About the author
Thursday, October 17, 2013
TABOO! Find Home Guest Post by Lauren McKellar
I remember being a twelve-year-old, and the kid who gave a speech in class before me wrote that word on the blackboard before starting his performance.
The class was shocked. Jaws dropped, and pencils fell to the floor.
Sex? In school?
This dramatic action was then followed by the classic line, “Now that I’ve got your attention, let me talk to you about vacuum cleaners.” (Seriously, who gives a speech on vacuum cleaners? But I digress).
The point is, that even at the age of twelve, shock tactics can be used to gain extra readership, which in turn begs the question: is anything taboo in YA anymore?
My novel, Finding Home, came out at the start of the month, and when I wrote it, I promise I wasn’t going for the tricks-people-into-reading-after-writing-about-sex-ploy (let’s call it, The Vacuum Cleaner Effect). When I started writing, I decided to focus on topics that were close to my heart, things I saw a lot of as a teenager. And for me, that was underage drinking.
In Australia, the legal drinking age is eighteen, and I have to be honest; most of my friends started drinking at around the age of thirteen. That was definitely a casual situation, but by the age of fifteen/sixteen, it would be rare to go to a party or a “gathering” and not see someone with a wine bag, some beer, or a bottle of spirits and a whole bucket of cola. And I went to a school for apparently gifted children, which was a polite way of saying “nerds.”
When I wrote Finding Home, I wanted to address the issue of underage drinking, not in the fashion where I preach against it, but in a manner where I address the issue of it. In this novel, the lead characters uses alcohol as a way to escape her problems.
Dangerous territory? You betcha.
At first, I struggled with this. It’s hard to find the line between being preachy and sending a negative message, and I think if I knew the moral dilemma I would incur within myself, I might not have ever written this book.
I changed the ending more times than I could count. The protagonist never drinks again. No! She relapses. No! She has a drink, but only one per hour. No! She joins a convent and abstains from booze and boys forever, excluding of course the wine during communion, or confession, or whatever the one is where you take the wine and bread (I grew up as a Catholic, but I am a little bit lapsed, as you can no doubt tell).
In the end, I realised that it didn’t need to be about deleting all drinks from her life; it was about a realisation. It was about getting the anti-binge drinking message across, without making it seem too much like a lecture.
I was still a little worried it wouldn’t be vanilla enough for some adults — that the drinking would worry them, especially with a little ambiguity over the totality of the heroine’s abstinence from it and the fact that there is SEX (deliberate use of the vacuum cleaner effect) mixed in there, too. Having said that, I got an email from a mother who read Finding Home the other day. She said she loved it, and was going to make her sixteen-year-old daughter read it.
And no, I didn’t know her. And yes, it pretty much did make my life complete.
I feel like, if you’re writing about taboo subjects in YA, it does need to have a message. However, it doesn’t need to be one without flaws. Just so long as you don’t go overboard on the vacuum-suck/shock factor.
About the author
About the author
Lauren McKellar is a writer and reader of Young and New Adult books. Her debut novel Finding Home is out now, and can be bought from all your usual eBook sites (extensive links available here Amazon listed below). She also works as a freelance editor for novels for all age groups and you can chat to her on twitter or facebook any time you’d like.
Moody, atmospheric, and just a little bit punk, Finding Home takes contemporary YA to a new level of grit...
When Amy’s mum dies, the last thing she expects is to be kicked off her dad’s music tour all the way to her Aunt Lou in a depressing hole of a seaside town. But it’s okay — Amy learned how to cope with the best, and soon finds a hard-drinking, party-loving crowd to help ease the pain.
The only solace is her music class, but even there she can’t seem to keep it together, sabotaging her grade and her one chance at a meaningful relationship. It takes a hard truth from her only friend before Amy realises that she has to come to terms with her past, before she destroys her future.
Win one of two $5 Amazon cards, one $10 Amazon card or a copy of Finding Home.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sharon M. Johnston is an author and public relations specialist who lives in sunny Queensland, Australia. She has been a Pitch Madness host for the past few years, and is also a Pitch Wars mentor. Her New Adult Sci Fi Romance, DIVIDED: An Open Heart Novel Book 1, is out now with City Owl Press.
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