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Young Adult author reads

BY ISAAC HAMLET | APRIL 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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The past decade has seen the rise of Young Adult books, stories written for children that were often disregarded and deemed as having minimal merit.

On Saturday at 5 p.m., Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., will host Young Adult author Christian Schoon as he reads from his novel Under Nameless Stars, the sequel to Zenn Scarlett.

"I think that YA is an exciting genre that doesn't get enough attention from a certain aspect of the literary community," said Carmen Machado, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop who studied fiction writing. "I take great pleasure in discovering books that fall outside of people's radar simply because of their designation as YA."

The book follows 17-year-old heroin Zenn in her training as an exoveterinarian (a doctor for often dangerous alien animals) and the search for her father, whose communications have ceased.

"[Zenn's] seriously smart, massively compassionate, and very science-minded," Schoon said. "She's a bit claustrophobic when it comes to being inserted into a giant animal using the medical vehicle called an in-soma pod, but who wouldn't be? She's also quite naïve about human nature, socially awkward, over-confident at times and tends to speak without thinking. But basically, she's someone I'd be glad to sit next to at a party."

Schoon was raised in a household filled with books. As an early reader, he favored nonfiction books on animals as well as works of science fiction from such authors such as Isaac Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs. After receiving a degree in journalism and years of scripting shows aimed at teens, he thought to attempt a Young Adult novel.

"[Schoon] has a wonderful ability to create imaginative new worlds, to populate them with the most incredible creatures," said Adam Schear, Schoon's agent. "There was always some fascinating detail that made the creature understandable yet unique. There are creatures who carry cities on their backs and creatures with hundreds of mouths that can replicate the sound of an orchestra."

Schoon attributes the idea of extovets to his relocation to Iowa and subsequent involvement with "an ark's-worth of creatures" on his farm. This coupled with a lifetime of loving science fiction led to the creation of Zenn Scarlett.

"Growing up, I always wanted a pet alien, whether it was an Ewok or ET, and I'm sure I'm not the only one," Schear said. "I think the concept will instantly appeal to a lot of people, but they'll quickly be excited to see that the Zenn Scarlett books match the concept with endearing characters, a thrilling plot, and a ton of heart."

It's a plot with characters that readers won't have to say goodbye to anytime in the near future — Schoon is in the early stages of a third book, though it's "fighting for oxygen" with other manuscripts he's planning.

"All in all, the entire novel-forging and book-publishing experience was a fabulous, maddening, intriguing process that taught me more than I could ever hope to list about writing, character creation, and world-building," Schoon said. "I can only hope the books' readers will have as good a time immersing themselves in Zenn's world and her adventures."


WORDS
"Live from Prairie Lights," Christian Schoon
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque
Admission: Free


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