Since the release of my first young adult novel, Sorceress, it seems everyone wants to know why I switched from writing my two mystery series for adults to writing young adult fiction.

Sorceress was actually written in its first form in 1989. It wasn’t originally conceived as a novel—it was a really long short story, a little over 12,000 words in length. I really liked the story, but this was during the period when I was afraid to submit my work for publication (a long story I won’t bore anyone with at this time), so once it was finished I filed it away and moved on to another story. But it stuck with me, even when I was working on other things, and periodically, I would pull it out and reread it. It didn’t really work as a short story; and I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason why. Do I add something? Do I take something out? I tried any number of things over the next three years, but each new version of the story was worse than what I originally had written. (For the record, there are any number of short stories I have in my files with the exact same problem.)

I decided to try my hand at writing a horror novel in 1991. I was about five chapters in when I discovered the works of Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine—and decided to try to turn this work in progress into a book for teenagers. It was about teenagers, so why not give this a try? When I finished it, I was enormously dissatisfied with it, and didn’t want to work on it anymore. But I had learned a valuable lesson—I actually could complete a novel. I thought about it for a month or two, and came to the conclusion this first novel was dissatisfactory to me because the core theme of the story was derivative and unoriginal—so rather than wasting more time on it I decided to write another one.

I was at the beach in St. Petersburg when the idea hit me: why not turn Sorceress into a novel?

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I dug the story out again and reread it several times, my excitement growing with each re-reading. Yes, the reason it didn’t work as a short story was because there was far more to the story than the form allowed. I realized the main character—Laura Pryce—definitely could use more shadings, more back story, and more development—and I could use the short story as a synopsis for the novel.

A week later, I started writing it.

It took me a little over a year to finish writing the first draft of Sorceress. When it was finished, I was again enormously dissatisfied with what I’d done. I reread the entire draft several times, making some revision notes and some changes, but eventually came to the conclusion that the book was flawed at its core—and again, it would simply be easier to start a new work.

So Sorceress went into a drawer, where it languished for seventeen years.

Yet, like the short story, the novel was never completely forgotten. Like the short story, every once in a while I’d remember it. A few times I dragged it out of the drawer and reread it, only to put it back into the drawer. It was kind of like Sorceress was going to nag at me until I finally did something with it.

A few years back, a dear friend got a job as an acquiring editor for a line of young adult fiction for a publisher. At some point during our friendship I’d mentioned I’d written three young adult novels in the early 1990’s—and she remembered the conversation. We’ve always worked very well together, and the two of us were always looking for another excuse to work together again. She emailed me and asked for synopses of the three novels collecting dust in a drawer.

She liked Sorceress the best, and asked me to put together a formal proposal for her. I rewrote the first three chapters, did a detailed proposal and synopsis for her—and went back to work on the novel I had under contract at the time.

The publisher passed on Sorceress, and that was the end of that.

My friend eventually left the publisher over creative differences, and she decided to start her own young adult press—and she wanted Sorceress.

Over twenty years after I first had the idea and wrote the original short story, Sorceress was finally going to see print.

I, of course, rewrote and restructured the entire thing . . .again. The book was, after all, originally written in a world where no one had cell phones or computers and the Internet didn’t exist.

And now, it’s in release.

I’m enormously proud of this book, and I had a lot of fun reworking it and modernizing it.

Another one of those novels from the early 1990’s, Sleeping Angel, will be published in March 2011.

I am also currently writing the next book in one of my adult series, and have a contract to write the next one in the other series. I doubt I will ever stop writing books for adults—but I do have one more young adult manuscript left from that early period, and I have ideas for a few more. It’s very hard for me to say what I will and will not be doing in the future.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Greg Herren will be with us on Saturday, December 18, 2010, 11:30 A.M., to sign Sorceress, published by Tiny Satchel Press.

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