Most Young Adult-genre authors don’t have this problem.
Juliette Turner’s debut novel, That’s Not Hay in My Hair, comes out this week, and naturally she wants to spread the word. But she’s having the dickens of a time finding the time.
The reason? “I have exams during the second week of March,” Turner says, “and I kind of have to concentrate on those.”
That’s right. This Young Adult novelist is actually a young adult.
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She’s an 18-year-old high school senior who lives with her mother on a ranch in Colleyville.
If you look at the author photos in most YA books, the people in the pictures tend to be a bit older — in their 20s, 30s or 40s.
Maybe it shouldn’t matter how old the novelist is. What counts most, of course, is the ability to tell a good story. Yet there’s something ineffably refreshing about the writer and the reader of one of these books being contemporaries.
There are other books written by teenagers, but I would say they are relatively few.
“There are other books written by teenagers, but I would say they are relatively few,” Turner says. “I think that’s an aspect of my book that’s unique. It’s not written by an adult who’s trying to imagine or remember what goes on in a kid’s mind.”
That’s Not Hay in My Hair, published by Zonderkids, a division of HarperCollins, is the story of Jules, a New York City girl whose life is upended when her single mom moves them to a 300-acre ranch in North Texas.
Mother and daughter don’t have any hired hands, so they have to fend for themselves on an expansive spread that includes three horses and 25 longhorns. It’s a culture shock for the middle-school-age city girl, but the eternally optimistic Jules quickly adjusts and comes to love her rural surroundings.
Juliette — who is the daughter of actress Janine Turner, of Northern Exposure fame — based the story on experiences she had growing up on a very similar Texas ranch.
“We didn’t move from the big city to the ranch in quite the same way,” Juliette notes. “I have always lived on the ranch. Then we lived in New York for a year before we moved back full-time.”
As for the part about a fiercely independent woman and her young daughter being the sole caretakers of the property, that’s exactly the way it really happened.
It’s not an easy task, taking care of a whole ranch by ourselves, especially when you have longhorns all over the place and horses and dogs and cats, the whole menagerie
“It was just the two of us,” Juliette says. “I went to a school nearby and we spent morning and night taking care of the animals. It’s not an easy task, taking care of a whole ranch by ourselves, especially when you have longhorns all over the place and horses and dogs and cats, the whole menagerie.
“The book takes place in summer, but life on a ranch can be challenging in winter, as well.”
Many of the things that happen to Jules in the book happened first to Juliette — from the comedic, like being bitten on the backside by a horse, to the poignant, like coping with the loss of a beloved animal.
“There are a lot of lessons woven into the book,” she says. “Jules has to adapt. But the optimism that Jules has about every situation, I hope that kids see that and connect to that.
“I hope they said, ‘Oh, I can be optimistic in this situation. It’s not ideal and I might be unhappy about it. But I can grin and bear it.’ There’s always a silver lining. You just have to find it.”
This isn’t Juliette’s first published book. She’s also the author of two nonfiction works.
It’s worth mentioning, by the way, that this isn’t Juliette’s first published book. She’s also the author of two nonfiction works.
In 2012’s Our Constitution Rocks!, she wrote about the U.S. Constitution in a way that made the historic document relevant to a new generation. In 2014’s Our Presidents Rock!, she introduced young readers to presidential history.
For a girl who grew up on a ranch, Juliette Turner doesn’t believe in letting the grass grow underneath her feet.
She intends to write another book, possibly a sequel to That’s Not Hay in My Hair, or maybe it will be a continuation of the “Rocks!” series, but it will have to wait.
“Right now, I’m more planning on applying to colleges and things of that nature,” Juliette says.
But who knows? Maybe in the meantime, there could be a movie version of That’s Not Hay in My Hair. A production company called Inkling Entertainment has already bought the film rights.
“I think it would be hilarious for my mom to play the mom in a movie,” Juliette says. “You know she would be great in that role. But she has already told me what she really wants is to direct the movie. And you know what? I like that idea, too.”
That’s Not Hay in My Hair
- By Juliette Turner
- Zonderkids, $8.99