Long time ago, way back before I ever thought about writing novels for adults, I thought about writing novels for middle graders. After all, my husband is a middle school youth pastor, and has been one for over thirty years. (Yes, thirty years with one age group. Maybe that’s a record.)
At that time, I had written some picture books for wee ones, plus some nonfiction for middle graders–books I saw that our kids needed. Books like HOW TO KEEP YOUR LIFE TOGETHER WHEN YOUR PARENTS PULL APART and NOW THAT HE’S ASKED YOU OUT. I pretty much wrote books I thought would be useful for “our” kids.
But I remembered how I loved to read when I was that age, and I particularly liked Nancy Drew. So why not a group of girls who go around solving mysteries? Kids of that age tend to travel in packs.
So I took the names of kids’ on our Sunday school list and created Nicki Holland and her friends. I didn’t want the books to be religiously heavy-handed, nor did I want these girls to be saving the world a la James Bond. I wanted them to solve simple “mysteries” that could conceivably happen in the real world.
I took the idea to the current publisher of my nonfiction kids’ books. They said they weren’t sure the books would sell–after all, no one else was writing for that age group–but they’d give me a chance. No royalty, though. I was okay with that. So I wrote the first six Nicki Holland books, and after that small company was purchased by a bigger company, I wrote three more. And that was the end of Nicki and her friends, though by that time I was learning more and moved into another kids’ series, the Cassie Perkins series, where the emphasis wasn’t on solving crimes as much as it was dealing with real life problems–things I saw “our kids” dealing with: friends, divorced parents, dashed dreams, young love, etc. I wrote nine of those books, and then my editor said, “Why don’t you try writing novels for adults?”
I’ve written other books for kids over the years–the Young Believers series, from an idea suggested by Steve Arterburn (that’s why his name is on the cover), the Colonial Captives series, and the Cassie Perkins series. You’ll find them all listed under “youth books” on my web site.
P.S. Tomorrow: the research