Author interview: S.A. Bodeen, Author of Several YA Novels

S.A. Bodeen, a published and devoted author, took the time to share some of her successes and experiences. She takes us through the process of getting a novel published.
She’s been a published author since ‘98. “My first book was a picture book… I actually had seven picture books published before one of my novels,” she says. “I started writing to be published in 1995, and I sold Elizabeti’s Doll in ‘96, and that was when I actually started writing novels. It was another ten years until I sold The Compound,” her most famous book, that has currently sold more than 250 million copies.
When it comes to sitting down and beginning to write a story, she establishes the basics before anything else. “I guess I come up with the concept and who’s telling the story, and then I just figure out how they’re gonna tell the story,” Bodeen states. “I’m not very organized – I work off an outline now, because that’s how we sell the books. It is definitely not a fast process. I’ll usually draft a book within a month or two, then revise,” she says. ¨I love the revision process; I feel like I’m way better at revising than writing so I go to town on the revisions and then it’ll go to my editor(who’s the first person to see it) and then she’ll get back to me with her revision notes. If she’s timely about it, it’s usually about a six month process until it’s pretty much done. After that, it has to go through all the copy edits.”
Contrary to popular belief, she does not incorporate secrets into her writing. “I’m not that organized – no,” Bodeen admits. People will say to me ‘well, did you mean this because of this?’ and I’m like wow… I never thought of that before but, sure!”
There’s a stereotype that authors tend to base characters off of people that they’ve known in their life, but that doesn’t apply to Bodeen. “ I might incorporate quirks or maybe hobbies somebody had – but no; that’s as far as it goes.”
However, when it comes to naming the characters, she’s always thinking. “It kinda just happens,” she says. “I’ll collect names when I’m book signing, or if children have cool names I’ll save them – they come from everywhere.”
She’s always appreciated young adult novels, and finds that within the genre, you find the most mature readers. “I always wanted to write for young adults – for me growing up, those were some of the most formative books and we didn’t have near the selection that there is now,” she says. “I knew I always wanted to add to that selection.
She doesn’t give the cliche ending that the readers want – she stays unique. “I don’t think I do very often – no, not from emails I get about my endings… yeah, I don’t think I’ve given people what they want; which is okay because I like an ending that makes the reader think and they kinda have to figure it out by themselves.”
Bodeen’s fans are eagerly anticipating her next book. “I have a new one coming out next year called ‘The Tomb,’ and it’s sci-fi… there’s two main characters: a girl and a boy. I’ve been waiting for revision notes from my editor for this novel. In the meantime my friend and I have been writing a screenplay on an original idea I had… I always wanted to do a screenplay so that was fun, especially to do something different.”
She offers a tip to amateur writers that she believes is instrumental in becoming a successful writer. “Just read, read read,” she preaches. “I feel like you can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader first – they go together hand in hand. Second, do as much writing as you can because the more you do it, the better you get and listen in English class; the more tools you have in your toolbox, the better off you’ll be.”
She shares some of her personal favorites from other authors as well. “My favorite author is probably Stephen King – though I read books by a ton of other people too,” Bodeen says. To name a few: I love Margaret Atwood and Larry Watson, Amy Tan… and I read a lot of young adult so I also love Andrew Smith.”
She has many interests outside of writing, and she’s very involved with her family. “I like to work out, I’m at the gym every day,” she says. “I like to bake and I read all the time… I’m probably reading when I should be writing. I like being outside and doing stuff outside.” Currently, she’s living in the Midwest with her husband and her two daughters.
She closes our interview with an anxiously anticipated Q&A regarding some of her novels.
We begin with the Shipwreck Island Series – a series composed of four books intended for a middle-school audience. She talks about some of her favorite characters and who she feels the strongest connection to. “Nacho is my favorite – I really love him,” she says. “But as for connecting, probably Yvonna (the Mom), because as I’m a mom myself, you think about everything you can do to keep your children safe.” Next, she answers the question on her huge genre plot twist midway through the series. “I’m a huge sci-fi fan and I don’t know how I’ve waited this long to get aliens in a book but I decided to take it out of the box and so, it went from an adventure to sci-fi. I liked the way the series turned and I hope the readers did too.”
Switching gears to The Raft, readers have been pondering why she decided to have Max play such a minor character before dying. “He actually – in my first thoughts, wasn’t going to make it very far off the plane, and in some of my early things – I don’t think he survived at all,” she says. “It was just his journal, and then I realized I needed to have him be there for some of it. It took me a long time to decide when he was gonna die or if he was going to die. I liked him, I really liked him as a character. The book started and I couldn’t just have her alone in the raft the entire time, I needed another character and that was the way to do it without really adding another character.”
Bodeen’s book “The Detour,” was a huge surprise to her audience. It was definitely the darkest book she’s written. “I’m a huge Stephen King fan and I thought for a while ‘well, why don’t they do a teenage Misery?’” She says. “I thought about ‘what if there’s this young girl who’s becoming famously published’ because there’s a lot of young authors around the world getting major book deals recently. That’s pretty much how the idea came about – I knew it was going to be dark from the beginning… but it ended up becoming darker than I thought. I’m pleased with that book. I think it’s cool and could be made into a pretty great movie.”
We end with the fan favorite: “The Compound”. She believes that it’s her best work. “It’s been pretty insane with how popular the Compound is,” Bodeen says. “It made it on several state awards lists, won several state bestseller awards – and it’s almost 250 million copies have been sold. The Compound is also the book I hear the most of in terms of ‘are you gonna make a movie?”

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