Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Please Welcome Guest Nicole O'Dell

Is Edgy a Four-Letter Word?

My name is Nicole O'Dell, and I write edgy books. Or so I'm told.

The thing is, who determines the edge? And the edge of what exactly? I suppose calling my books edgy is totally fair when the view is from the center of a church pew. Sadly, that's not where the majority of teenagers, even Christian teens, are building their frame of reference. According to the view they have from their seats, the stories I tell are far from the edge. In fact, they're smack-dab in the center of reality as those teenagers know it.

Writing these kinds of stories for teenagers in CBA has been an interesting ride so far. I remember sending in the manuscript for my book Essence of Lilly (a Scenarios for Girls story found in the collection called Swept Away). In it, there are alternate endings and the reader gets to choose what the main character does. This particular book was about purity. Yep. I had to write a scene leading up to the choice of whether or not Lilly had sex with her boyfriend. The alternate endings meant I had to write it both ways. The no ending, and the yes ending. I bit a few fingernails when I submitted that story to Barbour. They knew it was coming, and what it would contain, but I still wondered if they'd cringe and back down when it came time to sign off on the finished manuscript. But they didn't.

Same thing with my Diamond Estates series.
Diamond Estates. Three girls are on a journey to find hope and healing. Each coming to Diamond Estates seeking solace… Each with her own unique set of struggles… And each capturing hearts and challenging the faith of teen girls.
In the three books in this series, a troubled teen is plucked out of the mire of poor choices and the consequences that resulted, and dropped into Diamond Estates, a Christian counseling residence for teen girls, where they seek truth and grace. The road to forgiveness--mainly accepting it for themselves--is a difficult one. But the light of Jesus shines the brightest against the backdrop of their despair.

Which is exactly what I want to teach confused, hurt, and angry teens about their own realities

But why be edgy just for the sake of being edgy?

Oh, no. I would hope and pray that is never my motivation. Ever. There is no storyline, subplot, vignette, or scene in my books that isn't there for a reason. And never is that reason pure and simple shock value. In fact, I have taken scenes or description out when I didn't trust my own motives for putting them there. I am human, after all, and I sure don't want to get in the way of what God's doing with the work.

Writing for teenagers, you have to be very careful not to contrive the stories. I can't look at a series and say, "Okay, I covered alcohol and drugs in that book, sex in this one, and , etc, etc." That's too contrived for them and for me. I think teenagers want to read character-driven stories about teenagers who make choices that feel real to the who that character is. YA readers don't want to be taught a lesson. The instant they feel like a book has an agenda, they shut down.

Okay, so what kind of edgy? What are we talking about here?

Well, in the first Diamond Estates book, The Wishing Pearl, 10/1/11, Olivia dealt with off-screen sexual abuse by her step-father as she struggled to heal from the death of her dad years before. She turned to the wrong crowd, alcohol, and drugs in search of oblivion.

In this new release, The Embittered Ruby, 4/1/12, Carmen Castillo faces the divorce of her parents that forces a relocation from upstate New York to a rougher part of New Jersey. She goes from country club tennis lessons to gang fights. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Carmen becomes a master manipulator. Hey, if her parents can't or won't give her the family she needs, she can create it herself! Themes of teenage sexuality, divorce, gang activity, and lying are prevalent.

The Shadowed Onyx, 12/1/12, deals with occult activity and spiritual warfare as Joy Christianson tries to make sense of her best friend's suicide.

But do Christian parents want their teens to read these kinds of YA stories?

You know, the things I mentioned above are part of the daily life of any teenager. They see these themes at work in those around them every minute of every day. What they might not see, however, are the consequences of those poor choices or the redemption that can only be found in Jesus. They see the sparkle of sin and the glamour of rebellion, but rarely do they realize what it's like to hit bottom. . .until they do.

Parents need to realize that the goal is for their daughter or her friends to read about these every-teens and decide not to go that path. Maybe as a result of reading these stories, they'll decide to start their personal choices at the end of the book and skip all the pain along the way. Or perhaps they'll find inspiration to reach out to someone who needs to see truth against the backdrop of lies. To that end, I believe in facing the hard issues, talking about them before they actually arise, and making a plan to combat the peer pressure before it hits. Parents shouldn't be afraid of the issues; they should be afraid of what happens when they ignore them.
The Diamond Estates series might seem edgy, but it's on the edge where the miracles happen.
The Wishing Pearl, book 1, available now
The Embittered Ruby, book 2, available now
The Shadowed Onyx, book 3, available 12/1/12
What about you? Do you write YA? Do you feel called to write nearer to the edge?
Not everyone is called to write like I do, and I couldn't write like you. So, don't let me convince you that you should be writing a certain way. I'm just sharing my heart on why I do what I do. I'd love to hear from you, though. What questions do you have? What concerns do you have about writing for teens? Or maybe you disagree with me entirely...that's okay too. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
In fact, I'm going to give away a copy of The Embittered Ruby to a commenter. And if there are more than fifty commenters, I'll add another copy for every fifty unique commenters. So, jump in!
Nicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life's tough choices.
She’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular advice column.
Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents helps pre-empt peer pressure by tackling tough issues.
Visit http://www.nicoleodell.com/ for more info--she's also giving away a Kindle Touch right now. Visit her site and enter to win!


  1. Welcome Nicole, not only did you bring us a great post, and enticing book covers..BUT you have put down the gauntlet.

    Seekerville, go get your mom, and pop, your kids,(especially your teens) your neighbor and that little old lady down the street with the purple hair.

    We are going to give Nicole, a Seekerville welcome she will never forget!


  2. Hi Nicole:

    I’ve always seen ‘edgy’ as being close to what a publisher won’t publish. I don’t think any YA today would find any Christian novel edgy.

    My concern with serious Christian fiction is that redemption opens the door to sinful experimentation. In romances this is OK. When the heroine is an unwed mother, the reader knows in the end she is going to find true love and a great guy. This actually does happen in real life, sometimes.

