The Language of Young Adult Fiction (Guest Post by Cheryl Campbell)

Say hello again to Cheryl Campbell, YA author with an unusual perspective I admire.

Burnt Mountain The Monster Within was born from an idea that I wanted to try to write a story that my niece (at the time 5 years old) and nephew (at the time 3 years old) might enjoy as teenagers. I figured this would give me plenty of time to come up with something, and plenty of time to figure out how to get it done. I had never written a book before and had zero clue about how to do it. So I sat down, jotted some notes, typed a few pages, and kept chipping away at it. Many revisions later it started to take on some shape.

As I kept going, the shape became more recognizable as a story. I was watching movies and reading a lot to figure out what made the stories that I loved so great. Lord of the Rings, both the books and the movies were key factors in my research. Star Wars also ranked at the top. What I loved so much about them was the way they crossed all age groups. Anyone, any age could get in to see Star Wars. No profanity. No sex. No graphic violence. Both franchises had movies with some violence, but none of them were rated R.

Keeping my niece and nephew as my target audience, I wanted to keep my book at PG to PG-13, and a soft PG-13 at that. The last thing I ever wanted to hear from their mouths was “Aunt Cheryl taught me how to swear” or “I learned about sex from my Auntie’s book.” So even when a scene in the story could have easily and realistically contained a swear word, I side stepped it with a benign remark such as “she swore” or “…cursing under her breath…”

My niece is rapidly approaching 8 years old, my nephew just turned 6 years old, and I have two additional nieces added to the list since the start of this journey 3 years ago. I have not had an adult reader say “I will not let my child read this; it’s not appropriate.” Instead I have been told “when he gets older, I want him to read it” or “I know she will enjoy this as much as I have.” I am very proud of this kind of feedback.

I could have catered to an older audience and included swearing, sex, and violence, but the older audience wasn’t my target. Any time I considered veering down the path of tossing in some swearing, I brought my focus back to my true target audience. I didn’t start the Burnt Mountain series for anyone other than my nieces, nephew, and any future nieces and nephews yet to come. I am of course thrilled that I have picked up some adult readers, fans even, along the way, and I look forward to the day that Helen, Jed, Faith, and Michaela are old enough to read all three books and whatever else I have written for them.

Burnt Mountain The Monster Within is Cheryl Campbell’s debut novel and is the first book in the Burnt Mountain series. Burnt Mountain One in the Chamber was released in November 2013. The third book, Burnt Mountain Do and Die will be released in 2014. Cheryl was born in Louisiana and lived there and in Mississippi prior to moving to Maine in 2001. She has a varied background including art, herpetology, emergency department and critical care nursing, and computer systems. Follow her blog: burntmountainbooks.com. She lives in the Bangor area with her two dogs, gecko, and horse.

Hey, it’s Joel again. A comment on Cheryl’s book: she has created a fascinating world for her stories to take place in. The first book is a total page-turner — despite some editing issues Cheryl is aware of. The 3rd book should be quite refined, and maybe just a little bit scary.

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