I'm excited to introduce to you all YA Christian fiction author, Anna Schaeffer! She's a new writer friend of mine who pens the same genre as I do, and she lives in my "second home". (AKA, a city I visit very often since many of my relatives live there. And it's not too far from where I live!)
When I was a teen, I struggled to find YA novels that were clean and inspirational--yet didn't shy away from portraying the "gritty" side of the teen life, either. Although I've yet to read ALL OF THIS, I have no doubt it falls into that category. Check out the back-cover-blurb below!
Sadie Franklin is all about independence, but when one of her popular parties gets too crazy, her usually uninvolved dad sends her across the country to spend the summer with relatives.
Living in small-town Pecan Creek, Georgia, is culture shock for a girl from Seattle, and it doesn't help that Sadie's aunt and uncle are total church people. school? No, thanks.
Add a houseful of little cousins, an accidental friendship with the preacher's daughter of all people, and the attention of a guy who might actually understand her murky past, and it's enough to cue an identity crisis.
When life-altering news rocks Sadie's world and reveals messy family secrets, she's forced to face the God she's avoided since her mom's death eight years ago. Sadie is surrounded by people who say God loves her and has great plans for her life, but if God is really good, why does He let Sadie's life unravel? Could there really be a purpose in all of this?
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When did you start writing, and at what age did you decide to pursue publication?
Even before I learned to write, I scribbled “stories” onto paper and spent a lot of time hanging out in my imagination. When I got older, I began writing songs, poems, and scripts for plays my sisters and I produced (as the slightly bossy oldest sister, I was always in charge of the script…). I wrote my first full-length novel during my sophomore year of college, and my second novel (the one that’s published) after that. I wanted to publish a book for a long time, but I got serious about it when I finished writing my first novel.
Tell us about your book. What was your inspiration?
All of This is a contemporary young adult novel about Sadie Franklin, a sixteen-year-old whose chance to start over means facing everything she’s running from…including the God who let her life unravel. Sadie wants to get her life together while spending the summer in Georgia with relatives, but new relationships keep pulling her in different directions, and when some big family secrets and life-altering news pop up, “getting it together” becomes way easier said than done.
The story deals with loss and grief and faith and purpose. It asks big questions we all have, no matter what we believe. When we meet Sadie, she’s got a lot of baggage. She has a rough reputation back home in Seattle, and she’s never dealt with her mom’s death. But just like real life, there’s also plenty of humor. Our girl Sadie gets herself into some crazy situations, and the people she meets have some interesting personalities. There might even be a boy…
The first time I wrote a novel, I wrote about things I was familiar with in my own life. When I started brainstorming ideas for what became All of This, I wanted more of a challenge. I’ve lived in the South my whole life, but I’ve always thought it’s a ton of fun when someone comes to the South for the first time. I love watching people absorb the Southern drawls, crazy humidity, and extremely sweet tea. It’s great. So I wanted to try to write from the perspective of someone coming to this corner of the country for the first time. Sadie also has a very different life story than I do. For example, I’m a Christian, but Sadie isn’t. I got to spend time figuring what Christianity would look like from her perspective, and how she would handle the hard things life threw at her if she didn’t have faith. Those two ideas were the basis for the story.
What were the advantages of pursuing publication at a young age? Any disadvantages?
Because I wrote All of This while in college, I was able to work alongside English and Creative Writing professors – people who knew what they were doing. They were incredibly generous and taught me a lot about revising and editing and all of that good stuff. If I hadn’t pursued publication at a young age (like, if I’d waited until after school), I wouldn’t have had the chance to be mentored by these professors. They guided me through the process of preparing a manuscript, which probably would’ve overwhelmed me if I’d tackled it on my own.
I guess one disadvantage to publishing young is that it is a big commitment. It’s not easy trying to figure out the world of books while also trying to figure out how to be a grown-up. It also requires a lot of time. It’s so important to keep school, friendships, and family relationships as a priority, so it can be difficult to prioritize a book as well.
What's next in your career? Will you continue to write YA novels?
I’m currently working on my next YA novel. I’m a full-time student, so I’m taking my time with it, but it’s coming! I just love teen fiction so much. I can’t say much about my next project, but I’ll tell you it might be a good idea to read All of This before the next book releases...
Do you have advice for aspiring authors?
One thing I always tell aspiring authors is to not wait to chase a dream. If you have a dream, chase it! If you’re in school and don’t have a lot of free time (we’re in this together!), don’t worry about publishing. That will come in time. Focus on writing the best story you can. Learn to dive deep into the lives of your characters and narrate the world through their eyes. Practice writing emotions that grip the heart and witty dialogue that will make readers smile. Writing is a craft we’ll never stop learning, so learn now, at whatever stage of life you’re at. And don’t forget the reason you write – don’t focus so much on having a book on the shelves (although that’s so much fun to daydream about!) that you forget what you love about telling stories. Live fully in whatever stage of the journey you’re in.
Anna Schaeffer holds a degree in English from Georgia Regents University and was a finalist in the WestBow Press New Look Writing Contest. An author and blogger, Anna writes to inspire teen girls to embrace God's purpose for their lives. She's also into laughter, random adventures, and all things bread-related. Find Anna on social media and hang out with her online at www.annaschaefferwrites.com.