RAWing with Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen answering the five questions of doom
Tell me how you got started writing, in particular writing for teens. What is it that draws you to tell the story of teens, in particular the struggles of young men coming of age?
My first published book was a picture book, which was very successful and led to six more. I started writing novels at the same time as the picture books, but it took me about ten years, and a lot of failed novels, before I figured out how to write them. I was always drawn to YA because I love reading it and my ideas tend to be on the sinister side, something that doesn’t really translate to a picture book.
Years ago I wrote a book about R.L. Stine and I discovered one key to his success was his and your genre – horror / suspense / page turning nail biters – was that this genre appealed to both male and female readers. Is that what you see from your fan mail and school visits? What is the appeal of getting the *** scared out of you from a book when you are 14?
Young readers love to be scared! I was pretty thrilled when emails and letters began to arrive, telling me how much The Compound had freaked them out. And yes, I hear from both male and female readers. I think it helps that I write under my initials, which was a conscious decision by the publisher. It wasn’t about hiding my gender, since my bio in the book makes it obvious, it’s more like my very feminine name would have detracted from an otherwise sinister cover. And for whatever reason, boys really like my books. I do get plenty of correspondence addressed to “Mr.” Bodeen though, which makes me laugh.
After writing YA for a few years, I see your new book Shipwreck Island is middle grade. Why the switch and what elements are different writing for this slightly young audience?
I had wanted to do middle grade for a long time, thinking that I had the picture books for young readers and YA novels for older, but nothing for the kids in between. I submitted outlines to my agent, but he really wasn’t on board with doing middle grade until my editor approached him about me doing a middle grade series. I think the only difference is the content, such as what level of peril the characters can be in, how serious you get with certain topics, etc. Also, parents are far more present in my middle grade stories than the YA. I like that they’re about half the length of my YA novels, so I can finish them faster
I know that you spend a good amount of time “on the road” speaking at schools. Tell me a little bit about that experience and why it is important for librarians / teachers to host authors. Also do you have a great school visit story to share?
School visits are a boots on the ground campaign for readers, a valuable and essential part of my career. Getting out there and meeting the readers motivates me. When I get back home and it’s just me and my computer, remembering those faces and their questions makes me keep writing. Having an author in the school gets kids excited about reading. It just does. Even reluctant readers will ask if my books are in the library after they hear me speak. I think the best recent visit was a school in Missouri. The entire 6th grade read The Compound, the 7thgrade read The Gardener, and the 8th grade read The Raft. They all did projects on them, and when I showed up, since every single kid had read one of my books, they treated me like a rock star. I spoke all day in school and then at night they had a book fair and another presentation from me, and that gym was standing room only with students and parents. Absolutely tremendous community and school support for books. (Because my schedule was so full, dinner ended up being grilled cheese sandwiches cooked by the principal in the Life Skills room. A most excellent day on all counts.)
And now in this corner, Blatant Self Promotion: tell us about what just came out and if you care to confess, what you are working on now?
This is the first year I will have two novels released. Lost, which is Book 2 of the Shipwreck Island series, comes out in July. The Detour, a stand-alone YA, comes out in October. The darkest thing I’ve ever written, it is about a best-selling teenage novelist who goes on a road-trip by herself and ends up in a life or death situation. Of course, that is already finished, as is Book 3 of SI, so my current work includes revisions on a new YA, finishing up a stand-alone middle grade, and beginning Book 4 of SI.