Children's Corner: Mystery author Elizabeth George scores with teen thriller
Elizabeth George is a best-selling mystery author for adults, but she wanted to try something new.
So she's written her first thriller for teen readers. "The Edge of Nowhere" (Viking, $18.99, ages 12 and older), is the first in a series featuring a teenager named Becca King who has an unusual -- and dangerous -- talent: she can hear whispers of people's thoughts.
Although she has written more than 20 adult books, Ms. George said in a recent email interview that she found it "extremely difficult" to write for teens, "mostly due to the constraints that are put upon the writer of YA [young adult] literature.
"The YA characters have to drive the story with the adults in the background," she explained. "I wasn't used to writing under this kind of constraint.
"While I've written in the POV [point of view] of adolescent characters before ... I never have had to create novels in which those characters not only drive the plot, but also are instrumental in resolving whatever issue the plot deals with. So this was an enormous change for me. It's taking me time to get used to it."
It may be a challenge for Ms. George, but "The Edge of Nowhere" shows she's certainly up for it. In her newest book, she again demonstrates her talent for writing page-turning plots as well as her ability to create believable, intriguing characters.
The book's main action takes place on Whidbey Island, located in Washington State's Puget Sound. The sparsely populated, rural setting -- where Ms. George lives -- is perfect for the spooky story she tells in "The Edge of Nowhere."
As the book opens, however, 14-year-old Becca is still living in southern California with her mother and Jeff, her stepfather, who has forced her to use her ability to hear thoughts as a way to help him embezzle funds.
Then one day, Becca unexpectedly overhears whispers of some of her stepfather's much-darker secrets. Forced to confront the truth about her new husband, Becca's mother, Laurel, joins Becca as they flee, changing their identities as much as they can to prevent Jeff from following them.
Becca's mother believes they will be safer if they split up and arranges for Becca to stay with a close friend on Whidbey Island while she heads to Canada to try to find them a safe haven.
When Becca arrives at the friend's house on Whidbey Island, however, she finds that her mother's friend has just died. With no way to contact her mother because she's on the run, Becca must survive on her own. Fortunately, she finds a home with a woman named Debbie Grieber, who offers her a room in exchange for helping out at the motel she owns.
Becca begins classes at the local high school, where she is plunged into another world of secrets, including the near-death of Derric, one of her new best friends. Becca sets out to try to find out more about what happened to Derric and ends up putting herself in jeopardy.
Asked how she came up with the idea of giving Becca the ability to hear people's thoughts, Ms. George replied: "I don't really know. I myself have suffered periodically from hearing voices at night when I'm trying to sleep. ...
"It generally keeps me awake most of the night and there's nothing I can do about it but wait for it to pass," she added. "Perhaps this is where the idea for Becca being able to hear the fragmented thoughts of others came from, although she's better at doing something with what she hears than I am!"
Ms. George said she chose to write her first book for teen readers because "I had an idea for a series set here on Whidbey Island ... and the characters involved in the idea were adolescents, so YA seemed the way to go."
A former high school English teacher, Ms. George did read some young adult novels to prepare herself for writing for teens. She also interviewed several Whidbey Island teens "to get help on the high school, the alternative high school, drug usage on the island, and things of that ilk."
Ms. George said she recently completed "the second draft of the complete rewrite that I had to do (as I said ... making the change to YA has not been easy!)" for the second book in the series. At the moment, she believes it will be a four-book series.
Meanwhile, she continues to do her adult books, most of which are set in England and star the aristocratic Inspector Lynley. While she wrote "The Edge of Nowhere" and its as-yet unpublished sequel at the same time as writing her latest Inspector Lynley book, Ms. George said, "I won't do that again as it was far too difficult."
First Published October 30, 2012 12:00 am