Tuesday July 24, 2012
By ROSHINI ANTHONY
A young adult fiction author takes a step into a new world that she hopes will engage teens as much as sparkly vampires and pretty angels have.
FIRST it was vampires, then it was fairies and mermaids. And now we have shamans, courtesy of Alyson Noel.
Young adult fiction fans will be familiar with Noel as the author of the bestselling The Immortals series starring Ever, a girl who discovers she has lived multiple lives and has an immortal beau.
Now Noel has turned her sights onto shamans and their mystical powers in Fated, the first book in a new series called The Soul Seekers.
The second book in the series, Echo, will grace shelves in November this year.
Fated tells the tale of 16-year-old Daire (pronounced “dare”) Santos, a girl whose life has consisted of going from one movie set to another, thanks to her mother, a very much in demand Hollywood makeup artist.
While Daire counts up-and-coming heartthrobs as her friends, she has a secret that, if discovered, will surely lead to her being locked up in a mental institution. If animals followed you around and you had a tendency to see “glowing” people everywhere you went, chances are you’d keep it to yourself too.
Unfortunately, a very public breakdown due to her “visions” sees her travelling for hours, deep into remote New Mexico to meet and live with a grandmother she’s never met.
What happens next? Well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!
But here’s a little look into the fascinating world of The Soul Seekers with the author herself.
When asked via e-mail what inspired Daire’s story, Noel, 46, says it really began when she was writing her previous set of novels.
“I was doing research for my last series, The Immortals, and I kept coming across all these things about shamanism.
“I was very intrigued by the concept; it’s such an ancient, primal practice.”
Shamanism, however, did not fit with the world of The Immortals, so Noel saved it for the next series that she would write.
In shamanism, Noel explains, there exists a concept of three worlds – the lower, middle and upper worlds – and the setting for The Soul Seekers is based on this theme.
Apart from the mysticism, though, Noel thinks that readers will identify with the main character because, although she finds herself in extraordinary circumstances, Daire is still very much a normal teen with problems that all teenagers face.
“She’s trying to find her way in the world and fit in at school, she’s trying to figure out who her friends are and she has a crush on a boy she’s not sure about.
“Her problems are really authentic and quite real to the teenage experience.”
While the story falls into the fantasy genre, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the author can take too many liberties because shamanism is practised in the real world. Noel stresses that research is an integral part of her writing process.
“I do a lot of research for my books. I read a lot of books on shamanism and spirit animals, and I took a three day ‘Introduction to Shamanism’ course during which I travelled to the lower world and met my spirit animal. I had two private healing sessions with a shaman and travelled to New Mexico (where Fated takes place) to interview Native Americans about life on the reservation.
“Research is always on going. I continue to learn about the world as long as I’m writing about it.
“The research is an opportunity to further explore ideas that already fascinate me, and have experiences that are meaningful to me and that also help me to write the books.
“I hope readers enjoy the fun, suspense, romance, and action and adventure in this book.
“I also hope that they come away with perhaps a deeper message of the power that we hold in our hearts and minds, and that the way we perceive the world can actually help shape and transform our experiences.
“The power of love is the most important and powerful force in the world, and at the end of the day, it’s the most important thing we can ever give each other.”
Every writer has a different process; Noel, who lives in Orange County, California, with her husband, has a pretty standard routine, she says.
“I write every day because it helps me stay in the world of the story and character.
“I try to write about 10 pages a day. I outline before I start, so I always know where the story is going, though the journey along the way can change a little bit. I allow room to change, but it normally ends up where I originally planned.”
With the boom in the number of young adult books these last few years, it seems pretty tough for a new author to get a book published. Does Noel have any advice for authors trying to break into the business?
“One of the things that I think is really important is to allow yourself to write.
“A lot of people want to be writers, then sit down to write and realise that it’s harder than it looks. They then get very discouraged and start judging every word that they put down on the page because they think it’s not good enough.
“The fact is that the books you read and the authors you admire revise many times to get to that point.
“The first draft is just for you, so allow yourself to just try to get the story down. Write badly; it’s OK, no one is going to read it. You can always go back and change it later.
“When I was trying to get my first book published, I received tons of rejections. It really hurt, but I’m also very grateful for it as it made me try harder and taught me how to write.”
Fated and books from The Immortals series are currently available at major bookstores nationwide.