Guest Post: Author Siobhan Curham on Creating Authentic Teen Characters in YA Fiction…

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moonlight dreamers

We are super excited to welcome Siobhan Curham, author of new release YA novel The Moonlight Dreamers, to the Shelf, thanks to Walker Books Australia.  We reviewed The Moonlight Dreamers earlier today on the blog, and now Siobhan is with us to share some tips for all you budding YA writers on how to create authentic teen characters.

Take it away Siobhan!


HOW TO WRITE AUTHENTIC TEEN CHARACTERS

Siobhan Curham

 I guess the first thing I would say if I were advising someone on how to write authentic teens is:

don’t be patronising.

The way some adults talk about teens it’s as if they’re describing some kind of alien life form – full of suspicion and fear. Or they treat them like over-grown children. It’s like they’ve forgotten that they were ever once a young adult!

Which brings me on to my next point:

remember what it’s truly like to be a teen.

When I think back to my own teenage years I remember it being a pretty intense time; a time of so many ‘firsts’. First love, first exam stress, first job, first holiday with friends, first time living away from your family, first alcoholic drink, first hangover, first adult choices.

I also remember it being a pretty scary time. You don’t yet have the benefit of decades of experience and so, when things go wrong, it can be hard to have faith in the belief that, ‘this too shall pass’. The pain of a break-up, or a failed exam, or the death of a loved one, or your parents’ divorce can be overwhelming and it can be really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, young adults aren’t jaded by decades of experience, so they’re able to embrace life and new ideas with freshness and optimism. I’m reminded of this every time I give a talk in a high school or run a workshop for teens and I find it so inspiring. It’s definitely something I try to inject into my teen characters.

There’s a quote by the writer e. e. cummings that I think perfectly sums up the teenage years:

It takes courage to grow up and become the person you really are.

This idea is at the heart of my novel, The Moonlight Dreamers. Yes, the teenage years can be scary, and yes, it’s hard to become the person you really are, when society, the media and the internet might want you to be something you’re not. But if you can find the courage to be your true self and dare to dream your true dreams, then what a great life you’re creating for yourself.


We’d like to say a big thank you to Siobhan for sharing her wisdom with us and for providing such an uplifting read in The Moonlight Dreamers.

Until next time,

Bruce

Monday Upliftivism: The Moonlight Dreamers…and a Guest Post from Author Siobhan Curham!

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It’s been a bit of a tough few weeks for us round the shelf lately.  The winter plague has invaded the household and I can barely think, let alone read, for all the coughing, hacking, moaning and prayers for deliverance, or a speedy death.  This week therefore, will be spent catching up on reviewing a whole bunch of books that have been eagerly awaiting their spot in the limelight.

Kicking off the week, in case you too are plagued by illness or general despair at the state of the world, I offer some upliftivism with new release YA novel from Walker Books, The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham.  I should also mention that Siobhan has written a guest post for us about how to create authentic teen characters, which those budding writers amongst you (and I know there are a few!) will no doubt want to feast your eyes on.  Let me introduce you to the delightful and too-sweet-for-words, Moonlight Dreamers, which we received from Walker Books Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

An inspirational, heart-warming book about four girls trying to find their place in the world. Siobhan Curham celebrates very different but like-minded friends in this captivating novel.

Amber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she’s being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn’t much better. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realizes that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does; other dreamers – moonlight dreamers. After chance encounters with Maali, Sky and Rose, Amber soon recruits the three girls to the Moonlight Dreamers. It’s high time they started pursuing their dreams, and how better than with the support of friends?

moonlight dreamers

Quick Overview:

I have to say that if ever there was a book for younger readers that fit the Utopirama mould, then The Moonlight Dreamers is it.  While some unfortunate things do befall the characters in the novel, the overall feel of the book is so warm and subtly positive, that you just know that each girl will eventually find her way.  The book begins with Amber, a young woman with two dads who faces bullying at school, ostensibly because she is “different”.  Amber decides to take a risk and passes out invitations to form a secret society – the Moonlight Dreamers – to girls she encounters that look like they might share her desire to revel in uniqueness and go after their dreams.

The characters in the book struck me as particularly authentic creations.  Maali, the youngest of the group, possesses a wonderful naivety and sense of openness to the world around her – yet struggles with the simple task of talking to a boy.  Amber, on the outside, has all the makings of a confident young woman who isn’t afraid to walk to the beat of her own drum, but worries endlessly about being too different for people to like her for who she is.  Skye is still grieving the death of her mother and desperately wants to take the next step and perform her poetry in public, but is in conflict with her father over his new relationship.  And Rose, the accidental Dreamer, seems so worldly-wise, but desperately needs the approval of friends who are prepared to get to know her outside of her famous parents’ shadows, in order to gain the confidence to follow her dreams.

There’s something amazingly engaging about watching these characters tackle what are, for the most part, typical problems that many teens face.  The story is told in alternating perspectives so by the end of the book, the reader has had plenty of time to get to know each of the girls as individuals and watch how their interactions propel them towards facing their fears.  There’s a refreshing simplicity in the telling of the story that allows the characters to come to the fore without being shackled to the stereotypical portrayals that are grist for the mill of many contemporary YA books, where the focus is on predictable romantic relationships or fitting into expected social roles at school.  The author has managed to clearly show the girls as they are, and want to be, because the girls themselves – rather than their romantic interests or school troubles – are the focus.

If you know a young reader (or an older one!) who could really do with a bit of positivity in their lives and an affirmation that they are perfectly okay just as they are, then I would highly recommend getting a copy of The Moonlight Dreamers into their hands.  Apart from the fact that it will inspire you to pursue your dreams under fortuitous moonlight, it’s just a cracking good read and a story to soothe the fears and worries of the troubled soul.

Utopian Themes:

Books as solace for the weary heart

The wit and wisdom of Wilde

Friendship as a transformative power

Serendipitous discoveries

Youthful exuberance

Protective Bubble-o-meter:

protective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubble

Five out of five protective bubbles for the security of knowing that one is not alone in one’s difference.

Although this certainly isn’t the type of YA that I generally go for, I did thoroughly enjoy The Moonlight Dreamers and was left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my stony jaded heart by the end of it.  It also got me thinking about starting my own secret society, but I haven’t decided on a theme yet, so until then, keep my idea under your hat.

Don’t forget to check out author of The Moonlight Dreamers,  Siobhan Curham’s guest post about creating authentic teen characters!

Until next time,

Bruce