Author Jessie Andersen who lives in Sinclairville is clearly aware of two cold, hard facts: The YA (Young Adult) market is hot, and life isn't getting any easier for teenagers.
Her latest novel, "At What Cost" is a contemporary young adult novel with Christian overtones. In fact, Andersen says that she wrote the book because she felt God wanted her to.
"I've always wanted to write a book, but didn't really know what to write about," Andersen recalled. "The truth is, I prayed about it. I felt God telling me I needed to write on the abortion topic. At first, I said no, but I've come to learn you don't argue with God. Everything fell into place, from interviews to people offering to tell me their stories to research opportunities."
At a glance
Author: Jessie Andersen
Title: At What Cost
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, (Novel), Young Adult
Press: Astraea Press, 2012
Andersen's protagonist, a 16-year-old named Maggie Reynolds, finds herself in a difficult situation. She's pregnant, and she doesn't know what to do or to whom to turn. This excerpt gives the reader a glimpse of Maggie's feelings -her worries and fears, how alone she feels:
"Loneliness swept in. She confided in Lauren, but Lauren had never been pregnant; she didn't know what it was like to think your life had ended before it even began. She contemplated telling her dad but decided against it. There was no way she could watch the disappointment in his face, his perfect little girl, tainted. And she absolutely refused to tell her mother. Her mom's perfect little world shattered into a million pieces with Maggie as the cause? Not a good plan. A sixteen year-old pregnant daughter would be the scourge, the black plague of her mother's existence. Maggie wouldn't be surprised if her family disowned her.
No. There was no one. She was in this by herself. Each day the black hole surrounding her crushed down a little more. Maggie never felt so utterly lost.
Andersen's goals for this novel are far-reaching. Aside from the need every storyteller feels to spin a good yarn, Andersen wants her readers to come away from her story with the feeling that redemption is possible.
"There are a few things I'd like my readers to take away," Andersen explained. "1. Sometimes we make mistakes as human beings - big ones. 2. Mistakes don't have to mean the end of life. 3. There are always options. 4. There's always hope."
Creating Maggie, the novel's teenage heroine, was not difficult for Andersen. In fact, Maggie's character was a bit of an "immaculate concept."
"(Maggie) formed herself. I just had to reveal her," Andersen says. "The first time I 'met' her was in the bathroom scene where her aunt comes in I saw her there huddled on the bathroom floor. Originally, I started the story there, but it didn't work out that way in the end."
This novel, and writing in general, certainly worked out for Andersen, though. She has always wanted to be an author, and felt confident in her abilities.
"I knew I'd always write a book, but as I went on to college and teaching, my writing was set aside," she says.
Luckily for her fans, Andersen found time again later in life to recommit herself to her craft. She wrote "At What Cost" during summers and while on vacation. When she left teaching, she was able to focus on completing the manuscript and putting it through the editing process.
To balance being a wife and mother with her writing career, Andersen makes sure to stay organized, and she fits writing and editing in where she can.
"I'm a planner," she says. "I use the triangular rising action/climax/falling action chart to plot out the story. Then, I write when I put the baby down for a nap. I wish I had more time, but right now, if I can get an hour a day, I'm doing great. Most times, it's a few minutes here and a few there."
Like any author worth her ink, Andersen knows that the revision process is just as important as the drafting stage, if not more so.
"Once I get about 50k words into a rough draft, I can start editing," she says of her strategy. "I do several passes on my own before I send it to a few beta readers. They give me feedback and some editing. Then I do a few more passes. Once I go back and forth a few times and I feel it's ready to go, I send it to my agent, who edits again. It's a never ending editing process, but that's my favorite part!"
Andersen's training and experience as an English teacher have definitely helped her in this second career, but she also claims that there are some things that can't be taught.
"I do think there's something inherent in writing. Yes, I can always learn something new. I'm always looking for new ways or new tricks to writing, but there also has to be a natural feel for the writing," she says.
Currently, Andersen is using those talents to create another novel - in fact, a whole series. She is hard at work on the third installment of a YA dystopian series, which promises to be just as fresh and vivid as "At What Cost." Fans can find out more by going to Andersen's website, www.jandersenbooks.com, finding her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jandersenbooks, and by following her on Twitter (jvdlandersen).
Her book can be purchased from Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble and from Astraeapress.com. It's available on Audible for those who prefer listening to their good reads, and in a Kindle edition for easy e-reader access.
Rebecca Schwab periodically contributes to the OBSERVER. Her column Writers' Block appears every other month.
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