Welcome to the blog, Judy! Could you tell us a little bit about Just for Kicks?
Thank you, Rachel, and thanks for having me here. Just for Kicks is the story of a 16-year-old girl in remission from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis who decides to take up her best friend’s challenge to snag the interest of a fellow high school student who’s totally absorbed in martial arts. She’s been itching to live free of worry about her illness, and she’s quite taken with Chas, the handsome young martial artist. She knows her venture is risky, but she doesn’t anticipate the way things go, either at the dojo or with Chas.
What led you to write this novel?
A number of years ago I got involved in martial arts. The leadership seemed to have little empathy for physical ailments; they pushed students to overcome them by working harder and longer at practice. A few years after that I developed adult rheumatoid arthritis. I think I was eager to write about both those experiences, because one day a storyline presented itself to my imagination in which a teenager with JRA was knocking herself out at martial arts both to prove to herself she could do it and to win the heart of the boy she’s attracted to.
Was it difficult to address the serious theme of Petra’s disease in a YA book?
No. I started the novel shortly after recuperating from the longest, most serious and (ultimately, thank God) last big flareup of my disease. My memory of physical pain and disability was vivid and fresh. At the same time, my memory of the martial arts school had mellowed enough that I could see how funny some of my experiences there were. I very much enjoyed balancing those two elements in the story—comedy and tragedy. I also loved discovering the strength and determination in my main character.
What makes YA fiction a great genre?
Great question. It’s a genre that clearly appeals across generational lines. In fact, it’s one of the hottest genres at the moment, so it puzzles me that Amazon doesn’t have a separate category for it. If you publish a YA novel with them, it has to be listed in a category such as romance or mystery, or in children’s fiction. However, YA is anything but children’s literature. Most of it involves coming-of-age material—young people confronted with challenges that test their mettle and bring them to realize who they are. And anything goes nowadays. There really are no tabus. At the same time, the length of YA novels is more manageable for those with shorter attention spans. Great plots at about half the word count. So you can read more stories!
What is the best advice you can give to writers?
In the past I’ve answered that question with standard advice. Go into banking, take up basketweaving, do anything but write unless you’re compelled by an inner drive to do so. Persist in spite of rejection and discouragement. Join a good writers group, or start one of your own. Read, read, read the kind of work you want to write. Take classes. Stuff like that. But what I’d like to say now is a little different. I’d like to say that if it’s a genuine dream to write for publication, to see you work in print, it’s more possible now than it ever was before. Blog possibilities, online magazines, Amazon Kindle, CreateSpace, and Smashwords are just a few of the options available to writers nowadays that weren’t there a few short years ago.
Thanks for stopping by, Judy!
Thanks again for having me, Rachel.
Judy can be found online at: www.judydearbornnill.com, www.amazon.com, www.smashwords.com and Facebook.
Judy Dearborn Nill works as a licensed mental health counselor. Before that she taught journalism part-time at Seattle University and two other colleges based on her experience as a reporter. She has published newspaper, magazine and professional journal articles in addition to three YA novels: Just for Kicks, The Rise and Fall of Bibi Karstad and Simple Twists of Faith. She recently contracted with Guardian Angel Press to publish her first children’s story, Samuel and Sophia: A Tale of Two Teddies.
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