Tempe Author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo on Why Young-Adult Books Are for Everyone
Courtesy Elizabeth Maria Naranjo/Evie Carpenter
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is a petite woman with long, black hair that today she's pulled back, save for a few wisps that frame her face. She's personable, but not bubbly, and passionate without being overbearing. She alternates between sips of water and coffee and she is, as she'll later admit, understandably nervous -- this is her first face-to-face interview to promote her first book, The Fourth Wall.
The 235-page piece follows a young girl, Marin, who adopts lucid dreaming (a dream in which one is keenly aware he or she is actively dreaming) as a way to escape reality after her mother's death. She creates a safe haven, devoid of memory and sadness, but the dream becomes a nightmare, and something inside of it doesn't want her to wake up.
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Wyoming-born Naranjo had written short stories and what she describes as "bad poetry" for years before trying her hand at penning a novel. After three years of writing, re-writing, and editing, the author and mother of two brings her debut to Changing Hands Bookstore on Tuesday, July 8, for a reading and signing for readers of all ages. We caught up with the Tempe resident in a brightly lit Starbucks across from the independent bookseller to talk about the young-adult genre and how to write a novel with a toddler in tow.
What was the inspiration for The Fourth Wall?
I've always been fascinated by the process of lucid dreaming. As a child I could lucid dream and I knew that I wanted to write a book about a young girl who uses lucid dreaming as a means of escape after her mother dies. I really wanted to incorporate a paranormal element.
Did your children have any effect on what you chose to write about or the audience you sought out?
Gabriel just turned 7, and Abigail just turned 12. I definitely wanted to write a novel that she could read -- but it's funny, I didn't go into it thinking that I was writing a young-adult novel, I thought I was just writing a novel. I've learned so much since then! It's good to know your audience before you start [laughs]. That's definitely the group I'm targeting.
How would you describe the differences in writing a young-adult novel versus a fiction novel? When did you notice your approach changed?
I was writing from a young girl's point of view and everything that mattered to her really has to do with that demographic and that age range. So many adults now read young-adult novels, so I think that it still could appeal to adults.
There have been a lot of articles and conversations, particularly on the Internet, about adults reading young-adult novels -- whether they should or shouldn't read them, and there are very strong opinions on either side.
That is so funny. Yeah, I read that Slate article.
Which side of the fence do you fall on in that debate?
I actually just thought it was funny. I wasn't offended by it; it's kind of a ridiculous point of view. People should be able to read what they want to read. Plus, I love young-adult and I'm definitely not ashamed of it -- especially with [books like] the Harry Potter series.