I first met Syrie James several years ago at a writers’ conference when she was looking for a literary agent. I was intrigued by the fact that she was a already a successful screen play writer and charmed by her warm personality. Now, after the publication of several extremely popular novels, I’m honored to have her here at Top Down to answer a few questions.
Syrie James, known for her critically acclaimed historical and romance fiction, has ventured into new territory with her latest novel, which she co-wrote with her adult son, Ryan. The book’s about a 16-year-old girl whose life begins to implode when she comes into unusual powers—only to discover that her entire existence is prohibited—as is her relationship with the new boy at school, who is far more than he seems.
A page-turning tale of wit, fantasy, music, suspense, and paranormal romance, the just-released Forbidden has been getting critical raves. Described by Beneath the Cover as “amazing… an addictive read,” and by Sophie Jordan, author of Firelight, as “beautifully written! Romantic and filled with delicious tension. Forbidden enchants!”, the novel will appeal to readers of any age or gender–or any genre!
by Syrie James and Ryan M. James
Q: Syrie, as an award-winning published author, what made you decide to experiment with co-writing, and with your son no less?
Ryan is extremely talented and imaginative, and had always been a voracious reader. For years, Ryan had been giving me such detailed, perceptive, and incredibly insightful notes on every book and screenplay I’d ever written, that I’d learned to never turn in a manuscript without first addressing his feedback. Although he’d never written a book before, in his work as an editor in the video game industry he was a storyteller by profession.
When I came up with the initial idea for Forbidden, and Ryan suggested we write it together, I was intrigued. We’d written two screenplays together in the past, so why not a book? Suddenly, the timing to write Forbidden appeared as if by magic. I had turned in the manuscript for Dracula, My Love and had an opening in my schedule. Ryan had a six month window between jobs. We decided to go for it!
Q: What was the inspiration behind the story of Forbidden?
An idea had been percolating in my head to write a book about a teenage girl who begins getting psychic messages from a mysterious source, and enlists the aid of a boy at school to solve the mystery. A deeply felt romance would develop between them, and he’d prove to be far more involved and invested in the mystery than she ever anticipated.
Years earlier, the independent movie I’d co-written with Ryan was about a young man named Alec—a lonely, supernatural action hero in a dark world, whose heart’s desire was to be human and lead a normal life. What if, I thought, I combined my idea of a psychic girl with a character similar to Alec? What if he left his supernatural “job” forever, and tried to pass as human—but although he was over a century old, he looked so young that he could only fit in at a high school?
We were both excited about the idea, especially when we decided to have the girl’s unusual psychic powers (and Alec himself) come from a heavenly source … and to have Alec become her only true ally in a confusing and increasingly dangerous world. We set the story at a fictional version of the unique private high school Ryan attended, and this novel became a love letter of sorts to that wonderful school.
Q: A mother/son writing team seems pretty rare. What was your writing process?
We began by writing a detailed storyboard and outline, hashing out characters, plot, and all the details of the world—which was extensive, since we were creating our own version of angel mythology, with many paranormal elements, yet setting it in a very real world environment. Then, three days a week for six months, from 9AM to 6PM, we sat together at my computer and wrote the first draft. Once we sold the book to HarperTeen, several additional months of hard work went into the revisions. We both loved working together. We challenged each other to explore new ideas, and often found ourselves finishing each other’s sentences. It has been a remarkable and very rewarding experience, and we are thrilled to share the novel with readers.
Q: Did you write the chapters from Claire’s perspective, and have Ryan write Alec’s?
No. We wrote the entire first draft with the two of us sitting in one room, crafting all the material together—speaking much of the dialog and action aloud as he or I typed. Interestingly, that first draft was written 85% from Claire’s POV. Our editor loved the few sections we’d included from Alec’s POV and asked us to revise the novel with half from his perspective—which delighted us! Due to time constraints—Ryan had started his new job and was just about to get married and go on his honeymoon—I did that second pass myself, re-writing that original material from Alec’s POV, and then Ryan and I polished it together.
Q: Do you believe this book is only intended for “Young Adult” readers?
Not at all. We wrote the novel with the intention and hope of appealing to people of all ages—and genders—and we are thrilled by the response it’s been getting from reviewers, many of whom have maintained that adults will enjoy the novel.
Adults went through the experience of high school too, and we believe they can just as readily relate to the situations and emotions experienced by Alec and Claire as can anyone under 18. Austenprose.com said, “This may be written for Young Adults, however, might I also suggest, for the young at heart?”
Thanks for having me on your blog today! I’d be thrilled if you’d take a second to visit and LIKE our new Forbidden Facebook page. And please enter our CONTEST to win cool Forbidden swag just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Help make Forbidden a bestseller!
Order Forbidden in the first weeks of its release, and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with copy of receipt from any bookstore or online retailer, and FORBIDDEN BESTSELLER in the subject line. For each copy you purchase, your name will be dropped into the hat! Contest closes Feb. 12, 2012.
Do you like YA fiction and if so, why do you think today’s new YA fiction is so popular with readers of all ages?
Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) Translation rights for Syrie’s books have been sold in sixteen languages. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.
Ryan M James
Aside from being Syrie’s firstborn, Ryan M James has co-written two screenplays, directed an independent feature, and created the machinima webseries A Clone Apart. By day he works as an editor for the video game industry. Under cover of night, he conjures stories for print, screen, and web as a member of the Writers Guild of America. He and his wife live in Los Angeles about a stone’s throw away from Syrie. Visit him on facebook and Twitter, and at www.forbidden-book.com.
So how about you? Do you like YA fiction and if so, why do you think today’s new YA fiction is so popular with readers of all ages?