    What kind of endings do your books have? Is the redeemed sinner, like the lost lamb, given the loving attention that the ninety-nine sheep, who did not stray, did not receive?

    I really have to read one of your books to see how you do this.


  3. Nicole, thanks for writing this post and also dealing with difficult topics in your books. I want to pick up your books and I don't even have a teenaged girl in the house any more.

    Over my career in church work, I have worked with teenaged girls. Drugs, pregnancy, eating disorders, and abuse affect these vulnerable young women far more often than we like to think they do.

    YA is hot in the writing world right now but not everyone is called to it. What was your motivation for writing YA especially targeted at teen girls?

    Peace, Julie

  4. Nicole, welcome to Seekerville.
    What you said about cutting things from your work when you questioned your motives for it being there really resonated with me.
    I write historical fiction that is at times extremely violent, because that's the truth of the story. To try to soften or make that cozy is not true to my writing style or the story I'm telling.
    I read very little YA but I suspect they are the most discerning of all readers because they are conditioned more than earlier generations to recognize fake because so much of their world is.
    I haven't read your work (so please enter me in the drawing) but I support any fiction that isn't afraid to show truth, love and consequences, especially to young people.

  5. I'm SO SO SO excited to read this post. Thank you Nicole for coming by and sharing it. It's like, "Hey!!! This post is for me!!"

    I am attempting my first novel, and it's YA. I've always wanted to write YA, and the nagging sensation to do so has never gone away. Since I've seriously began my journey, I've often been saying to my family that I don't want to gloss over the issues that teens face today. I want to be able to include some of the tougher issues in a real way - to show how even Christian girls truly struggle with the pressures out there. And the end isn't always immediately pretty.

    What finally convicted me to put pen to paper (um, fingers to keyboard...) was when I took a walk through a book store to have a look at the YA section. I hadn't looked since I was a teen myself. Shelf after shelf of paranormal fiction ... I was like, "That's it ... I need to write something different for the other girls out there who aren't into that stuff." Because I certainly wouldn't have been into the vampire scene as a teen, and I figure (hope!) I wouldn't be the only one.

    Initially I hadn't planned on writing in the Christian genre - largely because I didn't know it existed! And so I had been worrying my stories wouldn't be edgy enough for the general market - and I certainly wasn't about to "make" them to suit the secular appetite. Then I discovered Christian genre and it was like someone switched the light on. I now feel like my stories have a place in the world :)

    If I don't win one of your books here, I will definitely be going out and buying one or two :)

    By the way, I'm in Australia and there really isn't much Christian YA out here. I hope I can help change that! I have no idea if international readers would be interested in reading about the antics of Aussie girls.

    Sorry, I think I've gotten a little carried away :P But we don't get many YA authors on Seekerville! I couldn't contain my excitement!

    Thanks again!

  6. Hi Nicole,
    I have not written YA however I am reading my first one right now & am pleasantly surprised that it too is edgy in that it deals with the difficulties of youth.

    Thank you for the great post,

  7. Well, first I DO read YA. The last 12 books I bought, 10 were YA. Of the box before that, out of 14, 9 were YA and the others were JFIC. Of course, having readers of that age in my house, I am buying books for them... and reading that genre, too.
    I read 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' last week and the writing was AMAZING, and for a paranormal, there is a lot of teen issues tackled. (But Taylor's other work is better.) I know that there are some books ('After' and 'Before I Fall') that deal with things like infanticide and dying, which are very heavy subjects and have gotten great reviews (and sales) But although they were good, to me it's such a fine line between edgy and darn depressing.

    I guess that 'edgy' really depends on the kid. I remember reading 'Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret' and being kind of squicked out. At 12, I just didn't need the graphic talk about periods, etc. But some kids probably really could relate to the story. For me, it wasn't edgy, it was just gross.

    I think edgy YA could be a ministry for a lot of teens because there are some very popular Ya that is shocking, but doesn't show real consequences to bad choices.

    I say YA-Y to more YA fiction, especially this kind!!

  8. Welcome, Nicole.

    I love you theme of Diamond Estates and then using a different jewel in the title.

    Edgy...hmmm...I think that's a matter of perception. However, sometimes what is seen as edgy, might just be realistic, i.e. sexual abuse, gangs.

    Your books sound very good. I'll definately be looking for them in the book stores.

  9. I love YA fiction and am always on the hunt for good ones since I work in school libraries. As someone else mentioned -- so much of YA 'edgy' can be depressing. It's like they give the teens the 'reality angst' they crave but leave them mired in it.

    I'm looking forward to reading your books.

    Oh -- and the Hot Buttons series -- are any of them out yet? I did a quick search for a couple of titles and it looks like they are due out in June? We have a parenting collection at one of my schools and I think Hot Buttons might be a fit.

  10. Hi Nicole.

    You said, "YA readers don't want to be taught a lesson. The instant they feel like a book has an agenda, they shut down."

    This is true for any age group.

    Although, not YA because my characters and target audience are college students, my own work is considered edgy. In recent contest results, two judges scored one of my stories in the high nineties and commented on strong plot and characters. Two others scored the same entry in the low fifties, stating because of drug usage it was not appropriate for inspirational category.

    It's nice to know there are writers and publishers who are willing to tackle the "real issues."

  11. Welcome, Nichole. I haven’t read your books, but people who aid “troubled teens” have a real calling. Helping teens in situations like you write isn’t “pretty” and might not look too good to some, but you know what the Bible says: “When Jesus heard it, he said unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” It sounds like you have a street ministry through your writing. So cool!

    I’m waiting for Julie Lessman to pop in here, The Queen of Edgy. ; )

    Thanks for sharing your story.


  12. Hi Nicole,

    Wish there'd been books like yours when I was a teenager (lo those many eons ago). Any idea whether YA readers tend to prefer digital or print books?

