I was recently impressed when teenager, Ehi Ike, contacted me and told me that she wrote her first book at the age of 13. I wrote my first book when I was 16, after waking up in the middle of the night with the whole outline for the book in my head. The difference between the two of us? She's published.
So, I decided to ask Ehi what the secret is to getting published. Here's what she had to say about that, being a young author and where she got her inspiration for her novel, Taken Away.
|photos courtesy of Ehi Ike|
-->Q: You were pretty young when you wrote Taken Away. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Ehi: My book was published when I was 14 and I just turned 15 in June. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in elementary school. I remember making an illustrated book in first grade. I really got into reading Junie B. Jones books and others like it and wanted to be able to create my own stories. In eighth grade, an author came to our school and spoke with us about how he published his first book in middle school. After that I knew I could publish a book at my age, too.
Q: Being that you're so young, how difficult was it to get published? What was your experience like?
Ehi: It wasn’t hard for me to get my book published at all. I just looked up publishing companies and sent a manuscript in. A publishing company sent me a contract and after that we started editing the book and going over the cover design. I didn’t know it took so long to get a book published but everything moved pretty fast.
Q: Do you ever feel like the publishing world or even the literary world, looks at you differently because you're a teenager? Do you think they treat you better or worse because of your age?
Ehi: If anything they treat me better because of my age. People are pretty amazed at the fact that I'm only 15-years-old and have published a book. They might be more interested in buying the book and the publishing company knows that.
Q: The subject of Taken Away is really interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
Ehi: Taken Away is about a girl named Mimi Jones, who is taken away from her home, along with many of her friends, because Congress passed a law saying that any parent making less than $50,000 a year isn’t capable of taking care of their children. The children are supposed to go stay in facility where they'll get a better education and lifestyle, but really the world is too over-populated and they're planning on killing them.
Q: Where did you get the idea for the book?
Ehi: I was in American History class in eighth grade and my teacher asked us, “What would you do if you were taken away from your home?” After she said that, I immediately thought of Mimi Jones and started coming up with the plot.
Q: Do you think something like what happens in Taken Away could really happen in the world as we know it?
Ehi: It's realistic fiction, so yes, I think something like that could happen. We've seen things like that before in history, like the Trail of Tears, the Holocaust and even what’s going on now in China. With the Holocaust they were discriminating against race but in this book it’s a different kind of discrimination. It’s discrimination against how much money someone makes and you don’t really see that too often.
Q: Your main character's a bit clumsy, smart and the leader of her group of friends. How much of you is in her?
Ehi: Well, all my friends who've read my book say Mimi is a lot like me—especially the clumsy part. I didn’t really mean to make her like me, but I think subconsciously I made her similar.
Q: Is writing something you enjoy? Are you working on any other books right now?
Ehi: Yes! I definitely enjoy writing! I've always wanted to be an author and now I am. I hope to continue to write more books in the future. In fact, there's going to be a sequel to Taken Away, so hopefully you'll see that in the next year or so.
Q: What do your friends and family have to say about your writing?
Ehi: My friends have been so supportive! They come to my book signings and one of my friends from Chicago even started a book club and made Taken Away her first topic. I'm grateful to have such supportive friends!
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ehi: I love Meg Cabot, J.K. Rowling, and Dan Brown. The Mediator series from Meg Cabot is amazing. And of course I love the Harry Potter books. I love the way Dan Brown writes...Angels and Demons is one of his best books. I also love this book called Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Nqozi Adichie!.
Q: It's pretty clear that Mimi was totally into Alex. Was this part of the book based on your own experience with first loves?
Ehi: In The Host, Stephenie Meyer said the best story is a love story. So I tried to create some kind of romance in the book. It’s the subplot and isn't based on my own experience.
Q. Besides writing, what else do you like to do in your spare time?
Ehi: I'm on the pom squad at my school and we cheer and dance at basketball games. I've also been running track since fourth grade. I'm a sprinter. I also usually hang out with my friends if I'm not busy doing homework or something academic.
Q. Any advice for aspiring teen writers?
Ehi: Not just for writers, but for any teenager: Follow your dreams! If you want something badly enough, it will happen.