Karen Mahoney is a writer who has also worked as a book buyer, and so is very knowledgeable about books in general. Read her guest blog about how she got into writing YA! 

First of all, a big Thank You to Jocelyn for letting me ‘borrow’ her corner of the internet. Teen Book Review is one of my favourite places to read about YA fiction, so it’s very cool to be here. 

As a writer of YA urban fantasy, I’m lucky enough to be represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency in New York (despite the fact that I’m a Brit based in London). My first novel,The Iron Witch, is currently on submission to editors in the US, so any good vibes you want to send my way would be much appreciated. ;) Regardless of that, my debut publication is coming up later this year in an anthology of YA vampire stories, The Eternal Kiss (Running Press, Autumn 2009). My story is called ‘Falling to Ash’ and puts the spotlight on an important supporting character from The Iron Witch. Moth is a young vampire who returns to her hometown for a memorial service, one year after her mother’s death, but is reluctantly pulled back into the supernatural world while she’s there. What should be a routine job for her ‘boss’ turns into something with potentially deadly consequences. I’m excited to be a part of this anthology, and if you like vampire stories you’re in for a real treat with the amazing authors that are involved. 

I write YA fiction for so many reasons – and to be honest, I didn’t even know that I was a ‘YA writer’ until I first worked as a bookseller and realised how huge the Teenage Fiction section was. I never sat down and thought: “Okay then, I’m going to write for teenagers because that’s what sells!” I write for young adults simply because I happen to love writing about characters aged around 16-18. It’s an age where a lot happened in my life, and all of those experiences – the good and the bad – seem so much more powerful when you’re going through the inevitable changes that the teenage years bring. All those ‘first times’ that we go through at 17… It makes for wonderful drama and conflict in fiction. The potential for emotional writing is huge, and I love writing big emotional scenes. I remember how brave I could be at 17, while now I am much more cautious and (try to) think things through before acting. There’s a fearless quality to many teenagers I have known. 

My stories involve the fantastic existing alongside the ordinary – I love that combination! The possibilities are endless… My characters include vampires, shape-shifting elves, half-demons, witches, and a girl with iron tattoos that give her super-strength. How can you not want to get lost in a world that’s filled with darkness and excitement; romance and adventure; and huge life-or-death battles between good and evil – usually where the sides aren’t as clearly defined as you might like? 
I used to work with older teens as a student advisor, and I learned so much then. Not just about the young adults I worked with, but also about myself. I think it was then that I realised I wanted to focus on the teenage years in my fiction. Now that I’m writing YA contemporary fantasy I can truly allow my imagination to soar, while still keeping myself and the worlds I create firmly grounded in the very real issues of what it’s like to be a teenager. I remember 

that time pretty well (too well!), even though it sometimes seems very far away. To think that I’m writing books that might one day be read by young adults who experience things so passionately… That would be a dream-come-true. :) 

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Feel free to visit me at my blog – I update almost every day and ramble on about all sorts of things over there: http://kazdreamer.livejournal.com.

I am also part of a new website and group blog for nine urban fantasy and YA authors, which will launch on Monday.

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As an avid reader of all kinds of fiction – including YA urban fantasy, I’m giving away two books to one commenter: 

An ARC of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (due for release in February), and

a signed copy of the new UK edition of Tithe by the brilliant Holly Black. 

Just leave a comment telling me what you’re reading at the moment – or what the last book you read was – and Jocelyn will pick a winner and forward me that person’s details. I’ll mail to any country.

This contest will be open until 11:59 PM EST on Wednesday, January 24. Thanks, Karen!