    Nancy C

  13. This was a great post.

    I think the world is covered in the things from your books, so to pretend it doesn't exsist is bad parenting. Adressing the issues at hand, and showing the wrong and then right way to handle these situations helps our children when they are faced with problems.

    And plus, as a Christian who reads the bible, I would say to anyone who thinks these are too edgy for the young--"have you read the bible?" It's full of murder, adultery, lust, and a bazillion other crazy, dark stories, to teach us lessons. So why can you not do the same? :)

    I have just completed my first novel and it is YA high fantasy (with strong Christian roots)

    I'm having a bit of trouble finding agents to query because many agents who rep Christian books, don't rep fantasy and visa-versa. But I've had a few comments from betas about how dark a few scenes are. My response is, "have you read the bible?" hehe :)

  14. Nicole, I so appreciate your post. Your books sound intriguing. I appreciate that you are tackling the issues teens today deal with. I love the idea of redemption being a part of your characters' new realities. Based on what I see and have learned from young friends, your topics don't sound edgy. :) I love that hope is woven in your stories. It seems to be in short supply for today's youth.

    I'd love to be entered in your drawing. :)

  15. My teen daughter would love it if I won. She read The Wishing Pearl and asked me if I had the next one. So thanks for the giveaway and I hope I can win.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  16. Morning Nicole, Welcome to Seekerville and thank you for posting.

    Most of us Seekers are so into edgy. After all that is what life is about. And how do we deal with these issues?

    It is good to have examples given to us to show us how one person (the hero or heroine) deals with the challenges we face. Of course that means you have to write about those issues.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. (((Hugs))) from a MG writer!

    Thanks forever for your heart for "our" kids. And thanks to the publisher, editors and team!

    I believe God has called me to write something similar, for a younger age, so we tackle it a bit differently.

    He brought the most tenacious, fun-loving, pawmazing little Schnauzer into our lives almost 11 years ago. We rescued her from a very bad situation.

    Talk about resilience!

    And about 5 years ago, the Lord kept waking me up with the seed of a story.

    Now here we are, working on the second book, deadline looming. (I NEED my Seekerville though! My morning starter!)

    Some I've trusted have slammed the beginning of the book, in which we deal (fairly subtly I think) with abuse. Because this IS a reality for some kids. **Some experience it themselves, and some have acquaintances who have or are in the midst.

    May shows them her choices, and how she overcomes.

    What I didn't know until writing it was, that she is a K9 Spy! ha!

    One of the themes I'm wrestling this go round is despair. Hopeless situations with impossible choices. (A current blockbuster comes to mind.) And some kids aren't equipped to cope for some reason, and sink further and further until some make a permanent choice to end the pain.

    Nicole, hope is HUGE! Bless you for doing what you are doing.

    I'm thrilled to read about your work and will pray for your ministry. Thanks for being here today and sharing!! Please enter me in the drawing too!

  18. Hi there, Vince,

    "What kind of endings do your books have? Is the redeemed sinner, like the lost lamb, given the loving attention that the ninety-nine sheep, who did not stray, did not receive? "

    One thing I really strive to make apparent is that turning to Jesus doesn't instantly fix all the problems. There are still natural consequences to previous choices...like damaged family relationships, hurt friends, legal woes, etc.

    And the process of repentance, the actual turning from the sin, is not a lightbulb moment. There is a moment where the final veil is lifted, but there's a lot of work that happens before that point.

    Thanks for asking!

  19. Julie,

    You asked, "What was your motivation for writing YA especially targeted at teen girls?"

    The Diamond Estates girls, in many ways, were me. I am a product of a Teen Challenge residential center where I gave my life to Jesus as a teenager. During my months there, I heard so many stories and met so many girls--many of whom show up in these books in one way or another. I committed to helping troubled teens and to working toward loving and united families.

    Thanks for asking! :)

  20. Thank you Nancy and Jan! Great to "meet" you!

  21. Thanks for sharing your story, Helen! Australia had better watch out! You're about to take it by storm! :)

    Best to you in your writing!

  22. Virginia,

    "Well, first I DO read YA. The last 12 books I bought, 10 were YA. "
    My kinda girl! ;)


    thanks so much! I agree, Edgy is kind of a misnomer because it really isn't the edge of reality. Vince might have been on to something about the edge of the publishers limits. :)

  23. Kav,


    And yes, the first two Hot Buttons books release on 6/1 and the third and fourth release on 10/1.

    Thanks for asking!

  24. Bridget,

    UGH. That's so frustrating about the contests. Just read the Bible, the most inspirational book of all time--it's ALL in there.

    Thanks for sharing!

  25. Nicole, I love that you've tackled these issues! I wish books like yours had been around when I was a teen.

    I love reading YA novels! I'll be sure to check yours out.

  26. Whitney,

    Thanks for the welcome. I chuckled about Julie, the Queen of Edgy. :) *Waving at Julie!*

  27. Nancy,

    I think it's only a matter of time before teens are reading almost all digital. I have one daughter who has a Kindle and doesn't want to read anything in paperback. My other daughter, slightly younger, prefers a book to hold. But the older one is trying to win her over.

    But I think sales indicate that the balance is shifting heavily toward digital, especially in YA.

    Thanks for coming!!

  28. Amber,

    Have you tried Marcher Lord Press? That's where Jill Williamson has had all her success with her Christy-Award winning Christian YA Fantasy.

    Big prayers for your publishing success!!

  29. Thanks, Jeanne! Appreciate your words!

  30. Apple Blossom,

    I'm so glad your daughter liked The Wishing Pearl! :) Thanks for telling us!!

  31. Sandra, thanks for the welcome!!! :)


    Your book sounds awesome! Get to writing, girl!
    Thanks for taking the time to comment, though!!

  32. Thanks for checking out my books, Missy! Appreciate it! :)

  33. Hi Nicole!
    We met about year ago when you spoke at the ACFW meeting in Barrington. You have a special ministry gift - esp to youth. Others might turn away from this calling, but you've tackled the hard topics fully and with courage. Blessings to you! So happy to see you here and have another chance to learn from you.

