So happy to have Hope Bollinger as my guest today. I met Hope at the Ohio Christian Writer’s Conference in 2018. Not only is she an author but also an agent with Cyle Young and a fellow Buckeye! Welcome, Hope!
One of the great things about YA fiction is that you can write in any genre as along as your main character is a teen. What genre do you write? Why?
I do contemporary with a speculative twist (whether it be angels, time travel, etc.). I always felt like the real world often has some speculative elements if you look closely enough. As for fantasy and other subgenres, I never got into them as much while reading them. I wanted to dive into topics which teens in today’s society had to tackle. But I like to throw in a little “weird” into the story.
Which comes first when starting a story – character, plot, or setting?
The plot. I usually think of what situations I never would want to end up in, and then I throw ill-suited characters into those scenarios.
Most YA writers aren’t YA. How do you write authentically about characters younger than you are?
I’m 22, so I’m just weaning off of the YA age range. But I try to have conversations often with those in that age group through youth groups and talking in school. I try to stay well-read in that genre as well.
What are some other unique challenges about writing YA?
So, so many. First, as mentioned above, you need to sound authentic. Too many YA books talk down to teens. Second, if you write cleaner YA, you have to balance the line of talking about edgy topics while keeping the manuscript free of profanity, violence, or sex. Third, you have to compete in a very crowded space. You want an original idea that still plays into some tropes, so publishers and readers won’t reject you right away.
What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a story or character?
Hot topic X Tumblr making a Christian baby. Hence, Hannah from Blaze (my debut) was born. She has a weird morbid sense of humor and can scare away quite a few people, but I love her unapologetic sense of self.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
If you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.
Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.
To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.”
From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 3,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. She is excited her modern-day Daniel “Blaze” just released with IlluminateYA (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) and they just contracted the sequel “Den.” She enjoys all things theater, cats, and fire. You can find more about her at www.hopebolinger.com and on Facebook and Instagram.