Last month, Campbell River writer Shari Green did some writing that was especially exciting — she signed a book deal for her latest novel, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles. The young adult novel will be published by Toronto-based Pajama Press this fall.
Green, who works part-time as a licensed practical nurse and has four “pretty much grown” kids, has been writing young adult and middle grade fiction for the past 10 years. She has written six or seven novels over the years and has started writing short stories as well but says she likes the longer projects better.
“I love kids’ books,” she said. “I read more kids’ books than grownup books, for teens and for kids, maybe because I loved books so much as a kid and you can still see yourself in them. So that’s what always seems to come out, stories for kids and for teenagers. And probably partly because when I started writing, I have four kids, so that was my world; it was what I knew.”
Green’s first fiction writing came out of the National Novel Writing Month challenge, in which participants write a 50,000-page novel over the course of 30 days each November.
“So the first fiction I ever wrote was like ‘OK, I’m all in here,’” she said with a laugh. “The first novel I wrote, I didn’t even know what it was going to be because I’d never written a novel, but I wrote 50,000 words and, as I read it, it was really a young adult novel. And that’s not published. It was quite bad. But you know, you’ve got to learn, and I think that’s really how you do it — you can study how to do it, but you really just have to do it a whole bunch to figure out how you are going to manage to tell something in a compelling way.”
Green published her first book, a young adult novel called Following Chelsea, in 2014.
The book she just sold is a verse novel.
“I had so much fun writing that,” she said. “Once I figured out who the character was and it started to flow, I had more fun writing that than probably any other project. Being in verse, the attention is paid so much to your word choices and the musicality of it, the rhythm and the images. That was play to me.”
Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is aimed at readers aged eight to 12.
“It’s about a girl who spends the summer with her grandmother on an island while her parents are trying to save their marriage,” said Green. “The girl, Bailey, she’s really hoping for miracles or magic to kind of step in, so she’s really looking for that kind of thing and she doesn’t realize how much power she has to impact her little corner of the world. There’s lots of beach stuff — I knew I wanted to write a beach-setting book so it really indulges my love of my beach — and it’s about family and friendship and the possibility of miracles.”
The draw to young adult and children’s books has always been strong for Green.
“I think with teens, when you think back … when you say you’ve come to a crossroads in life and how when you make a decision, it could really take your life in different direction — teenagers are making those decisions all the time,” she said. “The emotional stuff they go through and the decisions they have to make, there’s just so much depth I think to their experience. It’s easy to write them off as ‘it’s just kids; they’re just teenagers,’ but I think they feel so deeply and I think with the books, so often, they really get to the heart — there’s so much heart to them, there’s so much depth and emotion in those stories. And I think that we can all connect to them because we’ve all been there. So if a story can capture some of those struggles and the highest highs and lowest lows, I think whatever age you are, you can connect to them.
“And with the younger kids’ books, kids just see the world so innocently, but that innocence is starting to come away and they don’t have the preconceived stuff that we do so often, how we sort of get set in our ways and maybe we judge people more quickly or we judge situations more quickly. Kids, they have this real honest way of seeing the world. It’s kind of refreshing, I think.”