  34. Hi Nicole,

    I applaud you for what you're doing! It takes big-time courage to tackle the really tough issues. I think teens need books like yours.

    Nowadays, characters I loved as a child, like Anne of Green Gables, would never go over with teens. And shows like 'Little House on the Prairie' or 'The Waltons' with good, down home morals, just don't sell. My kids look at me like I'm crazy when I mention some of these.

    So if you have realistic teen characters that young readers can relate to, going through real-life problems that they or their friends have experienced, I think your stories will be a hit! And hopefully give them a lot of hope!

    Best of luck!


  35. Hi Nicole and welcome to Seekerville!

    Good for you! I love books (and their authors) who push the edge of the envelope...rather, I love it when they tear the thing apart.

    Teens are so steeped in reality these days. It's so much easier for parents to deny it than deal with it. Your books touch the hearts of the teens that need that reassurance that God is really there for them.


    Bless you in all your ministries!

  36. Hi Nicole, and welcome!

    I'm so glad you're writing the kind of books you do - call them "edgy" or not, too many secular YA books deal with the kinds of issues you tackle, but at the end leave the reader without hope. Thank you for taking on this challenge!

  37. Awesome, Lyndee! Nice to "see" you again!!


  38. Thanks, Susan! I still put out my Little House, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden, books when I need a fresh dose of the innocent stuff. LOVE it!

    Thanks for commenting!! :O)

  39. Thank you, Audra!
    "I love books (and their authors) who push the edge of the envelope...rather, I love it when they tear the thing apart."

    And I love readers who get that!

    Of course, I'm not saying this style is for everyone--just that there's a HUGE need for it. :)

  40. HOLY COW, Nicole, I've heard your name, sure, but I had NO idea you wrote "edgy" YA, and all I can say is -- PRAISE GOD!!!

    I write "edgy" Christian romance that is bent on doing EXACTLY what you are trying to do and I cannot tell you HOW thrilled I am to know that you and your ministry are out there, fighting to bring the truth of God's precepts to a war-torn generation in the moral battle for their souls!! Your statement that:

    "I suppose calling my books edgy is totally fair when the view is from the center of a church pew. Sadly, that's not where the majority of teenagers, even Christian teens, are building their frame of reference. According to the view they have from their seats, the stories I tell are far from the edge. In fact, they're smack-dab in the center of reality as those teenagers know it."

    Like you, I'm sure, I have gotten my fair share of scathing letters telling me that my brand of passionate fiction has no place in the Christian market because it is not what my detractors call "chaste and pure." Which simply means I deal with romantic passion--both pre-marital and marital--through the lens of today's reality, where young women are struggling in an amoral society. So, yes, kisses happen way before the end of the book unlike the "chaste and pure" romances that are so prevalent in our market today where a kiss may happen 3/4 of the way through or at the end in front of seven people when the hero asks her to marry him!! Trust me, there's nothing wrong with that, but we surely need a balance for the young women today who are subjected to a reality far different. Like I said in my Seeker blog entitled, Life on the Edge:

    "But on the other side of the spectrum, there are Christians like me, who worry that “chaste and pure” will not reach the majority of Nora Roberts or Hannah Montana or the MTV crowd anymore than old-time Gospel music will reach those who listen to Christian rock such as Pillar or metalcore rock like Underoath. The Body of Christ is just that—a body of human beings at varying levels of faith. It’s not one size fits all in reaching people for Christ, but it’s the cry of St. Paul who said “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Salt … in an unsavory world."

    I want to thank Mary for inviting you here today and I want to thank YOU for following God's calling for your life despite the many obstacles and objections I am quite sure you face. I hope to get my hands on one of your books to support this very important ministry AND then do everything in my power to promote it.


  41. Good morning, Nicole. Great post. Thanks for being on.
    My thing about YA is the voice. I've tried my hand at it a few times and I find myself wandering into the mother's or teachers or whatever adult's POV.
    I catch myself and stop and go back to the kids but it's almost irresistable to go to the voice that I understand better.
    Do you struggle with that? Or with language, slang, attitudes of kids that aren't exactly normal for you?
    And how do you combat that?

  42. Welcome Nicole.

    I know a teenage girl who went to counseling awhile back. The therapist suggested she read Redeeming Love.

    I had never read the book before but I had heard a lot of people praise it, so I bought it. To me, that was a very stressful story. I love that Angel was what a lot of girls want to be; desired by every man out there. But she still wanted to kill herself so being desired didn't bring happiness.


  43. Hi Nicole!

    I enjoy your take on edgy YA. My first novel is YA, which is mainly because I loved reading YA literature when I was that age. I tackle a few things in my story, like teen sex, and the consequences of it. There is also a scene where my 17-year-old heroine wears a revealing swimsuit, making the teen hero (a strong Christian) very uncomfortable, because of the thoughts it makes him think. He knows it's wrong, but he's a human teenager with hormones raging! It's not just the "bad" boys who get those thoughts!

    It bothers me when some Christians rag on inspirational authors for showing the "edgy" realities of life. I am only 29, so I remember very vividly some of the pressures of being a teenager! I grew up in a Christian household, and stayed true to my beliefs but it was hard. I lost friends when I wouldn't bow in to peer pressure to drink. In college, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I were the weird ones because I insisted on having my dorm room open whenever we were alone together, just so we could be accountable and not give in to the pressures of passion.

    Thanks for showing that "good" girls and boys face the same pressures, but are called to answer them differently.

    I'd love to win your book!

  44. SUSAN-- My favorite book is still Anne of Green Gables, and was throughout my teenage years as well. I think it's because I needed the innocence of those stories and characters to remind me that life didn't have to be as "edgy" as the world wanted me to live!

    EVERYONE-- Read Julie Lessman's Journal Jots from this past Friday for more on this subject. She tackled it quite well, and though she referenced part of it here, I'd highly recommend reading the whole thing. Go Julie!

