing of the novel, but once I had confidence in the protagonist’s voice, everything became easier.“

Pooja Puri and The Jungle cover
Pooja Puri

The Jungle, Ink Road

Excerpt of Review by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers:

“In Calais, France, there is a horrifying encampment known as The Jungle that teems with people who’ve who fled wars and violence. Faced with overcrowding, police brutality, and political ennui, their dreams slowly fester. Residents swing between apathy and frantic attempts to escape—anything to alleviate the unrelenting wait. There are only three real ways out: the help of a lone pro-bono lawyer, the nefarious human traffickers known as the Ghost Men, and death. Faced with these options, Mico turns to stealing.”

Brave and stubborn, Pooja discovers the power of practice and perseverance.

“Writing The Jungle was very much a leap of faith; as an unpublished author, you often have little idea how your story will be received or if anyone will want to read it. When I first started writing, I was often struck by these doubts and worries—and they only amplified when The Jungle was submitted to publishers. So began the wait. The publishing industry moves a little like a majestic iceberg and I’d almost given up hope of hearing anything when I received the call from my agent. I was out at the time and I still remember stopping in the middle of the pavement and not saying anything for a few moments. Part of you doesn’t quite believe it—not even when you start the editing process or are sent the first look of your book cover. As a writer, I think you must have a certain degree of bravery and a whole lot of stubbornness; above all, you must be ready to persevere. Writing is like any other skill; the more you practise, the better (hopefully!) you’ll become and somewhere, someday, you’ll receive the call that you’re waiting for.”

Matt Sutherland

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