I've known Michelle Sutton for a long while through ACFW and have gotten to know her better since we've served on the ACFW Operating Board together the past couple years. For almost all of those two years Michelle has talked about her YA (young adult) novel, It's Not About Me.
When Sheaf House, a new imprint, picked it up I knew that although I am never attracted to YA genre novels, I would read this one because Michelle is my friend. The novel came out about a month or so ago and it has hit the shelves like gangbusters. I don't know exactly what printing it is in now, but before it was even officially released, it was sold out! In fact, I had a hard time getting my hands on a copy.
Well, my copy finally arrived and I eagerly opened the book and started reading. I immediately saw how much the book is needed to help teens of today's culture deal with peer pressure in getting involved sexually outside of marriage. But it also addresses another important issue. Many teens who are raised in the church are raised with a sense that they are saved through family connections rather than personally placing their faith in Christ as an individual. The truth is that God has no grandchildren. In It's Not About Me, Sutton works through Annie's (her main character) struggle with this and her thinking process as she comes to understand that she really didn't have a personal relationship with Christ like she she thought she did.
Although I personally didn't always find the parents' characters to be believable in their reactions because they seem to accept some of the situations so quickly and without question, I realize that the main thrust of the story is what is important. How God uses adversity in the main characters' lives to bring them to a deeper relationship with Him and able to overcome the pressures of today's culture.
I would recommend this book to teens who can handle some of the more mature scenes. Michelle bills herself as the Edgy Christian Writer and that does come through in several scenes. I didn't find any of it over the top, but sensitive teens might not be able to deal with it. I would advise parents to read the book first to be certain it's right for your teen.
Michelle graciously agreed to an interview which follows. After you read it, don't forget to leave a comment. I will happily share my copy of It's Not About Me to the person whose name is picked from all who leave a comment. The name will be drawn a week from today, November 4th. Please be sure to leave contact info in case you are the winner!
Without further ado, here's the interview!
How did you come to set the story in Idaho?
Actually, this is the first time I've been asked this question. When I first wrote the series (which used to have two previous titles that I have since made stand alone novels, and one I relocated to Sierra Vista) I was concerned about locating the series in Arizona because I used to work for Child Protective Services. I didn't want former clients who may happen to read my book think that I was talking about their case, because I made sure I didn't do that with anything I wrote. To be on the safe side I changed the location to Idaho. I used to live in Idaho, too, but only for a year back in 1985. So that was a secondary reason.
I believe you said you didn’t start out the story to be a YA, how far into it did you get before you realized it was a YA?
It was actually book 3 in a series. The first two were women's fiction and I intended Annie's story to be the same and was told by a publisher that it seemed more YA to her than Women's fiction, so we relooked at that and decided to change it to YA. It's not about the age of the characters but more the content and topical matter that make it YA. There are a lot of Women's fiction titles with young characters but they have different themes.
Now that you have blazed a trail for yourself in YA will that be your genre from now on?
After this series (which has been written for 3 years) is all in print I hope to sell some of the Women's fiction titles I have circulating right now. I have one romantic suspense, five women's fiction titles and these three-plus other projects in the works. Everything I write has three things in common regardless of the genre. They all have edgy content, lots of romance, and tragedy turned to triumph themes.
I believe you’ve said before that you are a seat of the pants writer as opposed to a plotter. How much prep work do you do on characterization before starting a novel?
I just write. But like some people say, there is always a plot in your head. Before I write a story I think about it for months and let it simmer in my head. By the time I write the story I have the outline in my head and so the only thing that is seat of the pants is the details. Those come as I write. I am usually so mentally immersed in the characters when I write that I know exactly what they are going to say and do before I even write it.
How much did the story change from the original idea as it was being written.
Not a thing changed. What you've read is so close to my original manuscript that you would be amazed. A lot of people say they have editors hack at their novels or give them a long list of changes that the publisher/editor wants to be changed. Not so in my case. It's the same story with the same guts. The editor told me I could spice it up a hair, so I did (in the beginning) but the rest is exactly the same.
There’s a sequel in the works. How long until we can buy it and who is it about?
It's Not About Him is coming out in Sept 2009 and I'm very excited about this novel. My endorsers are really enjoying it, too, and that's a good sign. You always worry that people won't like your second book as much as your first. These stories are different but both are quite intense. The sequel is Susie's story. What does she do with her baby and what happens to Jeff? Will they get together or are the destined to remain just friends? That's the gist of it, but all the mucky muck you experience in the midst of the story will hold your attention and keep you reading. I love drama and the tension and I drag some characters through some pretty hard stuff. It's more fun to read than blah storylines. Plus, I don't have to do research as I write what I know. :) People should be able to get copies of INAM easier than before, now that online publishers are getting smarter and stocking more books. They can also be ordered at most Barnes and Noble and Borders book stores. Pre-orders for INAH (the sequel) should be available sometime this summer, like July or August.
Thanks for the chance to interview, Pam!
Thanks for visiting, Michelle!
Don't forget to leave a comment to win your own copy of It's Not About Me!