Former Sandusky resident finds success writing YA novelsWritten by Don Lee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s more to a teenager than you might think.
Trish Doller wants you to know that.
She wants teens to know someone knows that.
And she wants to accomplish that by telling you a story.
With one novel on the shelves, another coming in September and a third in the works, the former Sandusky radio personality and newspaper reporter is accomplishing that.
Now living in Fort Myers, Fla., with her husband Phil, a tour boat operator, and their two young-adult children, she’s readying her second book for publication and framing her third, already set to hit the shelves in December 2014, all the while working at a book store.
She’s always had stories to tell and she said she tried a number of different approaches. Writing for young adults, she said, let her tell the stories she wants to tell.
“I was always writing young-adult (YA),” she said. “I just never knew there was a name for it. The first time I read a YA novel when (I was an) adult, I had an ‘aha moment.”
And she thinks the young-adult genre is unfairly maligned.
“You wouldn’t ask a pediatrician when he’s going to start treating ‘real’ patients,” she said. “But a young-adult writer is asked, ‘When are you going to start writing for adults?’”
Part of the problem is a perception driven by the books at the top of the young-adult bestseller lists, recently dominated by sparkly vampires dripping with an adult’s idea of teen angst.
But part of the problem, Doller said, is simply the assumption of what a book for young adults is.
“What you find on the shelf of the young-adult fiction section (of a bookstore or library) is exactly what you find on the adult shelves” in terms of subject matter, said Doller, who works for a bookstore in the Fort Myers area.
“We forget teenagers are people,” she said. “They have all the feelings adults have, and they’re learning to process them in ways adults have already learned. … the successful (young-adult) authors haven’t forgotten how that feels.”
In fact, the characters in her books tend to be young people who have had to grow up in drastic ways — and who, upon returning to a situation that by any objective standard is better than what they were in, find they have more growing up to do even as they try to recover some of the innocence of their childhood.
Travis, the hero of Doller’s first book, “Something Like Normal,” is a 19-year-old Marine on leave after returning from Afghanistan, bringing with him the nightmares of his best friend’s death in combat. He returns to an unfaithful father, a too-dutiful mother and a younger brother who has taken his car and his girlfriend — and the girl-next-door who is still paying for a stupid thing he said as a kid.
Callie, heroine of Doller’s forthcoming “Where the Stars Still Shine,” was kidnapped as a child by her mother and, after seven years on the road during which she frequently had to be the “adult” for her dysfunctional mother and was molested by one of her mother’s boyfriends, is returned as a teenager on the cusp of legal adulthood to the large, squabbling and loving family she barely remembers.
Both books end, not with happily-ever-after endings (Travis faces a second deployment to Afghanistan; Callie’s mother is in jail and the promising new boyfriend is moving away to a better job) but with the idea the characters are almost back on track — if the right decisions are made, if the right things happen, if luck goes their way.
“I don’t think happy endings are necessarily as interesting,” Doller said.
Nor, she added, are they realistic.
“You don’t always get happy endings in life. [My characters] don’t either.”
That realism — along with research into what it’s like to be a returning veteran — resulted in praise from a not-quite-expected quarter for “Something Like Normal.” Veterans, especially young veterans and the people who help them, praise the book for its realistic portrayal of a young person going through post traumatic stress disorder.
A servicewoman identifying herself only as “Heather” wrote in January on the GoodReads website: “Though I couldn’t finish this book because it just hit too many triggers for me, I still give it a high rating because of the author’s uncanny grasp on what this less-than-1% of the population goes through in our attempts to return to ‘normal’ life.”
Doller said she heard from one veteran whose wife would not read his own memoir “because she’d lived it (what he went through), so he had his wife read ‘Something Like Normal.’”
She also heard from a teacher who was trying to reach a student who just didn’t like books. “Something Like Normal” caught the student’s interest and led to a desire for more books to read.
That connection, where readers “see themselves” in what you’ve written, is what an author wants, Doller said, and it means more to her than awards.
Not that her debut novel hasn’t received them: The Young Adult Library Services Association has placed it among its Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, according to the website for Doller’s publisher, Bloomsbury Books.
For her third book, scheduled for publication in late 2014, Doller plans to move out of what she calls her “wheelhouse” of “trauma-and-recovery” plots. Tentatively titled “Arcadia Falls,” the story centers around Arcadia Wells, a teen girl living a more-or-less normal life who agrees to go on a road trip through Florida with two good-looking tourists — but the trip goes tragically wrong.
This book, Doller said, will be more of a “psychological thriller,” something that will take her out of her “comfort zone.”
The book was supposed to be something entirely different, but the character, Arcadia “Cady” Wells, “popped into my head. She had nothing to do with the story I was working on but she would not let me go.”
Another story demanding to be told. Doller knows what that’s about.