  45. Actually, confession. I read YA but have never read Christian YA. I promise I am getting some of yours to sample. I too am excited to see how you resolve life's realities with a Christian side bar.I've been a huge fan of Sarah Dessen who also dares to deal with reality but in a very sweet way in my opinion. So it is exciting to read something CBA that is similar. There is definitely an audience for it just as there is an audience for many flavors in the adult market.
    Good for you!!!

  46. Nicole what do you think of paranormal Christian YA? Is that part of what Marcher Lord Press is doing?

    With Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games so huge it reveals this appetite among kids for books which is wonderful. And the clearly enjoy fantasy elements.

    And a lot of these books have at their foundation simple battles of good and evil, very Christian concepts, but of course laced with magic and vampires and assassins. I'm saying this as a woman who has read all seven Harry Potter books but none of the Twilight and Hunger Games books. But I've got kids that devour them.

    But those fundamental conflicts of good and evil could make great YA Christian fiction with just a few little changes.

    Of course they'd be tough sells in Christian fiction.

  47. Which brings up the question of Dystopian YA. Some say the arc is trending down and others say it's still hot.

  48. Julie, it's really great to meet you!

    " So, yes, kisses happen way before the end of the book unlike the "chaste and pure" romances that are so prevalent in our market today where a kiss may happen 3/4 of the way through or at the end in front of seven people when the hero asks her to marry him!! Trust me, there's nothing wrong with that, but we surely need a balance for the young women today who are subjected to a reality far different."

    I totally agree. I think the motivation behind the boundaries is to protect people from themselves, but human nature doesn't change just because we ignore it. It's far better, in my opinion, to hit it head-on, never excusing sin, but using it to show the grace and love of Jesus.

    I once heard a quote, no idea where or who said it originally...

    "You can never truly understand the majesty of heaven until you measure it against the backdrop of hell."

    And there we have it.

  49. Mary, that's rarely something I struggle with. I think it's going to be more interesting delving into more of the adult POVs in some upcoming projects.

    I guess that's why we all write different things. :)

    Oh, I will add though, that I have my daughters to bounce language off of--they tell me what's okay to say and what isn't. Like did you know that "LOL is sooooo 2005!"?

  50. Connie--

    Yeah, that's a bit stressful. But the message of redemption is in there. For example, in The Wishing Pearl, Olivia is dealing with sexual abuse, her dad's death an then the death of her best friend who was drinking and driving.

    It's that darkness that makes the light shine soooooo brightly.


  51. Mary, Tina...and all...

    Yeah, Marcher Lord does all that stuff. Fantasy, SciFi, Dystopian.

    Jill WIlliamson's Blood of Kings trilogy was straight fantasy. It's not paranormal at all.

    As for the trends, I'm not really sure, but I can attest to the fact that teen writers are wanting to write it! They are coming to us (Me, Jill, Stephanie Morrill, Shellie Neumeier, and others) in droves for writing help. The vast majority of them write fantasy or dystopian.

  52. Welcome, Nicole.

    I don't write YA and my only foray into it recently has been reading Harry Potter and telling my 10-year old he was too young to watch "Hunger Games."

    However, as my books are set in medieval Japan, the edgy subject I deal with is ritual suicide. This isn't exactly a common theme in the inspirational market.

    Kudos to you for taking on edgy subjects.

  53. Hi, Walt!

    "medieval Japan, the edgy subject I deal with is ritual suicide"

    Wow. Yeah, that would be a tough one! Medieval Japan, huh? That's intriguing! Good for you.

  54. Nicole, I love what you're doing! There is a need. And I can't imagine the reader mail you've gotten or will receive.

    I write women's fiction, and I so want my stories to be about reality. I don't want them to be graphic or gratuitous, but I want to show people living in their messed up reality that God is bigger than anything they've done.

  55. Welcome to Seekerville, Nicole!

    I think there's a place for edgy and realistic books along with books that are purely entertaining. That goes for YA and adults. I applaud you for dealing with life as it really is these days! It's such a different world from the one I grew up in. It was far from perfect then, but too much was hidden.

  56. Hi, Sally,

    "And I can't imagine the reader mail you've gotten or will receive."

    Oh, you can imagine. ;)

    I get it though. For the most part it all comes from a good place. Parents who want the best for their kids.

    I love that motivation, even if I disagree. :)

  57. Hey and I think it's great when edgy, entertaining and realistic are all combined in one. Which I suspect is what Nicole writes!

  58. Hey, Nicole! How cool to see you here! ;-) You just keep on writing your "edgy" stuff for teen girls! They (we) need it! Even if I'm far from being a teen. Snicker.

  59. Hi Nicole! Timely for me as well.

    I'm currently reading Robin Jones Gunn's Christy Miller series. It was written [I think] about the time I was graduating from HS so I'm not sure how the trends have changed. I've not read much current YA [except Melanie /waves to Mel/ and Jenny B Jones' last year], but I have a dream of writing it with my daughter who is also a writer [she's 10 right now].

    The MS I did for Speedbo has a 15yo in it, set in 2017 [because 9/11 is important to the story and so had to work from there] and in my heart, I want to write a spinoff series with my daughter involving her and her friends. I need to get some more current [but not paranormal /shudder/] YA and see what's going on out there now... And figure out where I see us fitting in - if anywhere. I will be looking yours up [especially if I don't win ;)].

    Thanks for coming today and talking edgy!

  60. Nicole is such a dynamo. She has a hand is a million places, including radio! It is impressive how much this lady gets done with her time! Especially considering she has 3-yr-old triplets. Yeah, that's right. Three three-year-olds.

  61. Hi, Nicole! Thanks for sharing your perspective on YA, especially for the CBA. I attempted my first YA mss. when my daughters were in their young teens, and I read a LOT of secular YAs back then, especially mystery and suspense by authors like Joan Lowery Nixon and Lois Duncan.

