02-23-19 – Best Selling Author and RTG Alumni: Christy Carlyle

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Have Courage, everyone

Hi everyone! 

I am YA, and now MG author Barbara Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.  The release date for my newest book, Courage, is fast approaching - July 29 from Harper Collins.

This post is about the Courage saga, my debut novel being released in a matter of weeks and geared for those most demanding of readers, young readers.

Not that you can't read it too, and enjoy peering into the wayback machine to your own childhoods. But no one is pickier than young readers. Adult readers will often forgive authors a lot. We know we keep reading, even past the occasional slow spot, plot hole, character inconsistency or other minor imperfections, geographic inaccuracies and improbable motivations.

Kids will drop a story the first time it bores them. Taking the reader out of the story is a huge fear for those of us who write for younger readers, because if we lose them we know we will never get them back. That's listed as one reason why many adults have gone back to reading YA. They are not looking for simple stories, they are looking for stories that move and make sense on every page. That's also true for middle grade books, MG. We have to be more entertaining than alternatives like video games, social media, and even real life play!

It all made writing Courage, my debut middle grade novel, an exacting event. I've written adult romance. I've written YA. Writing Courage was harder, because it had to all the characterization and plot of a novel intended for adult audiences, and more. Holding the attention of these most demanding of readers puts an extra burden on craft.

I'm a plotter, not a pantser, but I always begin a new novel by developing the characters. I struggle to create full-featured characters that readers will follow anywhere.  Once I have that, its safe to develop a plot for them to traverse. I know that no matter what danger or trouble they get into, readers will come along and enjoy the ride. I do make things harrowing, the young people in this story face everything from a near death experience to problems with police, to diving off the edge of a springboard into open air.

They also face a host of family issues.

Courage is a modern day retelling of the parable of the prodigal son. One child leaves home and wastes his life, in this case, ending with prison time. His younger brother, the main character, T'Shawn, remains at home. When his older brother returns home a frightening stranger, T'Shawn stands prepared to do whatever he must to protect his widowed mother and younger sister.

Everyone in this story needs courage. The courage to forgive, courage to try again, and courage to deal with the police, an all too common phenomenon that people of color, and even children, have to face on in today's world. They become every man and woman, with age and race taking second place to their humanity. One character lives with a debilitating disease, another with homelessness. Yet another is willing to do anything, break any rule, to hold onto the love of an adoptive parent.

Technically, Courage is not a romance. It's a story of friendship, and family love. In the end, (sorry for the spoiler) love and faith wins out. T'Shawn finds the strength and courage to dive off the springboard into the pool, and to deal with his fear of letting himself love his brother again.

Speaking of love, even at thirteen, T'Shawn manages to find himself in a relationship triangle between Carmela, the police detective's daughter, and Linda, Carmela's best friend and the daughter of a man in prison. You see, I believe that even stories of friendship and family should hand readers happily ever afters.

The city of Chicago provides the perfect backdrop for this story. Courage highlights the vibrant south side. Locations including the University of Chicago to the lakefront are featured on the pages. Readers see the city through the eyes of children from various ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds.  Forget what you think you know about Chicago, pick up Courage, and get a good look at the real deal.

I invite you to take a look at one of the reviews of Courage  where Kirkus calls Courage - " a multifaceted look at the urban experience." - https://bit.ly/2KY7QK6

Author Barbara Binns was a Golden Heart finalist in 2010 with her adult interracial romance, Damaged Goods. Her first YA novel, Pull was published by Westside Books in 2010. Since then she has gone on to write several YA novels, and her short stories are regularly published in the Arlington Almanac. She lives in the Chicago area, and is both a cancer survivor and an adoptive parent. She is also a member of Kid Lit Nation, http://kidlitnation.com an organization working to help more authors and illustrators of color break into publishing.

Website - http://babinns.com
twitter - http://twitter.com/barbarabinns
facebook - http://facebook.com/allthecolorsoflove

Courage is her debut middle grade novel.
Hardcover $16.99 ISBN - 978-0062561657

Available from Amazon - https://amzn.to/2N6GMFT

Harper Collins - https://bit.ly/2u7ogWG
Barnes & Noble -  https://bit.ly/2u9CiHF


Sarah Raplee said...

Wow, B.A., I hadn't thought about that aspect of writing for children, but what you said makes perfect sense!

One of my favorite adult romances, Intermarry by Rhea Harmsen, is set on the South side of Chicago. I'm going to have to read Courage and then pass it along to one of my grandchildren.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Sounds like great book, B.A. And I agree--kids can be very picky readers, but if they like a book, you have accomplished something!

Maggie Lynch said...

This book sounds AMAZING. To capture the urban experience in realistic terms, yet provide reasons for hope and meet challenges and grow is really hard to do in an adult novel. Doing it for middle grade seems like climbing Everest.

You've hit on something that I've experienced in my own extended family. A family member who is in prison and will be for a very long time (probably into old age, definitely past my death). His crime was against his family. Though he turned himself in and regrets is actions, he will never forgive himself and I don't know if his family can forgive him either. As I see the lives of his wife (ex-wife now) and children play out, it all seems on the surface to be happy family. However, I know there are lots of daily challenges.

I'm definitely getting this book. Already clicked on pre-order. Really interested to see how you handle this for a Middle Grade audience. May recommend it to my cousins.