Young Adult Novels by Norma Howe
Author of Novels and Stories for Young Adults

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I was born in east San Jose, California, the daughter of a railroad man and an Italian immigrant. I have two brothers, one older and one younger. As a youngster I did well in school, but probably not as well as I could have. I got my first paying job at age ten, which was summertime work picking prunes and cutting apricots with my older brother in the orchards not far from our home. We were fortunate, however, because we were allowed to keep the money we earned, while some of the other children were obliged to give it to their parents to help support their families. Later, as a teenager and young adult, I held several different jobs, including cannery work, soda-jerking, and answering phones in the circulation department of the San Jose Evening News, giving lame excuses to irate customers for missing, late, or rain-soaked papers. As for my soda-jerking days, well, my extra-thick chocolate milkshakes are legendary.

One guy who really liked thick chocolate shakes was high school classmate Bob Howe. We were married while attending San Jose State University, where I earned a BA degree in English. After Bob received his teaching credential, we moved to San Bernardino, California, where he began teaching at San Bernardino High School while I stayed home with the children, as our family had begun to grow. I began writing and selling confession stories on a somewhat sparse but regular basis to magazines such as True Story and Modern Romances, promising myself I would try something more serious as soon as the children were older and the house became less chaotic. But for the time being, a part-time evening job at a telephone answering service was a welcome respite. We moved from San Bernardino to Sacramento when Bob took a position with the California State Department of Education. His book, Data Processing For Educators (with Alvin Grossman), was published soon after that.

My husband and I made our first trip to Europe in the fall of 1981. We had such a great time roaming around Europe with our backpacks and Eurail Pass, we try to go back whenever we can.

My novels are:

For most of my life I've been interested in two philosophical questions: the conflict between faith and reason, and free will versus determinism. I tackled the faith versus reason problem in my first novel-- God, the Universe, and Hot Fudge Sundaes --, but I just couldn't figure out how to handle the topic of free will in a young-adult novel in a non-boring way. So I wrote about peer pressure (In With the Out Crowd), the foolishness of astrology and the randomness of life (The Game of Life), and the awakening of a young girl to the wonders of the world outside of her little sphere of existence (Shoot for the Moon).

Finally it was time to direct my thoughts to the question of free will. After many false starts, it occurred to me that I needed humor to hold the reader's interest and a viewpoint that would allow me to assimilate it. Writing the book from the omniscient point of view seemed to be the answer. I could know and comment on all things, past, present, and future. I would start with my hero's conception and proceed from there. The idea of having my hero change his name to that of his cartoon creation came from real life. One of my sons met a friend at college who had done just that. (You'll find his assumed name--Pureheart--in the dedication of my book.) But I chose the name Blue Avenger, and this book, unlike my others, had a title before it was written: The Adventures of Blue Avenger. I revised as I wrote, and the final draft was written in about 30 sittings spread over three or four months. It was so much fun to write I almost regretted getting to the final chapter.

Because The Adventures of Blue Avenger was so well-received, I was encouraged by my editor, Marc Aronson, to write a sequel. I was delighted to oblidge, and I knew exactly what one of my main themes would be: the much-maligned but extremely fascinating topic called The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy.

Shortly after the publication of Blue Avenger Cracks the Code, my editor at Henry Holt left his position there to become the editorial director of Cricket Books, a division of Carus Publishing Company. In 2002, Blue Avenger and the Theory of Everything, the third book in my Blue Avenger Trilogy, became one of the first books published there under the new Marcato Books imprint.

I first got the idea for Angel in Vegas shortly after the tragic death of Princess Diana in a Paris underpass in August 1997, when an overwrought woman in the grocery store cried out to those of us in line, "Where, oh, where was her guardian angel?" Where, indeed! I thought. And I thought and I thought, and after almost ten years of thought, the story finally surfaced.

I enjoy writing for young adults because I can so readily identify with people in that age group. Perhaps it's because I am short and have always been what used to be called a tomboy that I have the feeling I have never really grown up. Somehow, I got stuck at about age thirteen. Maybe some day I'll get over that, but I doubt it. In the meantime, I'll see just how long I can get away with wearing my jeans and sweat shirt everywhere I go.

If you'd like to learn more about my writing life and my suggestions for aspiring writers, check out my TeenReads interview.

Norma Howe passed away on April 19, 2011. The family-written obituary is available here. The Sacramento Bee website has the editorial obituary written by Robert D. Dávila.