Smugglivus Smugglivus Guest Author

Smugglivus 2013 Guest Author: James Ponti

Welcome to Smugglivus 2013! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2013, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2014.

Who: James Ponti, author of the utterly awesome middle grade Dead City zombie series. Thea just discovered Dead City (book 1) this year, and quickly devoured Blue Moon (book 2).

Dead City Blue Moon

Please welcome James, folks!

Happy Smugglivus! I am both thrilled and humbled to be participating in this year’s festivities. Thea and Ana have graciously consented to let me stray off of the year-in-review motif. So, rather than listing some of the YA Fiction I love, I will list some of the reasons I love writing YA Fiction. It’s a golden age for Young Adult and Middle Grade writing, so with apologies to Rebecca Wells, I give you a few of the Divine Secrets of the YA-MG Sister(and sometimes but usually not brother)hood.


For me it always starts with the voice. There are so many great ones out there. It only takes one line in The Fault in Our Stars to be totally hooked. I’m already in love with the protagonist and heartbroken about what might happen to her. Sometimes for fun I’ll just go on Amazon and start clicking the “Look Inside” button on a circuitous list of books so I can read voice after voice of amazing characters. The key is that they’re honest. It’s always been that way. Consider the opening line of what many consider the first YA novel, Maureen Daly’s Seventeenth Summer: “I don’t know just why I’m telling you all this.” It was written in 1942 and seventy-one years later it still resonates. It’s personal. It’s present. And there’s a hint of the subversive.

The Fault in our Stars Seventeenth Summer


I’ve worked in a variety of media and entertainment jobs and one thing really stands out as unique about YA and MG Publishing. The male: female ratio is like something you’d see at a Taylor Swift concert. It is dominated by women. Smart women. (The three overseeing Dead City at Aladdin went to Mount Holyoke, Rice, NYU, Columbia and Northwestern. Notice how there are more degrees than people and they’re all from really good schools?) The results of this phenomenon include a supportive environment for writers to develop and a steady stream of kickass female protagonists who are not marginalized like they would be if they started on television or movies.


How cool is this blog? I mean, seriously. Thea and Ana have created a great place for people to share their love of books. And they’re not alone. The passion and dedication exhibited by bloggers who write about YA fiction is staggering and inspiring. It’s also essential. With so many titles and so few bookstores, writers like me who aren’t well known rely on bloggers to spread the word. Their importance is matched only by librarians. (It’s no surprise that many of the best YA blogs are written by librarians.) At the moment I am deeply indebted to the Texas Library Association, which nominated Dead City for the 2014-2015 Bluebonnet Award. That will do more to get the book into the hands of readers than anything else. If you are in Texas and see any librarians, please give them each a hug from me.


I have always enjoyed hanging out with writers and the ones who write YA tend to be less dark and more fun. (They also post the funniest comments on Facebook.) You might expect them to be competitive, but the truth is they’re usually friendly and encouraging. I think we tend to view each other as allies looking to create new readers. It also helps that most of us were pretty high on the nerd scale growing up and are thrilled to find like-minded people.


Most of all, I love the readers. I believe that writers get to create the characters but that readers own them. I recently had the chance to go to the LA premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. There were thousands of people screaming and they weren’t just screaming for Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. They were screaming for Suzanne Collins. It totally rocked and it was obvious that their love was rooted in a love for the books first and foremost. This love stays with them. My son is a college freshman and he says that the most impassioned discussions they have in his dorm are not about religion or politics but Harry Potter, John Green and the other books that define them.

Catching Fire Catching Fire

It’s also great that in a world of connectivity readers and writers can talk to each other. I received an email from a middle school girl who had a question about two of the characters in Dead City. She wanted to know if they have Asperger’s Syndrome. I was really surprised because in fact, one of them does, but I had decided never to mention it outright in the book. It was just something that I knew to help me in the writing. She guessed it because she has Asperger’s and she related with the character so well. Then she told me that she was going to visit Central Park to look for Manhattan schist, which is a special type of rock that plays an important role in the book. She wanted to hand out samples of it to her classmates when she told them about the book. And that is what I love most about my job.

Thank you, James!

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1 Comment

  • Jana
    December 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I love to see articles written by YA authors about why they love to write–because the books they’re writing can be just as affecting and important as fiction for so-called adults!

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