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.


About patyjag

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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10 Responses to Guest Blogger – Nina Mansfield

  1. Thank you so much for having me here today! I really enjoyed writing this post.


  2. 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,


  3. marilynlevinson says:

    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. marilynm says:

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. skyecaitlin says:

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


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