“The Parent Problem” by A.M. Manay
Those of us who write Children’s, Young Adult, or New Adult fiction are acutely familiar with what I call “The Parent Problem.” How do you get the parents out of the picture enough for your youthful protagonist to get him- or herself into mortal peril? Obviously, if your parents are paying any attention, they are not going to allow you to go fight Wizard Hitler or whatever, at least not until your homework is done. Here are ten tried-and-true (tongue-in-cheek) ways to throw those pesky parents and/or guardians overboard. Many successful stories employ more than one method for an extra helping of angst.
1) Actually throw them overboard. See Frozen.
2) Death by murder. See Harry Potter, Bambi, The Lion King, Star Wars: A New Hope.
3) Death by ill-tempered wild animal. See Tarzan.
4) Parent or Guardian Incompetence/Neglect/Abuse/Absence due to vacation, work schedule, or the Blitz. See Twilight, Home Alone, The Chronicles of Narnia, Up, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spy Kids, and all those TV shows about rich kids wandering around unsupervised.
5) The Combo Package: one dead parent, one problematic parent. See Finding Nemo, Hunger Games, Snow White, or my own She Dies at the End (November Snow Book 1).
6) Boarding School/College/Dystopian Future Training Facility. Apparently, boarding school is an exciting place where no one pays attention to the kids once class gets out, because they get up to some serious shenanigans. See Harry Potter, Divergent, Ender’s Game, and any book with the word “Academy” in the name. In loco parentis, my Aunt Fanny.
7) Run, run, run away: have the kids run away from home. See Peter Pan, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Pinnoccio.
8) The ill-fated three hour tour: have the kids get kidnapped/shipwrecked/otherwise involuntarily removed from the normal world. See Lord of the Flies, Maze Runner, Hunger Games.
9) Accidentally turn a parent into a bear. See Brave. Admittedly, this one is of limited usefulness.
10) Turn a parent into an evil cyborg bent on galactic domination. See Star Wars. Again, this one is perhaps a touch too specific to be widely applicable.
What are your craziest ideas for how to get rid of pesky parents in Chapter 1?
About A.M. and Her Writing
What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired by the diversity of the world around me, here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also find inspiration in such different places as comic book movies, English history, historical fiction, and scifi.
What do you love most about writing?
I love getting to know and create the characters, and I get a lot of satisfaction from crafting a clever or memorable turn of phrase.
What’s the most challenging part?
It’s difficult to find the time and space to truly focus.
How do you craft your story & characters?
I do a lot of daydreaming before I start writing. For me, the characters come first, and the adventure follows. I do like to brainstorm before I get too far into a long project.
How much research is involved?
I do research locations a fair amount. Otherwise, since I write fantasy, I get to make up a lot of stuff on the fly. I have to put more effort into maintaining continuity than into actual research.
How long did it take from idea to finished book?
It takes me about a year, usually.
Do you have any writing rituals or habits?
I love to write at coffee shops. It is much easier for me to focus there than at home.
Who influences you the most?
My son probably influences me in most areas of my life, in that I want him to be proud of me, and I want to create a better world for him.
What is your favorite theme/genre to write?
I love fantasy. Magic powers are just fun.
Which character you’ve created is your favorite? Why?
Probably Luka, my villain, is my favorite to write. He’s gleefully bad, quite funny, and makes no apologies about who and what he is. It’s kind of freeing, in a way, to explore a character is that confident in himself and who just doesn’t give a flip. Villains are a blast.
The one I love the most in my heart, however, is probably November. She just never gives up on anyone or anything.
Do any of your life experiences worm their way into your books?
I think it has to. Would I write in an Indian character if I hadn’t married into an Indian family? Would I write in multiracial characters if my son weren’t biracial? Maybe not. And certainly my choice of settings is heavily influenced by the places where I have lived, worked, and spent time. My church for the last 10 years, for example, features prominently in my second novel.
How do you like to connect with readers?
I love tweets and Facebook shoutouts. I’ve gotten such kind messages from readers. They always make me day.
What do you hope readers take away from your books?
I hope they carry the characters with them, and that they think about the value of diversity in their own lives.
Who helps you with the critique and editing process?
My husband is a saint. He is my first reader, and he marks mistakes and asks questions. I have a great corps of beta readers as well, who help me immensely, as well as a proofreader.
Do you ever hate something you’ve written?
Definitely. I tend to have some false starts during every book. I hope no one ever gives me the Tolkien treatment and tries to salvage a book out of my discarded messes.
How do you overcome any nagging self-doubt that inevitably creeps in?
That can definitely be a challenge. Sometimes I’ll reread a good review, or a message from a reader eager for the next installment. Or I just sit down and write. That always makes me feel better.
Do you read all reviews?
Why are reviews important?
You can’t tell if you’re achieving what you set out to communicate without feedback, both positive and negative. Besides, it’s fun to get good ones!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
I would encourage them to be brave, keep writing, and let others read your work.
What can you tell us about what we’ll see from you next?
I’m working hard on the third and theoretically final installment in the November Snow series. After that, I have an epic fantasy series in the planning stages.
Author Links for A.M. Manay
Fan email list November’s News: http://eepurl.com/bzCa9r