    And I think you're absolutely right. Thirty years ago or today, teens face pressures and challenges that to them are monumental. To downplay the effects of these pressures on their character and faith is to disrespect what these kids are going through.

    So I love it that Christian fiction can reflect a teen's real world while also guiding her toward better choices and a deeper faith. Which is exactly why we need "edgy" Christian fiction like yours that teens will want to read, right alongside books like Twilight and The Hunger Games.

  62. I read a book and I think I WON'T tell the title, about teen suicide.
    One kid committed suicide and a small group of his friends decided they'd do it too.

    This book was so, so dark. When I was done I just thought 'if I, the reader, was depressed or suicidal this might just be the last shove.'

    But then I decided that maybe not. Maybe it wouldn't be the 'last shove'. Maybe it would save someone, speak to them and reach them in a dark place.

    That book probably saved lives.

    But it wasn't for me. And that's okay.


    Wow, I am thinking that you must have a lot of childproofing going on at your house.

  64. Nicole,
    Everytime I read a Christian writer say they are edgy or 'passionate', like Julie Lessman., I know they probably suffered for making that brave leap into murky territory. I applaud you and thank you for digging a new path through the Christian publishing forest for it is needed in order to be relevant. I too write with 'passion' and tell 'edgier' stories that may be uncomfortable. I struggle with every single scene to make sure it stays true to the goal but also does not violate God's code. It is tough...so much simplier to stay with rules, not walk any line where publishers are uncomfortable. My audience seeks more thickly plotted and complex characters who struggle with deep morale delemmas, more intense scenes, in order to tell a greater truth to unsuspecting readers. Thanks again for your courage.

  65. Tina, I'm excited to find another Sarah Dessen fan! Love her books. I think you're right, that she deals with reality, but in a sweet way. And girls respond.

    Same with Nicole. Her heart for teens is so clear, and she really "gets" their world. That's why readers love her! Great post, Nicole!

  66. Welcome BACK to you, Stephanie.

    Since your visit it's been a privilege to steer teen writers to Go Teen Writers.

    Did you all hear about 16 year old Amanda Barratt who just signed with Books & Such!!


  67. Hi Nicole,

    As an OLD grandma w/ this age coming up for my grandkids, I'm glad you're writing about the real world! They have to face it, more than we know, and better they get some info from a YA novel than first hand, imho!!! Thanks for coming to S-ville.

    Gail Kittleson

  68. Nicole!! What a great post!! Your books sound fantastic! Love the series title “Diamond Estates”! And you have such beautiful covers!

    And I totally agree about edgy fiction. I prefer novels that don’t give a sugar coated view of the world, but instead show God’s saving grace through realistic trials and circumstances. Your novels sound as if they do just that.

    Amanda Barratt

  69. Nicole, I really like what you're doing with your YA novels. This is an ongoing discussion inside and out of the Christian fiction blogoshere. We really do need realistic stories, or what CBA defines as "edgy". The readership demographics are going to change some day, and the prevailing fiction that is out there now for Christians will likely not appeal to the younger generations.

    My first historical romance Garters For Lace is about a reformed saloon girl who deals with the issue of rape and abuse from her employer. She's also ostracized by the town because of her Native American heritage. I wrote this story partly in response to the number of "sweet" romances out there that don't prefer to touch upon the realities of the time period, or that tend not to reflect the diversity of people living in the world. Please don't misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with reading a heartwarming story. I just want women of all cultures and difficult life situations to see that God cares about their lives, too.

  70. Nicole, thank you for your encouragement! I am also writing YA fiction, and as I start my second manuscript I was beginning to wonder if there were publishers out there who would accept YA fiction with romantic scenes or less than perfectly innocent content. But I know that teens and women in their 20's are more than aware that life isn't all rainbows and unicorns, and if we try to write like it is, we'll lose their attention and they're more likely to think we live in some crazy make believe world and not reality. I'm a firm believer of writing truth, and showing how God can help us get through all the tough times and decisions with his grace and love. Granted my own writing may have a bit more humor in it to lighten things up, but I really don't think we can back down from the tough issues young women are facing. Thanks again for the post and writing on the 'edge'. It's inspiring. :D

  71. Tina, I hadn't heard that yet! I had no doubts Amanda would see success with writing, but I didn't know it was going to be SO soon. Awesome!

  72. Mary, I forgot to add that I totally agree about some of the paranormal elements being great for Christian YA. You'll find a bunch of that in the third book in the Diamond Estates series, The Shadowed Onyx.

    In it there are escalating spiritual battles that the reader gets to see lived out through the characters in the physical plain. and from inside the spirit realm as good and evil duke it out for the highest of stakes, physically and spiritually.

    I'm interviewing Lisa Grace on Teen Talk radio this week (www.choicesradio.com) and we're going to discuss this (paranormal Christian fiction) in great detail.

  73. Gail--

    I'm guessing you're a super-cool grandma like my mom. My kids call her Grandma Party because wherever she goes, there's a party! :)

  74. Amanda,
    Thanks so much for the awesome words. Congrats to you on signing with Books & Such. WHoooo hoooo!

  75. Brandi,
    I love the title "Garters for Lace". Cool play on words! :) Thanks for commenting!!!

  76. Melanie and Steph, thanks for coming by and joining in! Fun!!!

    And yes, Tina, 3-year-old triplets. lol plus three older ones, 11, 14, 20. *grin*

  77. Hi, Myra!
    "To downplay the effects of these pressures on their character and faith is to disrespect what these kids are going through."

    Absolutely! They need to be reached where they actually are, not where we wish they were.


  78. Kayla,

    Oh yes, there are plenty. Just be sure you use successful comparables--books like yours that have done well--to prove there's a place in the market for yours.

    Best wishes!

  79. Wonderful post, Nicole! I write speculative YA and have a heart for teens, and I really admire and appreciate what you're doing through your ministry/books.

