I am very excited to present our first author interview on Teen Lit Review. Melody Carlson is a well-established author of Christian women's, young adult and teen fiction. She writes realistic books that deal with pertinent topics many teenages deal with today. Some of her titles we have reviewed here on Teen Lit Review are The Jerk Magnet as well as Mixed Bags (The Carter House Girls Series), Bad Connection (The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor), and Harsh Pink: Color Me Burned (True Colors Series). Here is my interview with her:
1. What inspires you to write books tailored to teens?
I know that the teen years are challenging at best. And because I went from atheist to believer during my teens, I experienced some strange and interesting things—consequently my adolescence remains strangely vivid to me. I also worked in youth ministry and I guess I’ve always had a heart for teens. It’s such a vital and impressionable time—I try to write books that help my readers to navigate through.
2. Are there any teen characters that you have created that you have really connected with and why?
There are so many...perhaps my Diary of a Teenage Girl characters stand out the most. Because there are four books about each girl, I got to know them well. Also, I felt like there was a big piece of me in each of those characters. But I feel like that about most of my characters. If I can’t relate to them, how can I expect the reader to relate? That’s why I try to keep characters realistic and relevant.
3. On that same note, are there any teen-related topics that you have written about that have been things you have dealt with yourself and what have you learned from those experiences?
All the general topics (like relationships, peer pressure, romance, faith...) are probably things I’ve extracted from my own life—and then developed and adapted as needed. But the heavier issues (like cutting, suicide, drugs, rape...) are issues I pulled out of headlines because I felt they were stories that needed to be told—in hopes of protecting or preventing or encouraging the readers. Anyone who’s read my TrueColors series knows that I don’t shy away from any topics. I feel like if it’s happening in the teen world, let’s talk about it. Everything is less scary and easier to deal with when brought out into the light.
4. Where did you get the idea to write The Jerk Magnet, and what is one thing you would want teens to walk away with after reading the book?
This story was actually inspired by a real person. About ten years ago a friend got a massive makeover (going from cute-girl-next-door to hot babe) and she started a new job and was surprised at all the male attention she was getting. However, it seemed the males had only one thing in mind and that was not a serious relationship. Plus the women were acting pretty chilly. I told my friend that I thought she’d turned herself into a “jerk magnet.” Her new appearance (and wardrobe) were sending the wrong messages and getting the wrong results. Later on I realized how many young women fall into this trap and I thought, why not write about it?
5. The mission of our blog is to encourage teenagers to make wise choices concerning the books they read. What advice would you give a teen about choosing books wisely?
As a teen, shortly after I became a believer, I learned a valuable lesson about music. I discovered that certain kinds of songs could really change my thinking and attitude in negative ways. I realized I needed to stop listening to the kinds of songs that depressed me or distracted me from honoring God. I think books (and anything of influence) is like that. Short and simple: If a book changes you in a negative way, it’s not a good thing.
6. We have several aspiring authors (including teens) that write reviews for Teen Lit Review. What advice would you give them about becoming an author?
Write, write, write. The more you do it, the better you get at it. But at the same time, give yourself permission to write badly—and throw (or file) the bad writing away. Nothing is lost because you still learned something. Also, you should be willing to take constructive criticism and some good writing classes. And finally read, read, read...because that’s part of learning.