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  • Tanis Browning-Shelp

Why a Series?

Getting to know Maryn O’Brien through writing the series.

When I wrote Crash Course, the first in my Maryn O’Brien series about a teen mountain bike racer, I was focused on writing just that one book. I had a story idea and I wanted to offer kids a glimpse into the world of a serious young competitive athlete.

I didn’t plan it, but the book came out in short chapters. Like Maryn, readers could cover lots of ground quickly, the book’s form mimicking the character’s own pace and intensity.

Readers—often busy kids themselves—liked the way they could power through several chapters in a short period of time, some even describing it as “a ride!”

At that time in my life, my own kids were tweens enrolled in multiple competitive pursuits. I was surrounded by kids just like them at practices, meets, tournaments, rehearsals, and performances. Supporting these kids made me realize how many ways life can get in the way of major athletic goals. Road blocks seemed to pop up for them in all directions!

Maryn began entering my psyche in an ongoing way along with the kids around me. And their real-life experiences inspired me to ask myself what my new friend Maryn would do if faced with such obstacles. I didn’t know the answer when I set off to write more, but I was determined to find out.

I got to know Maryn better with each challenge I put before her. And so, Maryn grew up and experienced things as my own kids and their friends did. I believe that she became even more real to me as I wrote the books in a series than she would have if I had sat down to write one hefty volume about the athlete and her journey. And much like my busy readers, I liked the books’ manageable sizes (or bite-sized chunks).

Additionally, my kids and their friends grew up enjoying (and sometimes even collecting) several different book series—from manga to Harry Potter and everything in between. I loved watching them anticipate the next book. And I felt the same excitement when my own readers asked me what was next for Maryn O’Brien!

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