Author Interview with Laurie Lucking

So glad to post this author interview with Laurie Lucking! Laurie is returning to JPC Allen Writes to talk about her latest novel and the reasons she writes YA fantasy.

Why do you choose to write speculative fiction for young adults, rather than adults?

My flippant answer is because that’s still what I prefer to read, even as an adult! The exciting, moving journey of finding your place in the world, the vivid emotions of leaving the familiarity of home to strike out toward something new, the joys and pains of falling in love for the first time… *happy sigh* 🙂 But on a deeper level, the books I experienced as a young adult had the most profound impact on my life, during a time when I needed that escape and could curl up with a good book for hours on end (now my kids always manage to find me…). Losing myself in a story with a main character I could relate to, a fun adventure, and an uplifting, hopeful ending, helped me forget all the pressures and insecurities of my day-to-day life. I pray my books can provide that kind of safe haven for readers who need an enjoyable break complete with loveable characters and an inspiring message.

What do you think are the keys to creating engaging main characters for young adult readers?

I’ve found that young adult readers seem to really engage with a character when they get to deeply experience that character’s perspective throughout the book. Rather than telling a story or giving limited glances into a character’s mind, narratives that allow the reader to live through the action right alongside the main character – practically feeling like they could be that character – are the ones teens just can’t put down. And I’m right there on the edge of my seat with them!

I still have a long way to go toward writing that kind of immersive point of view, but I think a huge key is having an understanding of the human mind and heart and translating it onto the page. Balancing beautiful prose with the way people actually think. Including internal responses in the midst of actions and dialogue. Taking the time to think through what sensory details your specific character would notice in place of generic descriptions. It’s a long, work-intensive process, but it’s amazing how that in-depth experience really draws readers in!

What is your greatest challenge when writing for young adults? What is your greatest joy?

I often find it challenging to let my characters make mistakes and suffer the ramifications rather than jumping in to prevent or fix them. In some ways, I think I view my characters like my own children and feel the need to protect and nurture them. But of course no one can avoid learning the hard way every time, and going too easy on my characters would never make for an interesting story or powerful journey!

My greatest joy is hearing from a teen (or more often her parents) that she’s read my books over and over again. That’s exactly how I enjoyed experiencing my favorite stories as a young adult, and it means so much to know that my words have impacted others in the same way. One of my readers even dressed as the main character from Common for Halloween last year! Talk about making an author’s day 🙂

That’s a major compliment. What a wonderful tribute!

What are some of your favorite young adult speculative fiction stories?

How much time do you have? *cracks knuckles* Ha, there are just so many, but I’ll try to contain myself! 🙂 I absolutely devoured Katie Clark’s dystopian Enslaved series, and her Rejected Princess series is also fantastic – the clean romance in her books is just so sweet, and her stories have so much intrigue! V. Romas Burton’s Heartmender series has been a recent favorite, with memorable characters and powerful allegorical themes. J.M. Hackman and Laura L. Zimmerman both create such vivid fantasy worlds to explore alongside strong, snarky heroines who experience so much turmoil and growth. And Carrie Anne Noble writes some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read, with imaginative, unpredictable plot twists and deep insights into the human heart. I’ll stop there, but I’ve reviewed and featured lots of my favorite clean fantasy books (many in the young adult category) over at if you’re looking for more recommendations!

What story are you working on now?

I’ll admit my writing time and creative energy have been pretty limited over the past year between homeschooling my kiddos and all the uncertainty in the outside world, but when I get opportunities I’m working on Book 3 in my Tales of the Mystics series! Tentatively titled Scarred, this story centers around Prince Dominick (Princess Penelope’s spoiled little brother from Traitor) as he humiliates a peasant girl because of the scarring on her face, then has to rely on her help when he’s later cursed and on the run. I’m having a lot of fun with this twist on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and can’t wait to bring all the scenes I’ve written together into a coherent story!

Thank you so much for hosting me today! 

You are so welcome! And best wishes as you complete Scarred. I always like twists on familiar stories.


Tales of the Mystics


Only one person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.

Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.

And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.

But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.

Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.

Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?

Buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Goodreads.


Princess Penelope has finally found a way to redeem her past mistakes-if only it didn’t require betraying her new fiancé.

Princess Penelope has been the object of gossip and ridicule ever since she returned home in disgrace following her failed engagement to the Crown Prince of Imperia. When her father offers a new start in a country far across the sea, she has no choice but to accept.

Even if it means another betrothal, this time to a total stranger.

Penelope arrives in Delunia determined to avoid bringing further shame upon her family. But her devoted, caring fiancé makes it harder to guard her heart than she anticipated, and rumors of dark magic haunt her with memories she’d rather keep buried far beneath her pristine exterior.

When a poverty-stricken village outside the palace gates looks to her as their hope for a brighter future, Penelope embraces the opportunity to make amends for her transgressions. But in order to help, she must manipulate her new fiancé, putting her reputation on the line once more. And her heart.

Can Penelope rise above the failures of her past, or will she forever be branded a traitor?

Buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Goodreads.


Laurie Lucking loves books, music, and spending time with her family. A recovering attorney, she now spends her days chasing her active one-year-old, struggling through her sons’ math homework, and writing young adult romantic fantasy (plus a little cooking and cleaning when absolutely necessary). She and her husband make their home in beautiful Minnesota. Laurie’s debut novel, Common, won the Christian Editor Connection’s Excellence in Editing Award and was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and her short stories have been published in Brio Magazine, Deep Magic Ezine, and a number of anthologies. Find out more at You can also follow her at her blog Lands Uncharted, newsletter, reader group, Facebook, Instagram, Bookbub, Amazon, and Goodreads.

