Thursday, June 25, 2009
Book Launch: The GIFTED Series by Marilyn Kaye
Nine Teenagers. Nine Secrets. An ordinary Middle School with a few extraordinary exceptions.
Today, I'm pleased to introduce Marilyn Kaye, author of the middle grade series GIFTED. The first two books in the series launched earlier this year, and they are a fun read, and truly teen-friendly.
Thank you for taking the time for an interview! Your new middle grade series, GIFTED, has an intriguing premise involving some supernatural elements. Would you like to elaborate?
The characters in this series might seem very ordinary on the surface, but through various means each has acquired an unusual talent -- telekinesis, mind-reading, an insight into the future, and various other inexplicable abilities. Unfortunately for them, none of these skills came with a guide or a manual, and the young people have to figure out how best to use their remarkable gifts.
Although you incorporate multiple viewpoints, you feature one character in each of the first two books. Do you continue this technique in the remaining books?
Yes; each book features one main character, and also includes the viewpoint of one other character. But all the characters move in and out of each book.
You obviously have a knack for getting into the heads of tween girls. How do you discover your characters? How have you picked up on contemporary teen issues?
Almost all my characters are based on an aspect of people I've known, and sometimes on aspects of myself. Then, I let them evolve in my imagination -- they take on characteristics that just seem to emerge naturally from their personalities and situations. As for contemporary teen issues -- so many of these issues have been around for as long as there's been adolescence. Their budding sexuality, their concerns about appearance, rebellion, peer pressure -- there are dreams, fears, and hopes that are common to this age. Of course, aspects of these concerns change with the times, and I try to keep up with contemporary concerns by staying in contact with young people.
Do you have a favorite character from the series?
I must admit to a particular fondness for Amanda. Superficially, she seems like the stereotype of a typical 'mean girl', but under the surface there's a complicated personality. I like the notion that a girl-you-love-to-hate may have reasons for being the way she is.
In addition to writing a number of successful series for teens, you’ve written single novels (one of which, PENELOPE, was made into a major motion picture.) How does writing series differ from writing single novels? Did you plot out the entire series, or did you plunge into your idea and then discover you had more to say?
When I'm writing a series, I want each book to stand on its own, so that readers don't feel required to read each book. But at the same time, there's an 'arc' to a series, and a theme that continues and grows. Each book tells a complete story, but not every possibility is explored. When I begin a series, I know where it's going to go, so in that sense I plan the entire series in advance. However, elements can emerge in the individual books that might make me change direction slightly. In a single novel, I'm very conscious of answering every question that might arise in the course of telling the story; in a series, some questions remain open.
Your output is amazing. How quickly do you work? How long does it take you to complete a novel?
I try to write every day, and when I'm not actually writing, I'm thinking about what I'm going to write. When I'm writing a series, I have to stay on a schedule, since the books come out at regular intervals. I try to complete each book within two months. A single novel, though, can take much longer.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself – your writing life, how you got started? What were your influences as a young reader?
I've been writing ever since I could string words together. And even before that, I was making up stories and telling them to anyone who would listen. As a child, I loved to read. Even though I was naturally social, I spent many happy hours alone in a library. My favorite authors as a child were Maud Hart Lovelace who wrote the 'Betsy-Tacy' books, and Noel Streatfeild, the English author of Ballet Shoes and many other wonderful books. My love for books like these propelled me into work as a children's librarian, and then as a professor of literature for children and teens. And it seemed only natural that eventually I would try my hand at writing books myself.
Do you have advice for beginning writers?
My only advice for writers is to write. Keep a journal, jot down your thoughts and feelings and experiences. With a little imagination, you'll find that ideas for stories can emerge from the most ordinary situations.
What is the timeline for the remaining books in the series? Are you working on anything to follow GIFTED?
I'm hoping that GIFTED books will continue so that each of the characters can have his or her own story, so I'm planning on at least nine books. I also have a single novel that's coming out in September, called DEMON CHICK. It's about a sixteen year old girl who discovers that she has a very strange and frightening destiny.
Where can readers learn more about you and your books?
I've got a website: www.marilynkaye.com. It includes an email address so that readers can write me directly and ask any questions that aren't answered in the site. And there's a website for 'Gifted': www.giftedseries.com.