Interview conducted by Book Series Recaps editor and YA author, Sara Watterson.
Join me as I interview clean YA authors Nadine Brandes and Sara Ella. But first, let me introduce you to the three of us and tell you why I sought them out.
My name is Sara Watterson and I’m an owner/editor here at Book Series Recaps. I’m also a graphic design teacher and a newbie YA author (my debut novel, This Dreamer, drops on May 3rd).
And these are my two new friends, fellow authors Nadine Brandes and Sara Ella. Both of these lovely ladies are speakers, have published multiple books (see links below), are raising kids, are helping other authors, and have a book coming out in the next few months.
By the way, you should follow each of them on Instagram (links below photos). I know I do! Some of their reels are hilarious!
So how did I come across these two fabulous Authors?
When my friend and I started this website, we knew many people would find book recaps helpful, but we didn’t expect that one of our most popular pages would not be a recap at all. Can you guess which page consistently draws traffic every year, every month, every day? This one: Clean YA Books for Teens, Tweens, or Anyone.
You are not alone if you’re consistently looking for clean books for yourself or your kids. Many parents hunt for clean books for the teens and tweens in their lives. Myself included. That’s why we started the clean book recommendations page and began the hunt for authors of clean books.
And that’s how I found these two clean YA authors who are committed to writing clean fiction suitable for readers of all ages. Below, we’ll discuss writing, priorities, and why they are committed to writing clean books for readers like you. Oh, and they also offer a few book recommendations!
An interview with Nadine Brandes and Sara Ella, authors of clean books
Sara Watterson: How did your writing career begin? How long did it take?
Nadine Brandes: Mine mainly started with A TIME TO DIE. I pitched it at a conference, and it got picked up by Enclave Publishing. Only then did I think about writing as a career. Originally I’d just wanted to get A TIME TO DIE into the hands of readers. Then it turned into a trilogy, and then I got more ideas after that, and thus my author career took flight. I wasn’t agented at the time but instead signed with an agent to pitch FAWKES and ROMANOV. I met that agent at a conference. Basically, writing conferences are where everything happened for me! It took me about three years to write A TIME TO DIE before it got contracted.
Sara Ella: My journey is similar to Nadine’s—everything really does happen at a writing conference. I pitched UNBLEMISHED to a few agents at the first writing conference I ever attended. That conference happened to be the same place I met Nadine. I’d entered UNBLEMISHED into a writing contest and won, and everything started happening from there. I was offered representation by an agent a few months later, and six months after that I was offered a three-book contract for the trilogy. It took about a year from the time I wrote THE END on UNBLEMISHED until I was offered a book contract.
Sara Watterson: Is it challenging to balance writing with the other demands on your time?
Nadine Brandes: I wouldn’t say it’s any more difficult than balancing anything with anything else. I have to be intentional with prioritizing my time and constantly revisit what is most important. For me, that’s Jesus, my family, and then writing. Since Jesus gave me the passion (and calling) for both family and writing, I trust Him to make the time as long as I am diligent not to be a sluggard or to use my time unwisely. It’s felt surprisingly balanced. I also have to make sure not to commit to deadlines or writing projects that are too tight for me to meet without compromising my commitment to my family.
Sara Ella: I agree with Nadine in that it’s all about balancing priorities and being intentional. I have to remember when I’m in the deadline trenches not to lose myself in the pressure of finishing a manuscript. Taking a moment to read to my toddler or chat with my teen is important. I can always ask for a deadline extension (usually), but those moments with my family are ones I will look back on and regret missing if I don’t take time for them. Is it difficult? Sometimes, but that’s life. I have to keep giving my time over to the Lord and remember that it belongs to Him.
Sara Watterson: How did you two meet?
Nadine Brandes: We met at a conference! Ha! We told you everything happens for us at a conference. We were two of the very few YA writers attending a non-YA writer’s conference and met up during the newbie orientation. We were both awkward and introverted, but then we attended a book signing together a few months later and then decided to be roommates at the same conference the following year, which turned into me surprising her for her debut book launch, and it’s all snowballed from there in the best way! Now we talk every day and betroth our children to one another, LOL. We think Jesus knew we needed a best friend who understood the same journey of writing and family.
Sara Watterson: What made you decide to team up and conduct webinars, and has it met your expectations?
Nadine Brandes: We both speak at so many conferences and are often asked for writing advice from young writers. After a couple years of speaking to and mentoring writers young in their journey, we decided to try teaming up and sharing that information in one place that’s more accessible to authors. To be honest, we were both a little worried about how it would go. Being best friends is one thing, but being business partners is another. Thankfully we work seamlessly together, and it’s been nothing but a joy!
Sara Watterson: I watched your last webinar about retellings and loved it. What draws you to retellings? Which are some of your favorites?
Nadine Brandes: Aww thank you! We’re drawn to retellings because often the most powerful stories need to be told again and again. That’s why we love them; that’s why we write them. Some of our favorite retellings are Cinderella retellings because that story exemplifies humility and hope despite dire circumstances.
Sara Watterson: Anything you would like to say to readers looking for clean books for themselves or their kids?
Sara Ella: We have talked about this topic on several occasions. We’ve both purged some of the books we read in the past because certain content wasn’t something we wanted our own children to pick up off our bookshelves and read. When it comes to boundaries, whether in what we read or what we write, motherhood has greatly influenced our perspectives. We’ve both grown in the Lord in this area, and more than anything, we want to pass on books to our kids that express the same values we hold dear. With that said, you won’t find profanity or sexual content in our stories. While our books include romance threads, those relationships don’t go beyond kissing. We truly want other parents to feel safe giving our books to their teens. If we wouldn’t want our kids reading it as a young adult, we don’t include it in our books.
…you won’t find profanity or sexual content in our stories…We truly want other parents to feel safe giving our books to their teens. If we wouldn’t want our kids reading it as a young adult, we don’t include it in our books.Sara Ella
Sara Watterson: Do you have any suggestions for readers looking for clean YA other than your own books?
Nadine Brandes: Any book from Enclave Publishing will be well-written, fantastical, and clean. (Clean meaning no profanity or sexual content or unnecessary dark topics with minimal non-graphic violence.) We have no problem recommending their books even if we haven’t read them for ourselves. They have both a Young Adult line of books and Adult fiction, all speculative fiction.
Sara Ella: We also trust anything written by Kiera Cass. She’s a Christian author in the secular market, and her books are ones we return to time and time again. We also enjoy Kasie West’s contemporary romance novels. They’re cute and clean coming-of-age stories that are perfect for summertime reading.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled to know there are authors out there who are committed to writing clean books for me and my kids. Thank you, thank you to Nadine and Sara for sharing their writing journey with us!
Upcoming Books by clean YA authors Nadine Brandes, Sara Ella, and Sara Watterson
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Other Books by Nadine Brandes and Sara Ella
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