Ultimate YA is an organization that promotes young adult literature (YA lit) and reading. We feature one YA lit author per month. Each feature includes a short bio of the author, as well as fun facts and an interview. If you would like to be featured, please send an email inquiry to email@example.com.
In addition to our features, we post quotes and memes of the week that relate to books, writing, and/or reading on Tuesdays and Thursdays, respectively. We also post anything else that we find interesting regarding reading and writing.
The initial idea came from a dream I had back in 2007.
There’s a scene in the book where the two main characters are drawing on the sidewalk with very dark chalk… I dreamt that scene. And I heard the first line from the first page of the book: “I didn’t fall down a rabbit hole, get sucked up by a tornado, or tear a hole into another dimension…I just woke up one day and everything was different.”
Written by Catherine Gonzales
The classic American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald was translated onto the silver screen by director Baz Luhrman who has brought us Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge and Australia. Undoubtedly, Luhrmann’s style is unique and the images he creates on screen are always dazzling, however, The Great Gatsby fails to deliver any real depth that the beloved novel conveyed.
As you may know, Ultimate YA has been around and featuring authors on this website for almost 5 years now. We, ChinLin and Liz, have worked hard to share our love of reading with you, our readers. We hope to someday be a fully functional magazine complete with articles that you want to read, and other content that you want to see. Since ChinLin is still in college, and I only just graduated, we don’t have the funds to start the magazine on our own. For that reason we are reaching out to you, dear readers. If you are able to give a little bit—even a dollar would be helpful—it will help tremendously in our efforts to become a magazine. If you have stipulations for your donation, feel free to email us with any kind of feedback. Or just email us, for we’d love to hear from you regardless.
1. I was born without my right hip, but Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles built me a new one.
2. My significant other (Ramiro) is a horror comic book artist. My parents are also artists in the horror industry—they did a lot of special effects for movies & TV shows back in the 80s & 90s.
3. Ramiro and I own a goofy black cat named Robert. He’s our baby boy.
4. I’m hypoglycemic.
5. I’m allergic to soy…which is in pretty much everything (even gum!).
6. As a teenager I was head writer for my high school’s newspaper and was featured
as “Short Story of the Month” 3 times in Teen magazine.
7. I earned a black belt in martial arts (shaolin/kempo/karate).
When Lauren Tharp isn’t running LittleZotz Writing, working with small business owners to help them earn more cash via her catchy writing, she’s lovingly typing up stories for young adults.When she’s not doing either of those things, she’s usually eating or talking to her cat.THE BALLAD OF ALLISON AND BANDIT is her debut novel.
Let’s begin this lovely month of May by welcoming our this month’s featured author: Lauren Tharp and her first YA novel The Ballad of Allison and Bandit!
In our Featured Author of May 2013, Lauren Tharp’s, novel The Ballad of Allison and Bandit, it’s Summer vacation. 1999. Fourteen-year-old Bandit finds herself alone and suffering in silence after a death in her family. Unable to cope with her grief—and forced to grow up quickly by neglectful parents—Bandit is in desperate need of a friend: Even if that friend is the neighborhood outcast, Allison Gale… a large-nosed girl with no sense of smell and a penchant for eating raw onions.
The Ballad of Allison and Bandit tackles grief, growing up, and gaining a purpose. It’s a darkly humorous drama about abandonment, isolation, mortality, friendship, and hope.
Check out the book on Amazon!
And while you’re online check out Lauren Tharp’s website, too!
7. A few of your fun facts talk about you working on scripts. Can you talk about the differences/challenges/rewards in writing scripts versus novels? Comedy versus horror and dark fantasy?
Working on scripts is something I kind of fell into. I have always been a big film and TV fan, especially Sci-Fi and fantasy. Back in the 90s I met a producer who was developing a gothic comedy series for television. I was taken on as scriptwriter. I had been studying actual film and TV scripts and so found the scriptwriting process quite natural. That series was very nearly green lit, though funding was pulled at the last minute by the television company (Channel 4, UK).
But I then formed a kind of working partnership with one of the special effects guys working on the project, Martin Astles, who wanted to branch out on his own. He was hugely into horror, demons, blood, gore—basically, all the stuff I wasn’t into back then. But he liked what I had done for the proposed television series and said he and I should collaborate on this zombie flick he had in mind. He had the basic ideas but wanted me to script them out fully. We did two horror scripts, and it really changed my mind about horror and supernatural themes. It made me into a fan. Well, Martin moved to Hollywood to work in an FX house there, and touted those two scripts around—interest, yes, but no deals made. But over the years he has made great contacts in the industry. Our latest script is a gothic Christmas tale, for which I have signed an option agreement with Illusion Studios. All going well, this one will be produced, which is really exciting!
In some ways the scripting process is easier than novels; you have to plot it and plan it the same way as a novel, but it is basically like writing a very elaborate outline or series of descriptions. Some scripts you see can be very bland, like instruction manuals. I like to evoke atmosphere in the same way as I do in my novels. I like to make it a fun read. But it has to be done sparingly as each page translates into a minute of film time.