Cliches to Avoid when Writing YA Fiction

If you read enough YA fiction, you’ll find certain characters or plot devices repeating themselves. Here are a few cliches to avoid when writing YA fiction.

All the adults are mean and/or stupid.

All the characters in a book should have an understandable motive for how they act. In YA fiction, the adult characters should be as well developed as the teen ones. If the father of the main character is cruel to him, the author must provide a reason other than it’s convenient for the plot. If the parents don’t know what their teens are up to, it shouldn’t be because they are too stupid to realize their kids are getting into trouble. When I come across adult characters who are too mean or dumb to be believable, I close the book.

The importance of exploring character motivation was brought home to me by my friend, author Cindy Thomson. With both your major or minor character, she said I needed to keeping asking why characters act the way they do. I think this is especially important when developing a villain or developing a flaw for a character. Her motivation to do bad things can’t simply be because she’s bad.

Private Schools

Another cliche to avoid when writing YA fiction is the private school. In YA book after YA book, I find this setting. In Christian fiction, it’s often a private Christian high school. A variation is for a kid in a private school to lose her money and be forced to attend a public school. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think most American teens never attend a private school, certainly very few attend a private high school. My kids don’t. The teens in my church don’t.

When I was in junior high, I read a short story about a boy who cheats during a test at a private school. (The main character’s name is P.S. If you recognize the short story, let me know. I’m curious to reread it). The whole story puzzled me then because the setting and his problem seemed so far removed from my life. If I remember correctly, he was expelled, he and his father had some kind of breakthrough in their relationship, and he would be sent to another private school. The consequences didn’t seem all that bad to me.

I see some advantages of this setting. The teens have less oversight if they board at a private school, giving the author more room to get them into trouble. It’s also an easy way to employ the fish-out-of-water plot: poor, deserving teen wins a scholarship to snooty private school and is set upon by rich brats.

Authors can use this setting well. It was especially effective in the novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks . But new authors should find other ways to get their characters into trouble or throw them into uncomfortable situations. The private school is growing old. And I think readers would appreciate seeing characters in a setting more familiar to them.

Hospital Denouement

I’ve found this scene in many YA books across several genres. The hero survives the thrilling climax, suffering injuries that usually causes him to pass out at the end of it. In the next chapter, he’s in the hospital, waking up after being unconscious for several days. A friend or relative is at his bedside and explains to him everything he’s missed, nicely wrapping up the ending for both the reader and the hero.

This technique goes all the way back to The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, one of the granddaddy’s of young adult fiction. Like the private school, I understand this is a handy plot device. An author can work in a lot of explanation without worrying about “showing vs. telling” because it makes sense for one character to inform the hero since he’s been out of the action for awhile. It’s a time- and page-saving device.

So it’s not bad. Just overused. I almost employed it when writing my denouement for my YA mystery A Shadow on the Snow. I was trying to write a hospital scene, and it wasn’t going anywhere. It hit me that I’d read this kind of scene many, many times before. So I eliminated the setting and created another one for my wrap-up.

This post is an update of a previous one. For for more tips on writing YA fiction, click here.

What are some cliches you’re tired of reading in YA fiction?

Writing Tip — Why I Write YA Fiction

notepadw-3234843_1280When I was scheduling my blog posts this month, I knew I had to write one about why I write YA fiction. But as I’ve thought it over, I don’t really know why. It’s almost like I can’t NOT write YA fiction. In the past year and a half, I’ve learned at least that much.

In 2017, I was invited to write a short story set in Ohio with a Christian worldview. It could be any genre, any time period, as long as the setting was Ohio. I had the freedom to write any story I chose. I tried writing a humor piece based on a misadventure my sisters and I had during one Christmas when I was in college. As my husband kindly put it, humor is not my thing. I ended up writing “Debt to Pay”, a country noir set in Wayne National Forest and told from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old boy. This was published in an anthology, From the Lake to the River.

In November, Mt. Zion Ridge Press, which had published From The Lake, was accepting Christmas short stories. Again, any genre as long as it had a Christmas setting and Christian worldview. I wanted to write a mystery. For some reason, mysteries and Christmas work really well together. Some of the best stories by the kings and queens of the genre are Christmas mysteries.

I started my mystery from the POV of a thirty-something woman. It didn’t work, the narrative clunking along like a car with two flat tires. Then I realized the point of the story involved the nineteen-year-old girl. When I switched to the first-person POV of the teen character, the story came together faster than a family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner after a two-hour delay.

So when I had the opportunity to write something completely different from my YA novel, I couldn’t do it. Why? Maybe it’s because I still remember, vividly, being in junior high and high school. The problems teens face are different for each generation. I graduated when cocaine ravaged the country and teen pregnancies were at an all time high. Now teens deal with about cyberbullying and how their online friends seem to have such exciting lives based on their social media posts. But the basic feelings of awkwardness, striving for maturity and fearing it, tentative steps of independence, and so much more are true for every generation of teens. I see that in my own kids.

I also feel a large part of me is still sixteen. I wasn’t one of those teens who thought they would live forever. I just wanted to get out of high school sane and alive. So when I enter awkward situations or get nervous meeting new people, all my teenage fears come roaring back. The nice thing I’ve developed with age is confidence. And the knowledge that if I don’t have confidence and fake it, most people will never know. Often by faking confidence, I’ve experienced the pleasant surprise of the real thing showing up.

If my short description of my Christmas mystery has stirred your interest, check in tomorrow when I reveal the cover of the anthology in which it will be published and give you the blurb for the story.

Why do you write in the genre or genres that you do?

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