Like a depressed moth drawn to a wild flame, Chris hoped that flame would brighten his life, not burn him alive.
Chris Sinclair fades into a gray world after losing his mother to cancer. When forced to attend a concert, as a last attempt to coax him out of his shell, he discovers that life might not be as bleak as he first thought.
Dante Heron holds the audience between the tips of his fingers and the delicate bow, playing the violin as if every heart is his to command. However, something darker brews behind the façade, and Chris is determined to solve the enigma.
When Chris is offered the job of traveling around Europe with the famous violinist, he surprises himself by accepting. With no idea of what awaits him, he’s thrown into a world where emotions rule and rules are bent.
They’re a perfectly dysfunctional match, but then there’s always calm at the heart of the storm.
Teen readers – an elusive but excitable crowd
A fellow author who I met during the Euro Pride Con in Berlin this summer mentioned the lack of teenagers among his readers, and he wondered where they all are. His question is important. Teens identifying with one or more of the many letters in the ever-changing acronym need real people as well as fictional characters to latch onto and look up to. They need people who represent them and who feel and worry like they do.
Reading can aid in this search for role models, and it’s a sure way to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next without having to be too much in your face. This author in particular likely had a lot of important information up his sleeve—more so than I as a heterosexual woman. I could tell that he was genuinely sad that teens had gone AWOL, and I wasn’t sure how to break the news that most of my readers are teens. It appeared thoroughly unfair.
The medium is important. I began my writing career with online writing, posting chapter after chapter for free, gaining a wider audience with each update. It’s a social reading experience, and teens were quick to embrace this new way of reading and discussing fiction. They love to be involved. They send me comments, sometimes multiple for the same chapter, and they talk to each other. Now and then they disagree with me, and once or twice they’ve called me a sadist—but all in all they’re lovely and supportive.
I wrote Volatile knowing that I’d have readers aged between 13 and 70. I knew most of them would be girls between 13 and 25. It definitely impacted the story, and I have a feeling that many of the more seasoned readers who end up with this novel in their hands may find it a bit on the innocent side. Either way, I wanted to write relatable characters with emotions running high, and I wanted to write a story that I could say for sure was a safe read for any teen identifying as GLBTQ+. It’s cute, but there’s also a lot of angst in there because teenagers feel a lot (I’m still a teenager in that sense) and want to feel when they read. They want to be involved with the characters, fall in love with them, and they’re not afraid of going with me on a journey they know will be painful (I’m quite predictable after all).
I’m not conceited enough to say that I know exactly what teens are looking for in stories, but I do know what makes them likely to respond. Allow me to make an example. I have a beta reader who is majoring in English literature, and she’s also a good friend. Whenever she reads one of my manuscripts, she highlights certain sentences, writing—this is too much, think less is more. Seriously, every time she’s written one of those comments, she’s complaining about a sentence that got 100 comments or more from excited or devastated readers. It’s the pinnacle-like sentences that round something up and make us take flight only to settle on the other side.
In conclusion, if we want to write for teens, perhaps we need to reach out to them rather than expecting them to find us. We also need to write for them rather than to them. Remember what it was like when you were a teen, what you felt, how you acted and start from there. They’re excitable and loving, running on high-octane fuel, and that’s also why they’re wonderful allies.
They’re out there, for sure, devouring literature with queer characters. They’ve also taught me words such as “ship” and OTP which comes in handy from time to time because don’t forget, teens like to be involved. I love my readers, even when they’re mad at me.
Meet Avylinn Winter
Raised in one of the cold corners of the world, Avylinn spends her days either wrapped up in a blanket or basking in the precious sunlight. When she can’t choose herself, she’s holed up in an office working with climate research that has little to do with the worlds and characters she creates in her vivid dreams.
Always the emotional one, she has found her outlet in writing, voicing thoughts, emotions and fears through her characters that feel very much alive to her. And, what began as a hobby soon took more and more time in her life until she realized that she had left her old life behind and entered a new one where her emotions turned into a super power—ready to launch at her poor readers.
She recharges with the help of coffee, cinnamon buns, popcorn and occasionally a healthier alternative.
Where to find Avylinn Winter