2012-08-08 / Arts and Entertainment

Successfully Navigating the World of Young Adult Fiction

By Annie Chesnut


Suzanne Weyn 
Photo Provided Suzanne Weyn Photo Provided Putnam County author Suzanne Weyn has something that most aspiring writers dream about—a bookshelf full of published novels, over 50 books in all.

In a career that has spanned a couple of decades, Weyn is actively producing bright, fresh, and critically acclaimed material for a literary audience that’s particularly subject to the vagaries of taste and trendiness—Young Adults, better known as teenagers.

We met with Weyn at her charming cottage on Peekskill Hollow Road, in the most historic heart of Putnam Valley, which was appropriate, since much of what she writes has a historical setting. A new book, The Invisible World: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials, is just one example. That book was released on August 1, to be followed by The Bar Code Prophecy—third in her popular “Bar Code Tattoo” series—and Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters, on November 1, and January 1, making this a very exciting time for the author.

Weyn grew up on Long Island and attended SUNY Binghamton. From there she worked writing for teen magazines and then moved on to Scholastic Books and a “packager” called Parachute Press—developing and pitching book ideas.

“I learned tremendously because I was in touch with all the publishing houses in New York City,” she recalled. While editing for other young adult authors, she found herself being asked to rewrite chapters that didn’t quite “work,” and eventually realized “I can do this,” so she did.

“I did a lot of work for hire,” Weyn said, including some ghostwriting. In 2004 “my career really changed when I sold The Bar Code Tattoo.” Her complete resume encompasses everything from coloring books to movie novelizations to popular series like “The Baby Sitters’ Club” and “Forever Angels” (a series under her byline that “went to eleven books”)—for preteens as well as young adults.

“Harry Potter did a lot for Young Adult books,” followed by the Twilight and Hunger Games series, she said, so the market is strong these days. But there are challenges, including finding ways to successfully straddle the line between real adult fare and children’s books.

A particular challenge for Weyn is that with her books being published by Scholastic—which sponsors inschool book fairs all over the country—there is no room for guesswork, or “pushing the envelope” when it comes to appropriateness. If a book is going to be sold in a school setting, it can’t be considered objectionable by parents. “But I don’t really mind it,” she added “I become sometimes more enamored of the story than I do of the romantic part of it.”

Weyn said she likes to think of her love scenes as occurring “the way they did in 1940s movies. The camera pulls back, and you can imagine whatever you’d like to imagine.”

“My characters are strong,” she added, and although there’s a market for everything in the book world, “even those romance novels have feisty female characters,” she observed.

And what is the secret to the success of the recent crop of massively popular young adult fare—Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games?

“That’s really interesting to me,” she said. “They’re well written, all three,” she began, but then stopped to consider. “I sometimes wonder if there’s almost something in the air,” she began. In these books, “There are people speaking truth to power… I think there’s a discontent… people trying to figure out how do you live in this world that you can’t be effective against?” And, “I think that kids are looking for a model for navigating in the world with integrity…a world that isn’t always fair and honest.”

Weyn has raised two daughters, Diana—now a graduate student in social work at the University of Denver, and Rae, a rising senior at Putnam Valley High School. Both girls have embraced creativity and the arts, and Diana has cowritten a book with Weyn— but will they follow in their mother’s literary footsteps?

Hard to tell, since each shows the same independent and adventuresome spirit that Weyn cultivates in herself as well as her characters.

For more on Suzanne Weyn, you can visit SuzanneWeynbooks.com or find her on Facebook.

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