“It’s about friendships. How they develop and why. It’s about secrets and how they can destroy you unless you learn to trust someone,” she said. “I wanted to write a story with two girl’s POV but from two different worlds where they would be forced to come together and over a period of time realize they really liked each other.”
She’s working on the third book in the series,Off Stroke, about a girl and boy who tackle prejudice while learning to trust each other. Shannon has been injured in a car accident which killed her mother but the one place she feels at peace is her paddling club. Eje is a Canadian refugee who after six years of living in Halifax, is still trying to fit in. He’s smart but trouble has a way of following Eje. Eje gets forced into an afterschool paddling program at the same club as Shannon and while their relationship gets off to a rocky start they can’t fight their growing attraction to each other.
Renee had a major writer’s block about three years ago and decided to totally switch her writing around. She switched genres and also switched how she wrote.
“As a romance author, I always wrote in third person so I quite literally had to force my mind to learn how to write in first person for my YA novels,” she explained. “I am so glad I did this. I love writing my YA novels and while my nitty gritty novels are very realistic and hard hitting, I love being able to provide that teen first-person point of view to these novels.”
Her favorite author, and the one who has inspired her the most, is Simone Elkeles.
“When I first started writing my nitty gritty series I couldn’t find another author like me who was writing these realistic contemporary hard hitting stories but one day as I was roaming Chapters I saw this book Perfect Chemistry – I haven’t looked back. Finally I had found someone who, like me, was brave and wrote from the heart.” She has heard from a lot of readers since she made the change to her Nitty Gritty series.
“Some told me I touched them so much they couldn’t finish the books because they were so hard hitting, some emailed me to say they couldn’t put it down because they were wondering so much how my characters would turn out. All that have contacted me loved the realistic approach and voice and that’s what I was going for.”
Renee will normally map out a synopsis at the beginning of her writing process, but she has to trust the characters as they grow and develop inside her head, because she’s found the story is better if she can let the characters breathe, without worrying about how many times she has to revise. Sometimes a plot thread will start to develop, but unless she hears a character start to talk in her head she finds it difficult to pursue it.
“For my nitty gritty stories like Off Leash (the first book in the series), I had this dog POV that jumped in my head and had to get it down on paper fast or I would have lost it,” she explained.
Renee has four children of her own and two of them have entered their teen years.
“It’s certainly not an easy road,” she said. “I think writing YA books is something I know I have to do.”
A lot of her own writing is based on her own experiences as a young person. She was transplanted to the country and never really fit in, so she always felt alone—there was little to do and being smart was an odd trait. She feels the teens of today face a lot of the same challenges she did growing up, but there’s so much of everything, like drugs and ways to score easy money, that make it even harder to be a teen today.
“What do you envision happening in the YA field in the next few years?” I wondered.
“I think the YA field will get better but also be forced to sub-genre like romance. Currently if I walk into Chapters all the YA books are grouped together which while annoying is also a great way to grab a new reader.”
Renee runs a paddling club and deals with 400 children/youth during the summer. She’s always creating programs that will encourage inner city youth to come to the club and try out, for free, a sport they wouldn’t normally even think about. They will be expanding it this summer, and she’s very excited about it.
I asked her to describe her writing space.
“I write everywhere. With four children I have to. I always have a notebook I carry in my van. I also spend a lot of time at Starbucks. Writing at home is hard. I can’t write when my children are around and if my house is a mess it’s very difficult for me to concentrate. If I didn’t have such a supporting hubby I wouldn’t be able to write. We are a very busy family but still hubby will tell me to go out and write. Usually I come home a happier woman.”
“What was the scariest moment of your life?” I asked.
“I totaled a car when I was 16 and saw my life flash before my eyes in slow motion but also felt warm hands wrap around me whispering words, I’d be okay, it wasn’t my time yet. The car was so badly smashed only my side had no damage but the seatbelt saved my life – it had turned over 3 times. To this day I remember it like it was yesterday. The hands wrapping around me I swear were my best friend, Sissy, who died of cancer four years earlier on me.”
Finally, I wondered, “What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?”
“Join a local writer’s group. The best thing I did was join my local romance writing group and it’s a very professional group. I have learned so much over the years about the art of pitching, querying, how to write synopsis, marketing and set writing goals. These people have also become my favorite authors and now some are my critique partners.”
About the Author:
I call Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada home. Happily married to my dream man I am the mother of four children. I am always juggling deadlines, children schedules and my volunteer activities. I am an English/history major from Dalhousie University and have a journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical University in Toronto. I have always written.
I love to write hard hitting nitty gritty teen books and edgy paranormal and sci-fi novels. I am multi-published as a romance author and am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and the Society of Children Writers & Illustrators.
Find the author online at:
Lindsay looks and acts like the perfect fifteen year-old, but she’s hiding a dirty little secret that no amount of fashionista coverings can make better. Telling her mother her step-father is molesting her is not an option. Trying to kill herself again haunts her more than the scars on her wrists, and pretending to be perfect at school might very well drive her over the edge.
Megan knows all about lying. It’s been part of her life ever since she realized the only way to escape her poverty-stricken neighborhood was to work hard, keep her mouth shut and wear a mask no one can penetrate. All that changes when Lindsay befriends her.
Can two girls who have little in common discover the value of a real friendship or will the secrets they dare not speak destroy them both?