A Conversation with a YA Reader

I recently got a notification on Pinterest that someone wanted to send me a message. I didn’t make any connections to the name so out of curiosity I accepted. It turns out it was my cousin’s daughter in Greece. She’s in Grade 10. Below is the conversation we had about the Shepherd and Wolfe series that I co-author with David Gane. Be warned there may be spoilers.

After having this conversation I was reminded how much I love chatting about story and how much I missed (because of Covid-19) conversations with the fans of our books. We used to see our readers regularly at pop up shops, festivals, book fairs, book talks and promotional engagements.

This conversation was a gift I didn’t know I needed.

The chat

Maria: Hello! I’m your niece from Katerini. How are you??😉 I’ve read all of your books and I’m thrilled!!! I loved them!! I mostly loved Charlie…..❤️❤️When does the fourth come out?!? I need to know!!!😂 Btw Iordanis and Athina say hi and kisses!!!

Me: Well that’s the most amazing Pinterest message I have EVER received! Thank you!!! Κορίτσι μου πόσο χάρηκα!!! You have no idea! My international reader!! ❤️❤️❤️ The 4th book comes out in September. We are almost finished it! Hellos and hugs and kisses back to your parents. This message made my day Maria. Thank you.

Maria: I’m glad it did!!! I’m looking forward for the next book….they were so nice that I finished all of them in only three weeks!!! And it was funny while I was reading the third one because it was so tense. But then I’m done and I stand looking at the final page wishing I had the fourth!!!😂😅 I also have to say that I really liked the Charlie-Elaina relationship. I don’t know why but she reminds me of myself!!

Me: That’s amazing!! Question for you. What grade are you in and how old are you?

Maria: Grade 10. I’m 15.

Me: Grade 10! Well that’s awesome you managed this book in English! I’m impressed.

Maria: Oh thanks!!! I need to ask: in the books you mention songs like Pumped Up Kicks, Black Dog and others. Is this your personal taste in music or do you do research? 😁🎶🎶

Me: Generally I’m the music picker 🙂 so, yes, this is mostly my taste in music. Dave had some opinions too.

Maria: That’s nice! I really like Pumped Up Kicks AND Jesus of Suburbia but This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us was kinda spooky😂Do you have a character that you like more than the others?? Am I being tiring with my questions? Because if I am I can stop😶🙂

Me: Ha! This Town Ain’t Big Enough is spooky!!! Interesting. I love Tony. I also love your questions. We usually go out to schools and libraries and book talks to chat about the books but because of Covid-19 we can’t so this is very nice—a chance to chat about story with a fan!

Maria: Tony?!! Well I believe that this is the healthy opinion but the mysterious Charlie is pretty charming😂 and if I were there I would love to attend a presentation!!! I’m planning to open a bookstore you know….😉📚😂 Have any of your students read your book?🤓

Me: Tony just becomes so brave!!! He grows so much! Yes! Some of my students have read the books. Last year I taught literature and they would fight for it during free reading! It was kind of cool.

Maria: It sounds like it!!! It would be really nice if I had people to talk about books with….but no one I know reads….it’s annoying😂 and the girls who read, usually read boring girly books…and the only boy who reads, he prefers historical ones…in your classroom do you have more boys or girls? 😂 And, which book were they fighting over?? Do you have a favorite??

Me: We have a pretty fair split of boys and girls in the classes. I only have one copy of each on my desk so three books…who ever came first at the beginning of class got it. HA!! Do I have a favourite student? No. I’m not allowed to have a favorite! They all suck!!! I’m totally joking!! I could only say this joke to a 15 year old. I hope you are rolling your eyes while you laugh. My favourite book? Yes. Shepherd’s Watch.

Maria: 😂😂😂 I totally agree, judging from my classmates they’re all brain dead…..Why this one?? I think that I prefer Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing, but I loved the other two as well. I have favorite moments ( OF COURSE🤓😂)

Me: I think Shepherd’s Watch is my favourite because Tony and Charlie really bond as friends. We see what they are willing to do for each other and the family. There are some very funny moments too and I like how uncomfortable Charlie is with being in the forest at cabin. Not his style at all. We get to meet more of the family too and get to know them. Tony’s sister etc. The funny thing is that the story idea for Shepherd’s Watch was David’s idea completely. I just went with it and now I love it. Do you have a favourite moment? In any of the books?

Maria: True!! It was so funny seeing him out of his comfort zone…and listen to this crazy idea: I thought that Heather and Charlie would be somehow interested in each other😏 idk if I wanted it but I was feeling these vibes!!! Moments I loved: In Along Comes a Wolfe when they area caught in the basement and get beat up, THAT was so scary!! I loved it!! The phrase I turn and I come face to face with the killer (or sth like that) made me freeze!!!! I didn’t want to turn page but I HAD to know what was happening!! In Shepherd’s Watch once Tony realized that his family was in danger and they had to rush in order to save them, that was really exciting and wonderful and soooo stressful. And in the third book Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing….oh my god…..when I read that Charlie likes Elaina I was cheering for about five minutes all alone in my room….or when we learned that BLANK is dead I needed a moment to deal with it!!! I wanted to cry tbh….And finally at the graduation…again…crying!!!! It was perfect because Tony was recalling moments of BLANK and of BLANK…🥺I’m talking too much!!😣😣😂😅

Me: Not that I want you to be sad, I don’t, but I’m super glad that the emotions are coming across and you are feeling “all the feels” as the kids say. NOOOOO you’re not talking too much. I meet with David on Wednesday. I’m going to share this convo with him.

Maria: I wasn’t sad!!! But like the kids say all the feels were έντονα. (Greek for heightened) For a while I wasn’t able to finish any other books ‘cause either they were too boring or tiring but then I finish Along Comes a Wolfe in four days and I am like “oh man this is GOOD” then I read the second one in a week and I ended up feeling like I read all of them in just one day!! It was like the times that you want to finish the book so you can know what’s happening but you don’t want it to end because it’s so good….!!!

Look I have to go to bed because I have school tomorrow!! It was really nice talking to you and I hope we’ll do it again soon!! Goodnight or good evening…(I don’t really know what time it is there😂🤪)😘😘❤

Me: I was wondering when it would be bed time. It’s pretty late there. So sorry I kept you up! Have a good sleep and a great day. I sooooo appreciated this conversation.

What I miss and why I write

And that’s what I miss…those conversations about story and character, engaging with readers of all ages—hearing what they felt, what they hoped and what they connected to. I love that what we wrote had someone excited and on the edge of their seat and for a few minutes in their life they were distracted by an adventure or some love or a thrill. And that’s why I write.

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