Teen authors of the California border pave their way through self-publishing


IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif.–Teenagers all over the world are anticipating the June 30 movie release of “Eclipse,” the third installment in the phenomenal “Twilight” saga, to see how the romantic fantasy about a teenage girl and her intense love affair with a vampire continues to play out.

"The Collusion Series," by Imperial Valley teen author Alexandra Lopez, is stacked on local library shelves with classics like "Doctor Dolittle" and "The Call of the Wild." -- Photo by Marisol Diaz

The “Twilight” books, written by Stephanie Meyer, inspired the movie series and a cult following of both readers and movie-goers around the globe.  But during the last decade, that inspiration was not limited to just reading or watching the mythical and unorthodox teen romance stories; inspiration bled over into the minds of young writers, including those in the Imperial Valley.

Often seen as culturally dry as the desert it occupies, the Imperial Valley is home to several young authors who have crafted their own fantasies in the pages of books that are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, at the local bookstore, and can be found in local libraries.  These youthful writers have not experienced the notoriety of Meyer – at least not yet.

Angela Ly, 16, is writing her second novel.  “The book is going to be about a different dimension, but in this world,” Ly said.  “There will be action and adventure, somewhat like Twilight.”  The Brawley High School junior self-published her first book, “Birds to Fly Me to You” in 2009.

Teen author Angela Ly, (right) and her best friend Rebecca Rodriguez look over "Birds to Fly Me to You." Said Rodriguez of her friend being a published author, “I liked her book. But it made me sad in the end.” --Photo by Marisol Diaz

Fantasy adventures like “The Way to Fairyleland” and “The Collusion Series” have sprung from the minds of local teen authors prolifically in recent years.  Publishing house Wandering Sage Books recently released a commemorative edition of “The Way to Fairyleland,” by Belén Ramos, and a third young writer, Alexandra Lopez, is penning her third and fourth books.

But fantasies can spring from just about any source.  Angela Ly, who writes under the pseudonym of Fantasy Angie, decided to write “Birds” as a result of her eighth-grade history lessons.  “I was learning about the war in history class,” she said about the idea for her first book.  The story takes place during World War II and centers around two girls of different ethnic backgrounds and the difficulties of their friendship.

Writing is “a way of spacing from reality,” said Ly, who writes anywhere she can translate her imagination into stories–at school, at home, and even at her mother’s nail salon, where she spends most of her after-school hours.  She said her second book  promises to have “a lot more action and fantasy” than her first, more realistic story.

Just like veteran authors, young writers want to fine-tune their works, draft after draft.  Belen Ramos had similar feelings about her third book—she wanted to make it more “teenage-ish,” according to her brother Omar, although he chuckled that he didn’t know what she meant by that.

Author Belen Ramos (left) and her brother, Omar, attending a Southwest High School musical in El Centro, Calif. shortly before Belen's untimely death. --Photo provided by the Ramos family

Belen Ramos was killed in an automobile accident outside of El Centro in February 2008.  At the time of her death she was writing the sequel to “Fairyleland” and a second draft of her third novel, “The Voice in the Box,” which her brother says the family would eventually like to see finished by a ghost writer. “I think my mom would really like that,” Omar Ramos said.

In the meantime, Belen Ramos’s publisher, St. Louis-based Wandering Sage Books, has released a commemorative edition of “The Way to Fairyleland.”

“I just felt like I had to do it,” said Dave Barlow, owner of Wandering Sage Books.  “There’s really a lot of talent missing in the world, and I think people should read Belén’s book because it’s proof that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve great things.”  The new edition of Belén’s book includes some of her poems and a letter to her parents written shortly before her death, Barlow said.

Barlow’s company, at the time called Emerald Falcon Press, bought “The Way to Fairyleland” when Ramos was only 15.  Her novel later won the publishing company’s “Young Author Award.”

“She tried going for the big publishers like Scholastic,” said her brother, Omar Ramos.  “She didn’t have a literary agent. She did all the lobbying herself. And she was ecstatic when she got the letter that [Falcon Emerald Press] wanted to buy her book.”  The book is about a young girl who accidentally trips one of her father’s inventions and sends her to Fairyleland.

Bonnie Olesh, owner of the Imperial Valley’s only mainstream bookstore, Fifth Avenue Books in El Centro, said she can think of only two local authors who have been published by publishing houses—Belen Ramos and Harold Bell Wright, who wrote the best-selling novel of 1911 and 1912, “The Winning of Barbara Worth,” from his El Centro farm.  Wright’s novel became a 1926 movie co-starring Hollywood legend Gary Cooper.

“When you self-publish, it’s difficult to market, and your target audience is generally only who you know locally,” says Olesh.  “I carry books from local authors as a community service. I don’t expect to make any money for it.”

Teresa Lopez (left), and her author daughter, Alexandra, look over a book from Alexandra's "The Collusion Series" in Imperial, Calif. Alexandra said she will write seven more "Collusion" books. --Photo by Marisol Diaz

Self-publishing, also known as “vanity press,” is the publication of a book at the expense of the author rather than at the expense of a publishing house. Both Angela Ly and Imperial, Calif. author Alexandra Lopez, 15, went the route of self-publishing after trying to find publishers to buy their works.

Ly published her book through Xlibris for about $400.  Her mom, Linda Ly, was a big financial support in that effort.  “Her goal,” said Lee of her daughter’s literary aspirations, “is to be published by Scholastic.”

Both Ly and Lopez, who paid for publishing her book from money she saved, said they have recovered the costs of self-publishing their books through sales.

Lopez’s “The Collusion Series,” books one and two, are sold through Authorhouse.  But she said she doesn’t mind being recognized only locally as a self-published author.  “I just want to write for fun, not so it can be popular or so it can be the next hit series.”  Lopez said she plans to continue the saga with seven more books.  She is also in the process of writing several books unrelated to “The Collusion Series,” which is about two siblings who lose their parents and are introduced to a new family.  The characters are fictional creatures who are confronted with many challenges, but also experience magical adventures, which teach them a lot moral lessons along the way.

“I always knew that she loved to write,” said Teresa López, Alexandra’s mother and a grammar instructor at Imperial Valley College.  “What surprised me was that she was so determined and that she followed through.”

But, Angela Ly has a different goal.  She said she wants to be as successful as the award-winning German fiction writer Cornelia Funke.  “I feel that I’m one step closer to becoming America’s next top writer,” said Ly.

9 thoughts on “Teen authors of the California border pave their way through self-publishing

  1. It is sad to see that nowadays everything revolves around what is popular and commercial. I happen to know Alexandra Lopez and have read both of her books and even suggesting that she is trying to be like Meyers is a gross inaccuracy. Perhaps you should have read their books. This would have been a wonderful story if we would have gotten light of the essence that these extraordinary kids are made of and the the drive that makes them who they are.

  2. Hello! Yes, I’m the writer above and I’d like you to know that my last name was misspelled. It’s Ly. Thank you very much.

  3. Chill, Sergio… I like the article. I didn’t know there were authors here.

  4. Dear Alexandra,

    I live in Boston, far away from California. I just want to let you know that I am very impressed with your books. You are a very talented young woman and I am looking forward to reading your next books. Keep up with the good work!

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