Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on June 6th 2017
Companion novel to Burning.
Prep school gets a twist of supernatural suspense in this commercial YA thriller.
Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school—or her demanding mother—her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…
Suspenseful and scintillating, with hints of the supernatural, this fast-paced thriller will keep readers hooked.
Author of the best-selling MERCILESS series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, BURNING, and BREAKING. I’m currently working on the last installment of the Merciless books, & starting a new series to be announced later this year.
Read Like a Writer in 3 Steps
I had this friend in high school named Julia.
Julia and I used to pass each other notes in class (this was in the Stone Ages, before we all had cell phones, so these were notes we actually wrote out on paper and folded into complicated triangular shapes.) Mostly these notes consisted of song lyrics and complaints about how boring History was. Sometimes they were inside jokes. Occasionally, they got serious.
I just want a job where I can watch television all day, Julia wrote to me, one afternoon. We were seniors, and it was time for us to figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives.
I remember staring at that note for a long time before scrawling back, I just want a job where I can read books all day.
That’s not the whole reason I decided to become a writer, but it might as well be. I’ve always loved books, and I’ve always loved YA books the most. Writing them, I thought, would be like spending all day getting lost in my favorite stories, but in reverse.
Now that I’m a professional writer, I can tell you—definitively—that this is not the case. A weird thing happens to you when you write for a living. You start reading like a writer, which is to say that you start picking apart story and character and dialogue to see how it works. It’s amazing—
—and very, very difficult.
But maybe you’re curious. Maybe, even after hearing that being a fulltime novelist isn’t just reading your favorite books with a cat purring at your feet, you still kinda want to do it. Read on, my friend.
1. Get over your desire to keep your books in perfect shape
I know you’ve seen that meme online. It shows two books—one in perfect condition, and one with a page corner dog-eared. The tagline reads, “There are two kinds of people in life: People Who Use Bookmarks, and Monsters.”
I, my friends, am a monster. I don’t just fold down pages, I underline favorite bits of dialogue and make notes in the margins. I use post-it notes, and highlighters. My books are a mess when I’m through with them. But it makes me a better writer.
- Choose writers who are good at things you do badly
For me, this meant romance. When I was writing my novel, BREAKING (which is STRANGER THINGS meets THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) I knew that I wanted a steamy central romance. I’d spent years writing THE MERCILESS books under the pseudonym Danielle Vega, so I had tons of practice writing scary torture scenes—but I wasn’t so good at the kissy stuff.
To get better at this, I went to the bookstore and bought the sweetest, most romantic books I could find. Rainbow Rowell and Jandy Nelson and Jenny Smith. I spent months poring over their prose, trying to figure out why their scenes worked as well as they did. I took notes. And then—
—I practiced. For me, this meant trying the new skills I’d acquired in my own work. For instance, I noticed that Rainbow relied on snappy dialogue between her characters to show chemistry and tension. She often doesn’t use a lot of blocking between dialogue snippets, which helps make the exchange feel like a real conversation. Jandy, on the other hand, was really good at showing the characters noticing small details about their love interests, like eyelashes, or freckles. And Jenny was fantastic at showing how a character’s inner monologue twists around on itself, causing inner turmoil.
These are all skills I never would’ve picked up if I hadn’t read outside my comfort zone, and kept my eyes open for specific details and tricks that other writers employ in their work. BREAKING comes out June 6 and I’ve got to say—the romance is pretty steamy.
Now it’s your turn, what have you learned by watching other writers? Got any tricks to share? Tell me in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @vegarollins.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of BREAKING, US Only.