Guest Blogger – Nina Mansfield

Why YA?

By Nina Mansfield

Often, when people hear I’ve written a young adult novel, they say something like: “Ooo, YA is really hot right now.” This statement often carries the implication I chose to write YA because the genre happens to be popular at the moment.

Other times, I’ll get a very different reaction that goes something like this: “Well, I know YA is ‘in’, but…” In the silence I can hear the words, “I don’t read kids books.”

To that I can only say that you’re missing out. YA isn’t just for kids.

SwimmingAlonefrnt (2)But I did have kids—young teens specifically— on the brain when I started writing my debut YA mystery novel, SWIMMING ALONE.

I guess it all goes back to the adage, “write what you know.” And as high school English and Drama teacher, I really got to know teens. And I learned they come in all shapes and sizes. They can be impulsive, reserved, judgmental, accepting, free-spirited, aloof, fun-loving, cautious, passionate, restrained, anxious, unconcerned. And because their brains are still developing and they’re filled with hormones, their personalities are magnified ten-fold.  They aren’t quite adults yet, but they really think they are. And while this energy can drive some people crazy, I think it’s kind of magnificent.

As a teacher, I often felt myself stepping back into my teenage shoes—remembering what it was like to fail that quiz, or have that crush, or feel misunderstood. I had to do it to understand my students better. This constant self-reflection came in handy when developing my teen protagonist. No surprise she turned out a lot like a fifteen-year old version of myself: a bit insecure, a bit judgmental, and bit impulsive. She wants to do the right thing, but as far as she’s concerned, adult interference isn’t necessary.

There’s another reason I chose to write YA. I know plenty of adults read YA, and I am one of them. But the truth is, I wrote for young people because it breaks my heart when I hear a one say they don’t like reading. I can’t imagine a life without books. I don’t know if reading saved my life, but it certainly saved my sanity. Pippi Longstocking, Ramona Quimby, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Twins… I spent my pre-teen years with these characters. In junior high, thanks to a fantastic teacher, I became hooked on the books of Lois Duncan and Joan Lowery Nixon. Soon after, I started reading Agatha Christie’s mysteries. I remember that feeling of anticipation when I thought I’d figured out the twist in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, followed by a feeling of triumph when I discovered I was right!

Throughout those tumultuous high school years—when I was in a state of constant heart break—I escaped into Brave New World and 1984. Another extraordinary teacher introduced me to Thomas Hardy. I stayed up late with Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and had my heart ripped open by Jude the Obscure. Oh, these folks had it so much harder than I did—and it helped me put my life in perspective.

I want every child to able to escape into a book when real life isn’t going as planned. During my first year teaching, I discovered even the most reluctant reader will keep turning the pages if there’s enough action and suspense. These were the readers I had in mind when I wrote SWIMMING ALONE.


The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending what she thinks will be a wretched summer. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?



Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE a YA mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in 2015. Her plays have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, illustrated by Leyla Akdogan, will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Nina’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Dramatists Guild.


10 thoughts on “Guest Blogger – Nina Mansfield

  1. This sounds like a great book, and yes, YA is a very popular genre right now. Thanks for the post!


  2. I love reading YA. I recently was invited to talk about writing to two classes (seniors) ia nearby high school. I had a great time, but I always do best when I make them laugh right off the bat. At first, my being a little old lady puts them off. I learned long ago to make lots of eye contact, ask the most bored looking and the trouble-makers questions about themselves as I’m talking about writing.

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  3. Nina,
    I write YA as well as mysteries and romantic suspense. I read your post with interest, wondering if it would explain why I still write for kids even though mine are well into their adulthood. Could be because I, too, was a high school teacher and enjoyed working with young people.


  4. Great post!
    I read YA despite the fact that I haven’t been a young adult for *ahem* quite some time. I love that YA authors offer their readers insight into how tough it can be to save the world/fall in love/simply grow up.
    All best,


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