Friday, April 24, 2015


Telling a compelling (thrilling) Young Adult story.

What is Young Adult horror?

You're not even safe
in your own bed!
            Our first two books in The Dimensions in Death series, Pitch Green and Mojave Green, are the start of what our publisher has labeled as “young adult horror.”  The tale is based on a scary story we told as kids to our siblings and friends (and sometimes to strangers and non-friends).  These two books combine terror, suspense and mystery, moving at a breathtaking pace as our protagonists fight for their lives, battling a monstrous evil presence hiding in and around an old, deserted mansion in Trona, California, a small mining town, located near Death Valley in a desolate region of the Mojave Desert.
            While our series is labeled “young adult horror” (and this is because our story is an all-age appropriate tale about life-and-death encounters with unearthly monsters), we are not completely comfortable with our placement in that genre.  First, we rely more on suspense and mystery (more like a thriller), rather than blood and gore (no gratuitous violence), to tell our scary story.  Second, our monsters are justified by logical principles of theoretical science, not mysticism and magic.  But, we are not science fiction either, so we are left with the horror label for lack of a more exact category.
Fortunately, most teens grow out of
the zombie phase.
            In truth, we’re not sure what our genre is, but we do know what we like.  Both in the books we write as well as in the books we read, we like a fast-moving, compelling story of mystery, suspense and terror about unusual characters with an imaginative plot for a young adult audience, meaning it hits home for teens.  The higher the stakes the better, and life-or-death stakes are pretty high.  As with any reader, youth readers must be courted with conflict and entrapped by suspense.
            A young reader wants to be immersed in a world of new beginnings and exciting transitions, a world where anything is possible and hope is a guiding star.  A world of despair, overwhelmed by failed dreams and missed opportunities, is for an older, more-jaded audience.  A young adult plot says we don’t give up, we will find a way to succeed because life is about happiness, is worth the sacrifices we make, and will bring a happy ending in the long run.  That is the kind of book that we like to read as well as write.
            Here are a few of the young adult books by other authors that we have liked:

(1)        The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
            Two young people (a girl and a guy in love) are caught up in a fascinating world of conflicting types of magic, existing on the edge of the actual world we live in, where they are placed involuntarily into a situation that requires one to die at the hand of the other by a hidden power and mysterious rules that neither completely understands. The real magic is that they figure out how to play the game by their own rules. The brooding sense of danger and dark mystery continually pulls the reader along.

(2)        The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
            A likeable, young scoundrel, who is badly treated and whose life seems to be jerked this way and that at the mercy of an international war and corrupt queens and kings, proves that he is capable of not only dictating his own destiny, but also the destiny of large kingdoms and powerful political leaders. The sudden plot twists and ongoing surprises about the protagonist’s true character carries the reader forward.

(3)        The Maze Runner by James Dashner
            Appearing suddenly in an artificial testing environment, like a rat in a maze, with no memory of how he got there, our young hero must figure out how to escape the trap while being subjected to the tension of lost memories and threatening peer pressure as well as a sense of danger arising from a life and death threat not totally understood, yet the youth out smarts his captors and rewrites the rules of the test.  The overpowering tension and suspense of unanswered questions together with the courage of the protagonist pulls the reader through the story.

(4)        The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

            A young boy, who has been trapped his whole life in a graveyard for his own protection and has been raised by the dead, falls in love with a girl from the outside world and must face the evil forces that would destroy him if he is ever going to find a way out of the world of the dead and into the world of the living, where he can finally have a real life for himself.  This is a fresh story with unexpected conflicts, providing the suspense that keeps the reader going to the end.

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