Just Beyond Neverland
I love children and the magic of childhood; in many ways I think my heart still straddles the doorway to Neverland. But I also love the in-between years of the teens. Like most humans, the teenage season of my life was probably one of the most challenging. As teenagers, we don’t belong in the nursery anymore, but we don’t yet belong in the enigmatic world of grown-ups either. Our understanding of life is unfolding, and much of what we believe about ourselves and the world is growing deep roots that the rest of our lives will feed from. It is no small wonder these short teen years are so vital. And perhaps why I love them so much. The possibilities are endless, the future is calling like the horizon, and dreams and destiny are starting to come into clear focus.
When I was fourteen, I already knew that I wanted to write stories, and had been doing so for as long as I could remember. I adored books, and spent many summer holidays hidden in my room with my nose in a book instead of doing typical outdoor summer activities. I would become inspired by the stories I loved, and then I just had to write some of my own. As my young mind expanded with ideas, I began pondering what kind of stories I loved most. What books held my favorite characters, favorite themes, favorite genre, favorite plot? What novels did I as a teenager love and relate to most, and why? Like pieces to a puzzle, a concept started forming in my mind… why not write a story that I, as a teen, would want to read myself? I mean, how many books out there were written about teens from the perspective of one? And who better could understand a teen—the dreams, hopes, fears, processes, pains, dramas, questions, etc—than another teen?
This is one of the things that makes The Mark of Fire series so special to me: that I began writing it when I was fourteen-years-old because I wanted to write a story from the perceptive of a girl my age, and one that I, as a teen, would want to read myself. And though it has now been fifteen years (which, hopefully, have given me some new perspectives and maturity), the heroes of this story timelessly remain young teenagers, who were created by a peer.
If you’re a teenager, I just want to leave you with a note of encouragement. Though the feeling that life ahead is a blank page is exhilarating, it can also be scary. Depending upon circumstances, it can be terrifying. Maybe no one in your life has believed in you. Maybe you don’t think you’ve got what it takes to pursue your dream. Maybe you don’t even have a dream! And let’s not forget that most of us have that crazy uncle who wants to know, now that we are in high school, just what exactly we plan to do with the rest of our life.
If we brush off the pressure I truly believe these in-between years can be a beautiful, epic time of discovery and coming alive. Every person is born to change the world, and everyone needs to know they have what it takes. The path itself doesn’t matter, having it all figured out doesn’t matter—all that matters is knowing you are beautiful, brave, worth fighting for, and that you carry inside you the seeds to seeing what you burn for come to pass.
These are some of the processes that my five teenage characters in The Mark of Fire deal with, and things they must work out. As writing about it helped me, and as I related and connected to these characters as a teenager, I hope that you, my teen reader, will do the same. I champion you on your journey.
“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” - Joan of Arc, a teenager.