Saturday, April 14, 2012

Black Opal Books: Throw Away Teen by Shannon Kennedy

Ten Things You Don’t Know about Throw Away Teen my first book for Black Opal Books

10. Throw Away Teen is the first book in my “Cheerleader” series. Set in and around a private school, Stewart Falls Academy, twelve girls deal with timely issues while they learn to interact and build a winning cheer squad. The life lesson their coach wants them to learn is that, “Sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader!”

9. Characters grow and change in a variety of ways which may surprise the writer as much as it does the reader. When B.J. Larson, a street-smart foster kid moves to small town Stewart Falls, she’s the Princess of Passing Though, but has she found a “forever” home, somewhere it will be safe to unpack and stay a while?

8. World-building in a contemporary teen novel can be as challenging as creating the setting of any other story. Stewart Falls may be a fictional town set around three small mountain lakes in the Cascade foothills of Washington State. It still required all the amenities from the local pizzeria to a down-home riding stable to make the book come alive.

7. Teen dialogue isn’t easy. It’s like learning a foreign language and at 50+ years of age, my brain synapses have been closed a long time. Good thing I had kids at the schools where I substitute teach and at the barn to keep my language real. B.J. refers to herself as “street trash” but nobody else better put that label on her. And calling her, Blow-Job will immediately get your butt kicked, as plenty of other girls have learned the hard way. And no, she doesn’t fight like a girl!

6. Just because the writer loves a phrase doesn’t mean the editor will and that the phrase stays through the revision process. B.J.’s mantra that she repeats whenever she’s scared made her “sound childish” so it went away. Okay, that was for the most part, but I snuck in a couple of reps when things got particularly stressful for her. Then saying, “I’m B.J. Larson and I’m tough,” made it possible for her to survive one more time.

5. The supporting cast doesn’t have to be human, but don’t forget the character arcs. B.J.’s new roomie is an eight-week-old, purple heeler-border collie puppy. He loves her unconditionally, but has a tough time staying on task in doggie class. B.J. wonders if he’s like her and has A.D.D. She learns that it’s normal for puppies to be easily distracted and she can teach him to stay focused. With the help of her tutor, she can learn it too. Okay, and a mocha helps!

4. Conflict needs to start at the beginning of the book with the introduction of the antagonist. B.J. doesn’t expect everyone to welcome her with open arms, but she also didn’t intend to have a “face-off” with her new foster parents’ adult daughter. B.J. may be 15 going on 40, but Jocelyn is 35 going on 12 at times.

3. B.J. discovers that the guy of her dreams isn’t just a pretty face ~ he comes with baggage even if he lives in what should be a picture-perfect small town. Nobody is a “pod” person even if he or she seems that way at first. Accepting yourself for who and what you are leads to being able to accept others.

2. Liz and Ted Driscoll, her foster parents aren’t perfect, but neither is B.J. While it’s fun to write a flawed character, it’s also a challenge to keep her true to herself. When she sets a time-frame for her visit, B.J. feels much safer knowing this home is just temporary. She also comes to know her new foster parents in ways she never expected.

1. Can the “Princess of Passing Through” learn to put down roots? Bounced from foster home to foster home since she was two, B.J. Larson knows life doesn’t have guarantees. Learning to trust others may be the largest risk she’s ever taken.

I’m delighted the Stewart Falls Cheerleaders found a home with Black OpalPublishing. I have a terrific cover and my own real puppy is on it. I still don’t know how we got him to hold still for the picture – he’s a whirling, horse-chasing, sister-puppy –attacking, cat-romping fellow at the best of times. But I have to admit that when he’s sleeping, he’s downright adorable. He loved our snow in January, but he does think that the cones I use to teach the kids to steer their horses are actually made for puppies.

I spend a lot of time with teens both at the family riding stable and as a substitute middle/high school teacher. I love hearing what they think and say – the books seemed to come about naturally out of both those venues. And of course, it’s always easy to find “beta” readers at the barn or the schools who are happy to tell me when I make a mistake and need to rewrite, sort of a “turnabout is fair play,” time.

In addition to writing young adult novels, I also write mainstream western romance as Josie Malone. Last week, BookStrand released my third mainstream western romance, A Woman’s Place and so my personal adventure continues. In other words, Yippee! I always dreamed of someday being a writer. Then I wanted to be a published writer and this is when I quote the cliché, “You’re never given a dream without being given the power to make it come true.” You may have to work for it however.

A Woman’s Place follows my first historical for BookStrand, A Man’s World. In that book, a woman masqueraded as a gunfighter in 1887 Washington (state) Territory – actually, Trace was a pretty good gunfighter – everybody just thought she was a man except the hero who figured it out and helped save her from the outlaw who stalked her. When A Woman’s Place begins, Trace and Zeb have been married for just over six months. Then renegades rob the bank she owns in the town of Junction City.

So, our hero, Rad Morgan, the marshal of Junction City sets off to capture the miscreants. Along the way, he meets his match, and Iraqi War veteran/homicide detective Beth Chambers takes no prisoners. She’ll fit right into 1888 Washington Territory. Of course, I had to figure out how to get a woman from 2012 to the Old West and why she was even there, but that was part of the adventure and the paranormal elements kept escalating. Much to Rad’s initial dismay, Beth and Trace become fast friends.

As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. In my imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. I got in trouble for making my little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, I headed for my fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, I read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. I used the setting of the pony farm for my second romance from BookStrand. The Daddy Spell is a finalist in the Colorado RWA Award of Excellence contest.

Today I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington State in what was once a summer vacation cabin. It’s been modernized and even has indoor plumbing – woo-hoo! I share the cabin with my two cats or maybe, they share it with me. I usually write at night after a long day on the ranch. Some days are longer and harder than others, but I still write from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week. As a substitute school teacher, I love the school breaks but I’m just as busy, since there are 36 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals.

With all the critters on the ranch, I don’t have time for a husband. As for kids, I have to give back the ones who come to learn how to ride at the end of each day. Now, I’m teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones I taught way back when we started. I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years – and in my next 50 years, I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!