Please define what a Young-Adult (YA) novel is (or can be) from your perspective and why you chose this genre to express the ideas underlying your new work.
RUSSELL: Young-adult novels are truly unique in my opinion. They are the places of first loves, enormous possibilities, great loss, impossible journeys, and unwavering kindred spirits. Books help us in ways we aren’t expecting and are often a place we turn when we want to experience something new. I believe young-adult novels help us move into adulthood, bring humor, and connection in ways we all need. The funny thing is, Kindreds didn’t start out as a young-adult book! I actually set out to write something completely different. But each time I sat to write, it took me back to Lilah’s story of loss, connection, and belonging. Eventually, I just gave in and wrote it. It ended up being a journey into two worlds (one of reality and one fantasy), but also into Lilah’s heart and head. So often, the distance between our heart and our head is the longest one we will ever have to make. It is a journey we often begin in young adulthood and continues as we age, so what better place than in a YA book!
GOLDBERG: While I’m primarily a writer of adult thrillers, I wanted to challenge myself with something new. I had an idea about a teenage girl involved in the 90s grunge music scene, and it seemed perfect to try my hand at young-adult fiction. I’d been hesitant to write a YA book that takes place now, since I’m far removed from being a teenager, but I was that age in the 90s, so it was fun to relive a nostalgic time. For me, the difference between adult and YA was really getting in the headspace of my main character and not writing in third person like I usually do. There’s also a responsibility with YA authors because you will have young readers. I’ve written about some terrible people in my thrillers doing terrible things, but for YA, it was important to make my character a role model. She may mess up, but will realize her mistakes and become better because of it. Since the book is also set in a past era, I hope it introduces teens today to the music from back then. So, the book is for people my age who’d want to look back, but also for young people now who are curious about what life was like before cell phones and social media.
NEWMAN: YA is hard to define because a good story can appeal to a wide range of ages. But I do feel that YA books have common and important themes: coming of age, finding one’s voice, readers seeing themselves and discovering that they are not alone, they have similar feelings and fears, desires and hopes, and questions, big questions about their identity and place in the world. The Dreamcatcher Codes speaks to two issues that I deeply care about — girls finding their power, and the state of our environment. We are also in a time when finding the threads that connect us is critical. We are all human and sharing the same planet. I created characters that are super diverse. One girl is Lakota, another is Jewish and biracial. Another is adopted from China. They all find a sense of belonging through shared loss, pain, generational genocide, and not knowing where they belong. This generation is angry. They’ve been left with an ecological mess, well, how does one heal that? So, while the magical, mystical and mythic are the vehicle, the emotional underpinnings are very grounded in the real.