Although I haven’t yet seen a film script made into an actual film, I have worked on a children’s television series here in England (The Wombles) and saw the results on television. I actually found that quite challenging because of the age range of the audience. We’re talking five years old to about seven. My work was reviewed and edited and changed by the production team over and over. ‘Make this nicer’, ‘This has to be simpler’. Man, it was tough! Perhaps all those horror scripts had given me too much of a hard edge! But seeing the final product on TV was great; hearing (some of) your words coming out of these fantastic characters. Nothing beats seeing your story and dialog come to life—even if they are stop-motion puppets!
Also worked on a British comedy show entitled Shoot the Writers. Writing comedy sketches and hearing a live audience burst into laughter is a tremendous tonic; it makes you feel that it was all worthwhile.
8. Who is your favorite character in Blood Family? Why?
That’s an easy one! And it applies to all my stories. My favourite character is my main character, Daniel Dark. I think if an author isn’t totally into his protagonist, then why bother? He or she is who drives the story, pulls your reader along. It is the central character who is the story. For me, if I don’t make the main character the most interesting and most dynamic person within the tale, then I shouldn’t be writing it. And plus, all writers, I think, take an aspect of themselves and mould their hero out of that. It can be a part of you that the public sees, or never sees. Or a facet of your personality you would like to cultivate; the person you wish you were. Daniel has the dynamic, forthright, and impetuous qualities I wish I had sometimes. And he definitely has the drive and perseverance that definitely I know I have. Completing a novel certainly requires both!
9. Fantasy and supernatural worlds/realms can be difficult to develop. Can you describe your process for creating the vampire dimension in your story?
Writing about an ethereal place, a place that is not quite physical, is both incredibly freeing as well as incredibly frustrating. You base it on imagination, and sometimes on dreams (and believe me, Ultimate YA, I have some very wacky dreams!). Because you have a totally blank canvas where anything is possible, you are not restricted. But then the laws of physics go out the window. So I knew that having my characters floating around in space with no up or down or sideways wouldn’t be sustainable for long segments of the book. I believe there are other dimensions, ones that occupy the same space as our own, and that they have physical attributes (up, down, mass, solidity) but are also malleable. If you find yourself in one of these realms, you will be able to walk or sit or pick something up, but you may also be able to take off like a rocket into the void, defying gravity. This is what happens to Daniel when he is sucked into the demonic ‘Otherworld’, where (in my story) vampires originate from. But too much of that can be disorienting for the reader. After a terrifying ordeal within the Otherworld, Daniel finds himself right back on terra firma to face hard, physical blood-and-guts challenges.
10. Is there a particular message, experience, or feeling that you would like your readers to come away with after reading Blood Family?
I love that question! The main reason I am a writer is because I want to leave the reader with something—thrills, joy, sadness, longing. The characters should stay with you, so that my readers to say to themselves ‘gosh, I wonder what they all did after that last page?’. You will notice that all my stories are somewhat open ended. I never write ‘and they lived happily ever after’ tales, all tied up neatly in a red ribbon. Done. Shelved. Nope—I try to make my characters and worlds live within my readers in such a way as they stay there, even for a little while. The best stories are the ones you remember and think about long after you have finished the book and consigned it to your bookcase. And I don’t always do this because I have a Book Two in mind!
In the case of Blood Family, I would hope that readers would see how a person can change completely, as Daniel does. Once he discovers that he is half-vampire (a dhampir) he gets off his lazy ass and travels the world to seek out his true origins. He becomes a real dynamo—a force to be reckoned with—and not just because of his new vampire powers. He is driven by a burning desire to find out who he is and where he came from. Part of his quest is to find his birth mother, who, he learns, has been incarcerated by his true father – a powerful vampire named Dominus.
11. Do you have any advice for young writers and readers?
I have been writing since I was in my very early teens. I started with short stories, and then tried my hands at novels. I was 16 when I tried my first novel – a Star Wars sequel! Gosh, it was terrible. I think, really, I wanted to make my own Star Wars movie; I couldn’t really do that at 16, but I could write one down. My mother urged me to write original stories, and told me of an author she had read an interview with, who gave the simple advice ‘don’t never give up!’. That deliberate double negative has stayed with me. If your first story isn’t published, or appreciated, it does not mean that it is no good. It means that you are still honing your talent. To be good at writing you have to write. But don’t just consider your early work mere practice. Everything you write is—or should be—a fun experience. If you love what you’re writing, your readers surely will, which is the best possible advice I could give.
12. Are you working on a sequel to Blood Family and what other plans do you have for the future?
I have actually written quite a bit of the second story, which is entitled Full Blooded. Ultimate YA is the first to hear that title! It takes place not long after the events of Blood Family. Of course, its release depends on how well the first book does. But as I write this, preview copies have gone out and the feedback has surpassed all my expectations. I am really quite gobsmacked by the positive response I am getting – which just blows my mind. I am so glad people seem to like it.