Joy Hensley On Rites Of Passage and the Power Of NaNoWriMo

Joy Hensley is the author of Rites Of Passage, a book about a teen girl named Sam who joins a military academy on a dare and gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a secret organization there. We recently spoke with Hensley to find out all about the book and her writing process.

rites of passage joy hensley

On writing Rites Of Passage…

Rites of Passage was my 2012 NaNoWriMo book. It actually took me 6 weeks to finish the first draft, but I completed the 50,000 requirement for November. I love "fast drafting" like that almost as much as I love revising–which was the next big task. Mostly in revising, I had to beef scenes up and work on character motivation a lot. After it sold, I rewrote a few times to make sure everything was just like I wanted it!

There were definitely parts of Rites that were hard to write. I didn't get depressed while writing, but I definitely had some bad days that were a direct result of how involved in the story I was. I think that's one of the beauties of the way I write. I get really really immersed in the story and for those six weeks or two months, those characters are very real. Everything that hurts them, hurts me. It's hard to let them go through everything they go through, but it's important to be true to the story.

On her own military school experience…

I did go to military school–a university, actually. I did go on a dare, but unfortunately, I was much more like Sam's wimpy roommate than I was like Sam. Writing Rites of Passage was kind of my way to redeem myself. Sam is who I wish I had been at military school!

There is definitely no way I could have put up with what Sam went through. I either would have cried and gone home, or I would have punched someone and gotten kicked out! Sam's one tough cookie!

Advice on tough situations…

Find someone you can confide in, who you trust and who will believe you. Sam takes risks that aren't right for everyone. You've got to do what you're comfortable with and understand that, most often, you can't solve problems on your own. You need friends and adults around you that you can trust. If you don't have them–find them.

On writing YA…

I remember being a teen vividly. The good parts were amazing, the bad parts were really, really bad. Thankfully, today, there are a lot of young adult books out there that deal with a myriad of topics teens are living through today. I didn't really have a young adult section of my bookstore or library when I was a teen. I want to lend a voice to teens who might have been like me and who need a book that can help them realize they're not alone.

For more strong female characters…

Dystopian books have made strong females more popular and I'm so grateful for them. Books like Divergent by Veronica Roth, the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Defiance by C.J. Redwine have really led the way for strong female characters.

She also revealed that she's currently at work on another novel! Let us know what you think of Rites Of Passage below and join our community at Sweety High to discuss all of your favorite books.