Title : Matt Archer: Bloodlines
Author : Kendra C. Highley
Date Published : 1/4/2014
Genre : YA Paranormal
When seventeen-year-old Matt Archer set out on his last mission in the Australian Outback, he thought it would be like every other hunt.
Not even close.
After only two days on the ground, his best friend is possessed, a long-lost family member has returned and hidden truths have come to the surface. Add in a coven of witches bent on bringing about the end of the world and, well, this trip has started to suck. Badly.
As his power and strength continue to grow, so does Matt’s concern that he’s becoming more and more like the creatures he’s been charged to hunt: a monster.
Faced with some of his biggest challenges to date, Matt has to decide what he needs to protect most—his family, his team…or himself.
Finding YA Voice
“Dude…you wrote this?”
That’s probably the nicest compliment I’ve ever gotten about my work. Seriously. Given that a thirteen-year-old boy said it to me, a forty-something woman, regarding a novel I wrote…well, it’s high praise indeed, especially considering that my main character is a teenager. And a guy.
Getting voice right is the most important thing for a YA author. Most of us have heard that teens “have their BS meters turned up to max.” It’s true. Try to sound too trendy, and you’ll miss the mark. Sound too adult, and you’ll lose your reader. There’s a narrow gap where a genuine teen voice can be heard. I really worried about this while writing the Matt Archer books and, to be honest, I got a lot of it wrong early on. So what changed between those early drafts and the final product?
Disclaimer—I enjoy teenagers. They’re paradoxes, especially middle graders, and it’s interesting to watch them grow and mature right before your eyes. Working with youth groups gave me a front-row seat to see how teens talk and interact with each other. That’s where I learned the word “hip” is uncool, and how to use “dude” correctly (it’s the perfect word, actually). So’s the F-bomb, but that word is so politically loaded, you have to be careful with it. Key words aside, what I discovered they love most is to be taken seriously. If there’s a whiff of condescension or an overt message in your story, they’ll blow you off.
So I let myself remember the angst of being a band geek surrounded by popular kids in Spanish class. I daydreamed about the heady rush of my first kiss. I relived the awful, sick feeling I had when I fought with my best friend. A lot of adults forget how intense the teenage years can be, and how real and valid the feelings are. That’s how YA authors work magic: creating characters teens can relate to in some way because we’re validating their experiences. We’re telling them they matter, even if we dress it up with monsters or aliens.
Bringing out your inner teen can be hard, but the reward is great, because teens are loyal readers. If they love one of your books, they will love all of them, defend you against your detractors and tell everyone they know how awesome they think you are. It’s that passion that makes them special, and why I love writing for that audience.
Kendra C. Highley
Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to two self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job. She believes chocolate is a basic human right, running a 10k is harder than it sounds, and that everyone should learn to drive a stick-shift. She loves monsters, vacations, baking and listening to bad electronica.