Anne Riley isn’t just a high school Spanish teacher. She is a keen observer of teenagers — which becomes inspiration for her young adult novels.
“I watch every day and see where they are coming from and how they perceive the results of things,” Riley said of her work at Westminster School. “I can nail a teenage voice now.”
All of her works to date have a fantastical element, but she said she also has ideas for a contemporary novel with a local setting, like John Green’s Looking for Alaska. Regardless, though, she doesn’t see herself writing outside the young adult genre, which by definition has a main character age 12-18.
“It’s such an emotional time in life that a big part of it is connecting with the emotions that feel so big,” she said. “I think those emotions are valid. They are the same as everyone, only felt more intensely. They see the world as it relates to themselves today, whereas older adults might see the world in the way it affects the future.”
Riley, a Sunny Meadows resident, said her love of writing started with a love of reading. She can’t remember learning to read, but she knows it happened before she started school. Soon, she read anything she could get her hands on.
She finished Lord of the Flies at age 8 and The Count of Monte Cristo not much later. At age 9, she wrote her first book about her favorite animal, ferrets.
The Chronicles of Narnia stood out as she devoured book after book. She loved the idea of going in a closet and walking out somewhere else.
So when she decided to commit to writing a full book in 2008, she also created one that transported its readers to a different world.
Her first book, Shadows of the Hidden, follows a character who sees alternate endings to the same event. She calls it a time travel murder mystery set in the American colonies. It was published in 2011 and is available from online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Soon thereafter, Briarwood Christian School stocked the book in its library and put it on the summer reading list.
“It was funny teaching and saying [to students], ‘Please put my book down,’” she recalled of her time at Briarwood, where she taught for nine years before coming to Westminster.
Currently Riley is revising a second novel, Pull, to be published in December 2015.
While her first book was an alternate history of America, this one is set in an alternate present reality and addresses forces of evil and what might happen if you were able to stop them. Both books draw their settings from Riley’s love of traveling.
The first provided her an excuse to visit Maine streets via Google Maps.
For the second, she got to travel in her mind back to a little-known neighborhood in London where she spent time in college.
Between her travels and everyday life, Riley doesn’t know how to make ideas for her writing stop.
“Stories just pop into my head from writing, students, experiences or random things,” she said.
Now the mother of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, she writes whenever she gets a chance, on Sunday afternoons while her husband watches their kids or on Fridays when she gets out of school midday. Often she finds herself in a quiet spot in the North Shelby Library.
She still, of course, also finds time to read, mostly young adult novels. Her favorite reads are the Divergent, Raven Boys and Harry Potter series.
For more, visit annerileybooks.com.