    I don't think what you write is edgy; it's simply an honest picture of real life. Teens deal with tough issues like suicide, sex, and the occult every day, and they need to hear those issues discussed from a Christian standpoint. One that is honest but that also offers hope. Thank you for shinning light into a YA market that is overrun with darkness! :-)

    Please put me in the drawing. I'd love to read any of your books.

  80. Thanks, Angela! Great perspective!

  81. Edgy = realistic. How can reading christian fiction speak to YA if it doesn't relate to the world they live in? I applaud you for standing firm with what God has laid on your heart to put out there!

    I would love to hear more about the alternate endings. I am guessing the one with the yes ending show the consequences of her decision?

    Do you know if any other authors have alternate endings for their books? I think it's a wonderful idea for YA.

  82. Like Donna and Angela said, edgy is probably a word that's misused a lot.

    Christian fiction deals with a LOT of really tough issues--No better example than Redeeming Love--but they do it without profanity and graphic bedroom scenes.

    I don't think there's much you can't write about in Christian fiction as long as you do it right. Nicole, you're clearly doing it right.


    I have six kids, including a 3 year old... My brain just popped.

    I have a friend who has 3 sets of twins. Some stranger told her, 'Yup, we have 6 kids, but we did it the HARD way, one at a time.' I was like, 'what is she smoking??' That's the easy way, duh!

    Anyway, I agree check Jeff's Marcher Lord Press for fantasy publishing options.

  84. BRANDI---
    There is nothing wrong with reading a heartwarming story. I just want women of all cultures and difficult life situations to see that God cares about their lives, too.

    I shy away from edgy fiction, because it tends to be depressing, but this really touched me. Beautiful way to express the need out there.

  85. Donna,

    "I would love to hear more about the alternate endings. I am guessing the one with the yes ending show the consequences of her decision?

    Do you know if any other authors have alternate endings for their books?"

    No, I don't know of any others. I kind of thought they'd start popping up all over, but so far, no. There are the Choose Your Own Adventure type stories out there, but none with the alternate endings for the purpose of teaching consequences and choices.

    In fact, they each have a contract at the end that asks the reader to make a commitment to the choices covered in that book. Then it encourages them to find a witness to that commitment who will hole them accountable.

    They were originally released as single titles, and are now available as 2-in-1s.

  86. Thanks, Mary!

    Virginia, is your friend Fran Pitre? Just curious.

  87. Hi Nicole! I once thought your books would be too edgy, but when I read them, I realized I was wrong. When the Wishing Pearl came out, I was hesitant to read it because of the issues in it. I remeber writing on your wall and asking about the book, and I decided to read it. I was really glad I did! True it was a book with serious issues, but it opened my eyes to issues facing teens :) I've grown up in a Christian home, so I haven't had to face the same hardships in the stories, but the book has helped me to not be as judgemental. I used to think that people who did bad things should be ignored or stayed away from, but after reading the wishing pearl, my eyes were opened and I realized that people don't get caught up in sin just for the sake of sinning. The charcters behaviors were real, honest, and you do a great job of progessing the story. And the end result is very powerful because it really shows God's power, love, and forgiveness! I thoroughly enjoyed the Wishing Pearl, and I'd love it if you sent me a copy of the Embittered Ruby! I can't wait to see where you take the new characters! :)

  88. Becca, thank you so much for saying that. I LOVE that your eyes were opened. Now you'll be a light to those who really need Jesus because they won't feel judged or scorned. That's how Jesus treated people, too! YAY!

    Would you email me at nicoleodell6@gmail.com and let me know if it's okay if I quote you on my website? Include your whole name and address if you don't mind.


  89. Bravo! I'm so glad to see these issues being handled in the CBA and I pray every sale is a soul for Christ!

    My writing has been tagged as "Inspirational with an Edge!" (TM)since I became published in 2000 - I too handle these issues only with adult women. In fact, my latest release The Visionary deals with adult survivors of severe child abuse and their healing through God in Christ.

    I would LOVE to see how you handle it for teens!

    Good luck and God's Blessings.

  90. Thanks for this look at your style of writing, Nicole. I didn't understand "edgy" until James Scott Bell suggested that's what I'm writing. Finding the right place to market stories on that edge isn't easy -- often they're considered too spiritual for the secular market, and too secular for the Christian one. Mine isn't YA but for now I've set that book aside and have continued on with others that I'm sure won't be thought of as edgy.

    I think in writing for YA, however, there is a particular need to write on topics that youth can identify with. If they don't see relevance to their lives, they aren't likely to read it. I think you have a real ministry to youth as you deal with these difficult subjects.

  91. I love that so many Seeker Villagers are testing the waters with different genres ... and writing their passion.

    I will say this. For a first time author, trying to kick their way through that stubborn door to publication, sometimes you may want to not start to far to the edge. Get a book published. Get a SALE or two, or five, under your belt, then maybe dig into a deeper spiritual message on edgy topics.

    It's so hard to get published. It doesnt' make sense to make it even harder on yourselves by picking a genre with few books releasing and editors who have limits on what they're willing to allow.

    Just keep this in mind.

  92. Hi, Nicole! Is it too late to join the party? I love that you're writing these books for teens. They are so needed. My 16 yr old son just had to read a book called "Shattering Glass" for English. It was awful. It was horrid stuff a bunch of "in" kids did to a "nobody" kid. I think the boy ended up dying. I can't remember, but I suspect it was suicide. There was no hope in the book. My son had to write a report on it and he cringed at the thought of going back to pull out quotes and what-not from it. For the longest time he kept saying there was not conflict in the book. When he finished it, he said the entire book was the conflict. Kids NEED books that show the realities of life, but also the hope we have in Christ in spite of it all. Thank you!

    I write "edgy" books (thought I'm not published yet) for women. The series I'm working on now deals with women overcoming abuse. Seems like we have the same burden but for different ages. Don't you love the way the Lord uses each of us for different purposes to meet all kinds of needs? :)

  93. Linnette, I remember a book my kids got to read in school. They had some books full of short stories called Junior Great Books.

