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Authors’ Fierce Read discussion to focus on fiction for young adults

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Michael Martin
Emma Mills
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Uldis Balodis
Caleb Roehrig
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Julia Scott
Marissa Meyer
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Jacqueline Ward Images
Anna Banks

The concept of Fierce Reads is simple: Four young-adult writers joining forces like rock bands sharing a stage at a festival. But instead of music, the Fierce Read writers share stories with their audiences while sometimes learning a few things from each other.

“It’s a lot more fun (than touring alone),” says Emma Mills, who will appear with fellow writers Anna Banks, Marissa Meyer and Caleb Roehrig on Oct. 4 at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland as a guest of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Words & Pictures. “It’s more of a discussion among different authors. It just helps to have people to chat with and play off of.”

The quartet of writers appearing in Pittsburgh, the first stop on the tour, is diverse. Mills, who is also known as the video blogger (vlogger) Emlify, is the author of “The Adventure Ends” (Henry Holt, $17.99), about a young girl coming to grips with her family after moving from New York to Florida.

Banks is the author of the romance fantasy series the Syrena Legacy, and Meyer, the best-selling author of “The Lunar Chronicles,” will release “Heartless,” (Feiwel & Friends), a prequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” in November.

Roehrig is the newcomer to the troupe, with his debut novel “Last Seen Leaving” (Feiwel and Friends, $17.99), a mystery about a teenage boy looking for his errant girlfriend.

It’s a diverse roster of talents, one that Roehrig feels reflects the many interests of today’s young-adult readers.

“With adult fiction, the categories are pretty rigidly structured,” says Roehrig, who also has worked as an actor and television producer. “But with young-adult fiction, there’s so much genre mixing and so much experimenting within the bounds of what are traditionally accepted genres like sci-fi or fantasy or contemporary. There’s a lot of appeal there.”

For Mills, who started as a vlogger while she was in college and has almost 70,000 followers on her YouTube channel, young-adult fiction offers her the opportunity to explore endless possibilities. She chose the genre because “it’s an incredibly interesting and ever-changing time of your life, a time that has a lot of potential,” Mills says.

“When I started writing my first book, ‘First & Then,’ I was still in high school myself,” she adds. “I was kind of writing what I knew, in a way. But for the second book (“The Adventure Ends”), I was still drawn to that time of my life. And it’s a genre with a passionate fan base, which is why I love YA readers.”

It’s also a fan base that is savvy beyond its years. Roehrig says that the growth of young-adult fiction over the past 10 years has created young-adult readers who are both sophisticated and discerning critics.

“Teenagers know when they’re being talked down to,” Roehrig says. “If you’re not going to take things seriously, they’re going to sense it and they won’t be interested. It’s kind of like you’re talking to adults who just don’t have as much life experiences yet.”

The free event is part of RADical Days in Pittsburgh.

Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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