I love a good mystery—William Kent Krueger, Janet Evanovich before she started phoning it in, Sue Grafton, Tony Hillermann, and many others. I love them so much, in fact, that after my husband unexpectedly died in 2001, I started writing them. Writing mysteries soothed my brain, reconnected me with people, and gave me an understanding of human nature and a sense of justice that was missing in my life at the time.
Because I already had too much darkness at the time I started writing, my books leaned toward the humorous. May Day, the first in the Murder-by-Month Mysteries, was published in March of 2006. December Dread, the eighth, comes out this October, and I’m lucky to have received multiple starred reviews for the series from Library Journal and Booklist on top of two Lefty nominations for Best Humorous Mystery.
I was thrilled, am thrilled, to write mysteries, but you know what? I have a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old, and they read young adult fiction like they eat candy: voraciously. Because I’m the kind of mom I am, I started to read what they were reading, and I rediscovered the thrill of adventure, fantasy, and living the impossible that permeates today’s young adult literature. It was breathtaking, and I wanted to do it. I wanted to write something my kids could read. The first in my young adult trilogy was born from this desire, and a nagging feeling that I was a loser for not having read the classics. Here’s the description for the book:
Aine believes herself to be a regular teenager in 1930s Alabama, but when a blue-eyed monster named Biblos attacks, she discovers that the reclusive woman raising her isn't really her grandmother and that she's been living inside a book for the past five years. With her blind brother, Spenser, she flees the pages of the novel she's called home, one terrifying step ahead of Biblos' black magic. Her only chance at survival lies in beating him to the three objects that he desires more than life.
As she undertakes her strange and dangerous odyssey, Aine must choose between a family she doesn't remember and her growing attraction to a mysterious young man named Gilgamesh. Only through treacherous adventures into The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Tale of Two Cities, and the epic Indian saga The Ramayana will she learn her true heritage and restore the balance of the worlds... if she can stay alive.
Although my mystery writing left me relatively comfortable when it came to creating a cohesive story and ramping up the suspense, writing in a young adult voice was a challenge. I strove to find the right mix of angst, certainty, hope, and misery that marked my teenage years, to create a realistic brother-sister relationship, and to create an entirely new world where teenagers can enter classic fiction and interact with the characters who tortured and illuminated us all through our high school English classes. I hope I’ve succeeded. I have a tremendous respect for today’s youth and the power of books. We are all connected by stories!
Jess Lourey is the author of the critically-acclaimed Murder by Month Mysteries. The eighth, December Dread, will be released October 2012. The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, the first in a young adult series that celebrates the power of stories, will be released August 2012. Jessica teaches writing and sociology at a Minnesota community and technical college.