To celebrate the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Read Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with YA lit authors and enthusiasts. Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is YALSA’s annual event encouraging teens to read just for the fun of it. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!
Today we are excited to interview Kiersten White, author of the Paranormalcy and Supernaturally, the first two titles in the Paranormalcy trilogy. Paranormalcy has landed a spot on the ALA’s Teen’s Top 10 list this year! (Congratulations Kiersten!) It is the story of Evie, a sixteen year old girly-girl who also happens to work for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, where her job is to track, tag and relocate harmful paranormals.
Welcome Kiersten! Evie is a great character—perfect blend of sass, girly-girl and action heroine! How did she develop in your imagination? Is she who you wanted to be as a teen?
Paranormalcy really started with the idea for IPCA, but I knew I wanted it to be YA so I had to figure out why a sixteen-year-old would work for a secret international government group. I got the idea for a girl who could see through glamours and then Evie’s voice popped into my head, fully-formed. That first chapter is almost word-for-word what I wrote that very instant.
So, I can’t claim too much of her because she really just told me about herself. Evie is much perkier and more optimistic than I was as a teenager, and much more open to the color pink… I don’t know that I wanted to be someone like her, but I definitely admire her bravery, which is something I’ve never felt I had. Even when she’s afraid, she’ll still throw her shoulders back and go after what she wants.
We know you started writing seriously after your first child was born, but were you interested in writing before that? Did you ever envision this career when you were a teen? If not, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
Yes! I actually always wanted to be a writer. I majored in English with an emphasis in editing. I thought I’d write and illustrate children’s books, until I realized I was a really crap artist. Alas. I tried my hand at middle grade first, but really found my passion when I started writing YA.
You’ve said that your books don’t contain mature themes and language out of deference to the younger end of your fan base. Do you find it difficult to appeal to the older audience, while keeping it clean for the younger set?
I really don’t. I think you only broaden your audience when you make it accessible. Really it comes down to the story—this was a story I could tell without those elements, so I didn’t address them. And I think the story is mature enough to entertain adults without having sex and swearing. I can’t guarantee that all of my future books will be appropriate for younger readers (and even I worry sometimes when ten-year-olds read Paranormalcy, just because some of the concepts of relationships and dating are things I think they aren’t ready for yet), but I’m glad that this series was one I could make so accessible.
We just finished reading Stephanie Perkins’ new release Lola and the Boy Next Door, (loved it by the way!) and noticed that you are the first person she thanks in the acknowledgments. Are you two “author friends”, or were you friends before you were authors? Is it great to have a confidant who writes for a similar audience?
I actually have no idea who she is, so that section was both flattering and vaguely creepy.
Just kidding. Stephanie is one of my best friends in the world. We met through blogging right after she signed with her agent. We started emailing and the friendship developed from there. She helped me learn to self-edit, and if you enjoy my books you should probably thank her, because I am a far better writer now than I was before I knew her. It’s been an amazing comfort to have someone on nearly the same publishing schedule to share all of the highs and lows with. Plus, she is adorable and hilarious and writes AMAZING books that I get to read first. Best deal EVER.
What draws you to the fantasy genre? Are you interested in writing any other genres, like realistic fiction?
I really love reading realistic fiction, and so admire those who can craft such compelling stories without fantasy elements. But…it’s not for me. Reading was always about losing myself in another world, and writing is much the same. I don’t want to write about something I could really live. I want to write about the world I live in, with real people and real emotions, PLUS MAGIC. Besides which, plotting is much easier when you can say, ‘AND THEN A VAMPIRE JUMPED OUT OF THE TREES AND ATTACKED HER.’ It’s a really convenient plot device.
Can you give us any sneak peek insider information about the plot of the trilogy finale, Endlessly? We promise not to tell
Yes! I can tell you that it is the third book in the trilogy, which is a series made up of three books! So…don’t tell anyone, but…it’s the last book. I KNOW. THE THIRD BOOK IN THE TRILOGY. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED IT’D BE THE END?
Seriously though, nah, I’m not going to tell you anything. Except maybe it has a dragon. Maybe.
Thank you Kiersten! To keep up to date with Kiersten, visit her website. And thank you for joining us for our Teen Read Week interview series! If you missed any of the author interviews, you can find them here.