Melissa de la Cruz, Maureen Johnson talk YA -- and ghosts

Authors, from left, Ranson Riggs, Melissa de la Cruz, Maureen Johnson, Katherine Marsh and Lisa McMann discussed the young-adult genre at the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
(Tracy Brown / Los Angeles Times)

Authors Melissa de la Cruz, Maureen Johnson, Katherine Marsh and Lisa McMann were confronted with difficult questions that asked them to discuss the themes in their work, examine young adult as a genre and defend whether there is anything “original” left in the world -- all in the face of a possible paranormal presence -- during a panel moderated by author Ransom Riggs on Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

After a brief introduction by Riggs, best known for his book “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” each author was asked to describe her newest book as well as read a passage from it.

Johnson read from “The Madness Underneath,” the second installment of her “Shades of London” series about a teenage girl who discovers she can see ghosts after she and her family move to London.

The passage she chose to read recounted a scene that included the protagonist Rory as well as Alastair, a ghost. The audience laughed as Johnson explained that although the book takes place in England she would not do a British accent -- and instead read certain parts in a funny French accent.

It was while she was reading that a piece of the backdrop broke off and clattered onto the stage. As the audience and other panelists stared at the object guilty of the interruption, Johnson paused before stating, “Alastair hates this scene.”


During the panel, the crowd was treated to personal anecdotes as well as professional insights as each author spoke about her work.

Marsh revealed how she had the clear theme of fate versus free will in mind while working on her recent book, “Jepp, Who Defied the Stars.” De la Cruz, known for her multiple series such as “The Blue Blood” and “Witches of East End,” explained how she uses detailed outlines with chapter breakdowns as she works to create a clear sense of where she is going.

McMann, author of the “Wake” series, explained how her research on dreams has led her to sometimes include lucid dreams in her work process.

And what about the state of young adult literature? Marsh proclaimed that it was “a tribute to the genre that there is a lot of originality in it.”