Category: Teen Fiction
Author Alice Westlake talks us through her inspirations, projects for the future and why she began writing mystery books for teens.
I am a teen fiction writer with three young adult mystery books under my belt, and a fourth fighting to get out of my head and down onto paper. My novels tend to be mystery and adventure stories with elements of the fantastical. My first, Under Loch and Quay, features rumours of a monster lurking in the depths of the lake. Its sequel, Margin of Horror, finds the main characters back at school and grappling with scheming headmasters and books that come to life.
Walking humbly in the shadow of JK Rowling.
—Teen fiction author, Alice Westlake
My newest project swaps fantasy for futuristic elements, as its heroine escapes from a dystopian world sealed inside a dome, where books are outlawed and sinister Guardians police everything that goes on.
In contrast to this, my third novel Breaker of Horses tells the story of Hakim, a teenage Palestinian boy with cancer. Although thematically quite different, and dealing with much more serious issues – war and fate, love and loss – it also contains dream-like fantasy elements, and a mystery of sorts to solve.
Some of the themes that unite my varied output are:
- Strong, atypical characters. I always like to make sure that my girls are feisty, independent thinkers and to show that boys can be sensitive, nerdy, and still be a hero.
- A dark and/or menacing edge to the content – even when it’s a mystery adventure romp – and a penchant for inconclusive endings. (I don’t like to have everything packaged up too neatly!)
- A fascination with books and the power and mystique of reading. Almost all of my novels have been about books in one way or another, from the haunted school library where books come to life, to the teenage boy who finds a way to make sense of his life by reading The Iliad, to the futuristic world where books are banned.
Mystery Books For Teens: ideas and inspiration
Where do I get my ideas and inspiration? Well at least two of my teen mystery books are based (very loosely, it must be said) on true experiences. Whether it be a lonely loch-side guest house surrounded by colourful rumours, or the transformative experience of having a child with cancer, I write about what I know.
But I would say that I am equally as much influenced by the books and authors that I love. I always meant to write books for adults, but since having my two sons I have read so much absolutely fantastic kids’ and teen fiction. I’ve been blown away by their humour, profundity, humanity, wisdom and just great storytelling. As an English Literature graduate and Masters, it came as something of a revelation to me that books could be ‘just’ for entertainment – and now I aim to entertain to the best of my ability, walking humbly in the shadow of Tolkein, Le Guin, SF Said, JK Rowling, RJ Palacio, Katherine Rundell, Gill Lewis and the many many other writers old and new in whose company I have been blessed to spend some time.
Books by the Alice:
Read more about Alice over here.
Also by Alice: Top 10 children’s books about books and libraries.