    I read the books when they brought them home and one of the stories was about a computer controlled house that did everything for the family, all sorts of fantastic things like virtual safaris and the walls of the room could be virtual trips to anywhere.
    any food they wanted made by the house, everything, everything was supplied by that house.
    And then the parents saw that it wasn't good for their kids to be catered to like that and they tried to shut the computer down and the computer ended up killing the parents.
    I think the computer somehow pushed the parents through the virtual world into a real safari and lions killed and ate them while the children watched. Something sick like that.
    And the kids lived in that house happily ever after.
    It was by someone famous like Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov. I can't remember who but it was just awful. I know the kids were supposed to learn something from it but it was so awful, so dark. I protested and the teacher just listened to me and said, "Yeah, that sounds disgusting. We're not reading any more of these."
    She was great.
    But still, to think that was part of a book being targetted at school children.....yuck.
    I need a book with hope.

  94. Great post, Nicole. Very direct and to the point, like it sounds like your books are. Keep writing what you are! The world needs books and authors like you. :) Thanks for the great interview!

  95. Hi Seeker friends - Mary has a good and very valid point about handling tough issues in a first novel - it is not easy to get published even after having several out! That's why The Visionary is with a secular publisher - 5 Star Expressions (part of Gale Cengage).

    However, I wanted to let you all know that Pelican Book Group - the parent company of White Rose Publishing and Harbour Light Books JUST launched a YA line - Watershed Books and is actively seeking submissions - Yes this is a small press / pod / E - publisher but it is a start.

    I for one, am very happy to be one of their authors - have 1 novel & 5 shorts through White Rose and just submitted a WF novel to Harbour Lights.

    Details here if anyone is interested: http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/watershed-books

    Good luck and God's Blessings!

  96. NICOLE SAID: ""You can never truly understand the majesty of heaven until you measure it against the backdrop of hell."

    OH MY, WHAT A GREAT QUOTE!!! And AMEN to that, that's for sure!! Before I came to Christ at the age of 23, I was a wild child of the 60s and 70s, so I remember WELL the difference between before Christ (hell) and after Christ (heaven), and the difference was SO vivid, I literally felt like I'd gone from the darkest dark into His glorious light!! Thank you, Nicole, for reminding me of that with this fabulous quote. :)


  97. WHITNEY ... I'm not sure I'm "Queen of Edgy," but I sure do like "edgy," both in the romance realm AND the spiritual realm, meaning I like the spirituality in my books to point-blank reality that you can apply as I have never been one for subtlties ... :)

    STEPH ... thank you SO much for mentioning my JJ this weekend AND for your support, my friend.


  98. Thanks Pamela and Carol! I love that so many people are eager to see difficult subjects tackled. :)

    Mary, you make a good point, definitely. An unpublished writer should consider those things, for sure. Being careful, of course, not to water down her God-given passions or callings to the point where they're unrecognizable.


  99. Thanks, Linnette! Keep it up. :)

    Thanks to you, too, Casey!

    Glad you liked the quote, Julie!!

  100. I am SOO so late to the party. Oh, well.

    I enjoyed your post, Nicole!! Thank you for sharing your passion for writing and teen issues!

    I don't know how much edginess will still be there after the editing process, but for now, I write edgy, historical, Christian romance.

    The issues I'm dealing with in this series are fidelity, abuse, and overcoming a promiscuous past. It would be hard to deal with those things and not be edgy.

    I'm glad to hear you are braving the world of YA fiction for Christ. I have a teen friend who loves the edgy stuff, but hasn't tried many Christian novels. She likes the stories that realistically face the problems she lives with daily. I will be thrilled to pass along your name to her!

  101. No worries, Natalie!!! Glad you made it over. Nice to meet you!

  102. PS, I know I said another book for every 50 unique commenters and a lot of these are mine, but I still want to throw two books into the game. So, whenever you draw, or whoever draws, please select two winners.

    Thanks so much for having me here and for being so awesome. WHAT A BLAST!!!!!

  103. I think there is a place for edgy YA Christian fiction. We have so many kids going through these situations, or they have friends going through them, our society has slunk to an all time low. At least, it seems that way. Books can be a way to help YA learn to deal with them. Of course, parents need to make the decision when their children are the appropriate age to read such things. And there isn't a magic age, every child and every family is different.
    twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com

  104. Glad to have found you! I've just been looking for some good YA for my 2 girls. I'd love to win!

  105. I'm SO thrilled to read this post! I don't write YA, but I do read it. So much of the YA Christian fiction seems out of touch with what teens have to face today-it's too watered down.
    I'd really like to see publishers include more "edgy" content for both YA and adult Christian fiction. In the right situations, and with the right endings, it could be such a powerful Gospel lesson for teens and adults. I am thrilled to hear that your publisher allowed you to do it!
    Keep writing! We need a big dose of "edgy" reality in the Christian market.

  106. I agree there's no magic age, Pegg, and I think parents should be aware of what their kids are reading, for sure.

    Jennifer and Rebecca--so glad you found the post, too! :) Nice to meet you both.

  107. Lady DragonKeeperApril 5, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    As a student worker at my local library, I agree that the secular YA market seem to really push the boundary on "edgy" --there needs to be alternatives from a Christian point of view that tackle tough issues with the hope only Christ can bring.


  108. Nicole!!!Thank you again for being in Seekerville on Tuesday!!! You so rock!!!

  109. Nicole, congrats on the Diamond Estates series. I have to catch up. I know they're wonderful and powerful and...

    I always cringe when I hear the words "edgy Christian fiction". What isn't edgy about being a Christian? And as you say, where exactly is that edge? Some of us are closer to it than others.

    Full disclosure: Nicole and I were crit partners for a while. But that has nothing to do with the fact that she's a gifted writer with a heart for today's teens.

    Proud of you. Now, if someone could do what you're doing for the teen boys...

  110. loved the first book would love to read this one.