The Making of a Young Adult Novel: Individual Interviews

Pictured above: Marita, Michelle, and Charline. Three of the girls I interviewed. 

In this and prior/subsequent posts I am going to show how my young adult novel, The Halls of Abaddon, came to be. Hopefully in the process, I will be able to share with you the joys (and sometimes frustrations) of working directly with teens in the development of a young adult novel. For Step 1 click here.

Step 3:

In the previous post (Step 2) I outlined how I conducted a student survey to identify the important issues facing teens today. From this survey I concluded that the following five issues were most salient in my target audience:

  • The influence of explicit lyrics (specifically in Reggaetón) on teen sexuality
  • Self-image and Self-esteem
  • Bullying/Cyber Bulling
  • Teen Rebellion and Parental Problems
  • Suicide

These five issues will all be addressed, to varying degrees, in The Halls of Abaddon.

At the end of the survey, I asked if any of the students would be interested in being interviewed by me, and if so, which of the identified issues they would be willing to talk to me about. Each student who volunteered to be interviewed had identified a topic from the issues outlined in the survey. But I did not want to jump right into talking about the issues, some of which were highly intense and personal (especially for those who agreed to talk about relational issues and suicidal ideation). I felt like I needed to build trust first. So I came up with some fairly easy initial questions. Here are some of the early interview questions I asked.

  • Can you describe yourself, first as you see yourself, and then as you think others see you?
  • What is your favorite book and why?
  • What is your favorite movie and why?
  • If you could live one day as another person, who would that person be and why?
  • What’s the last song you listened to from your music library?

After some structured “small talk,” I transitioned into more specific questions about what it is like to be a teenager in Puerto Rico. I asked the following questions, which are important for me to understand as The Halls of Abaddon is set partially in Puerto Rico.

  • What has it been like for your growing up in Puerto Rico?
  • Do you prefer to read in English or Spanish?
  • What are some of the challenges you face as a young adult growing up in Puerto Rico?

In my next post, I will talk about how I transitioned from these relatively easy questions to the harder ones that delved into the core of the five identified teen issues.

 

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