By Deborah Hilcove
Award-winning author Erin Jade Lange writes young adult novels on contemporary issues.
Calling herself “a recovering journalist,” she believes her years as a television reporter honed her instinct for real-life stories. She is inspired by current issues and uses her writing to explore how these issues impact teenagers.
Lange, a best-selling author, often shares her expertise at conferences, taking part in panel discussions and workshops. After her local book launch, she’ll give several out-of- state presentations, before heading to Prescott for the Arizona Library Association Young Adult Summit in February.
She will also present a workshop at ASU’s “Desert Nights, Rising Stars” writing conference in Tempe. Her website, http://erinjadelange.com , lists upcoming appearances.
She writes in the young adult genre and emphasizes that the story is aimed at readers 14-18 years old, although more than half of YA sales are to adults older than 18.
The main character is a teenager, although the story is not necessarily about being a teen.
Lange says, “It’s a coming-of-age story. Some element will be about growing up. My characters have the same vocabulary as adults. I tend to avoid slang, because it dates a story.” She adds that a YA story should have “a strong voice” and “a fast pace.”
Although the books may deal with difficult topics, a YA book includes an element of hope, she says.”It would be irresponsible to write about the topics I write about without also giving hope.” She mentions humor, too, explaining that “it cuts through the darkness.”
Says Lange: “I was bullied in seventh grade, and that experience recurs in my books. However, when I’m speaking to teens, I don’t use the term ‘bullying.’ I think it’s overused and has lost meaning or impact. Instead, I refer to ‘kindness versus cruelty.’”
She’s been writing, she says, “since I was a little kid. My mom has a book I wrote in first grade, ‘Lisa and Gretel’ with one of the Care Bears as the villain.” She laughs. “I borrowed quite a lot!”
“As I grew up, I wrote for my own amusement. With my first attempt at a book, I just started writing and when I was finished, I looked on the internet and found everything needed to be fixed. I decided it was easier to start over. I still write a quick draft—to let the story be the story—but then I research things for accuracy.
“I start with just raw writing, but usually within a couple of pages, I begin to flesh out a story. From there, I lay out a very messy plot timeline to give myself at least a sense of the scaffolding of the story, so I can see where I’m headed.
“Then I go back to writing, and if the story takes a different direction than the outline, I allow that to happen and adjust the outline as needed. I don’t let the planning be a barrier to creativity. I also dictate notes to myself when I’m on the go, in case I have a sudden inspiration for a scene or a line of dialog, so that I won’t forget it.”
Lange’s next attempt at a novel, Butter, found great success. It’s the story of an obese teen, nicknamed “Butter,” who’s the victim of cyberbullying. Announcing his plan to commit suicide online, he expects pity or insults. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement that becomes popularity, giving him a reason to live.
The manuscript was picked up by an agent who sold it to a publisher in the U.K. Lange’s debut novel—described by Publishers Weekly as “dark, funny, painful and powerful”—was named a “2013 Teen’s Top Ten Pick” and has been translated into German, French, Thai and Spanish, collecting
multinational prizes and accolades. Paul Kaufman, an independent film producer, has bought movie rights and plans to begin production this fall.
Her second novel, Dead Ends, also deals with cyberbullying. The main character is a bully whose neighbor has Down syndrome.
A friendship develops between them, suggesting that the biggest “dead ends” are stereotypes.
That book was followed by Rebel Bully Geek Pariah, a tale of three troubled teens and a recovering alcoholic mom.
While the boys are at a party in the woods, police crash the scene.
Choosing to run rather than be arrested, the boys hop into a nearby car and take off on an accidental crime spree. They must learn to trust one another or risk their lives.
Her most recent novel, Chaos of Now, launched in early October 2018, and tells about a high school teen, bullied into suicide. His grieving friends, who have expert hacking skills, create a vigilante website seeking justice for victims of bullying.
Chaos of Now received a “Starred Review” from Kirkus Review, one of the most prestigious awards in the book industry, deeming the book “morally complex” and “taut with tension.”
When asked about her next book, she mentions her two-year-old twins and says, “As a mom, maybe they’ll be my new inspiration.” After a pause, she adds, ”At the moment, I am writing just for the JOY of it!”
Lange’s books are available at Barnes & Noble, online at IndieBound and Amazon, as well as by special order from bookstores.