Festival of Reading: Local YA authors on writing, Twitter as virtual 'employee lounge'

Published October 14 2015
Updated October 14 2015

With this year's Times Festival of Reading headlined by Judy Blume, it's only fitting that two local authors of young-adult fiction will appear for a panel discussion.

Kimberly Karalius is the author of Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, a charming love story set in the magical town of Grimbaud, and its forthcoming sequel, Love Charms and Other Catastrophes. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Florida and has been sharing stories on Figment.com.

Jenn Marie Thorne is the author of The Wrong Side of Right, a page-turner about a teen who discovers her birth father is a senator from Massachusetts who is running for president. Thorne, who lives in Gulfport, graduated from New York University-Tisch with a BFA in drama.

In anticipation of their talk at the festival, we asked Karalius and Thorne for their thoughts on the genre.

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer

Is the "time of firsts" in life the appeal of YA books?

Thorne: I think that's a big part of it. It's a time of transition from being guided through life to taking the reins yourself. I also think teens make especially compelling heroes because they approach problems with an open mind, without the entrenched beliefs that older characters might be burdened with.

Karalius: When you're a teenager, you have so many important choices to make and your life can go in any direction. The possibilities are endless. That's what's so exciting about this genre.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Thorne: I love (Tolkien's) Samwise Gamgee, the sidekick who turned out to be the ultimate hero. Alina Starkov (the hero of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy ) is a damaged but ever-striving heroine, beautiful in her flaws. And I will forever lament the fall of King Arthur — the greatest hero of all, who brought order to chaos and tried and tried, even as the world was falling down around him.

Karalius: Characters with endearing flaws and quirk usually become my favorites. All of Tamora Pierce's main characters have won my heart, but Aly from Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen takes the cake. I also have a soft spot for the hard-working antiheroes like the ambitious but destructive Steerpike from Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast series.

Can you talk about some of the external forces influencing writing, like fan fiction, social media, other writing influences?

Thorne: I hang out on Twitter a lot. It's like the unofficial, virtual employee lounge for the YA authors of the world. It provides a nice sense of community, combating the isolation of the writing life, but it can become a little addictive and distracting. I do think it's invaluable in providing a window into the reading experiences of people who come from marginalized backgrounds, whom you might not have encountered otherwise.

Karalius: Thanks to the Internet, it's hard to truly be a hermit when you write. There are so many opportunities to chat with other writers and readers. When I was a teen, I wrote fan fiction and shared it online. Getting feedback from strangers was thrilling; it taught me to trust in my storytelling skills and feel confident in sharing my writing with the world. Plus, fan fiction is just plain fun to write. Imagining what characters do outside of the movie, book or TV series you love and being able to share that with fellow fans is such a unique and rewarding experience. And when you're ready to write your own original piece, you'll be able to jump right in!