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WMS hosts bestselling author for young adults

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It was in middle school that bestselling author Ally Carter, who lives in Oklahoma, read a book that would change her life – “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton.

“It really blew my mind,” Carter said of the book that is set in Oklahoma and written by a teenager from her state. “Someone kind of like me wrote this book that I really love, it never occurred to me that someone like me did that; before that I thought books were written by dead Europeans.”

It was because of that experience Carter decided to become an author herself.

Carter visited Woodbury Middle School last week to discuss with eighth-grade students her books and her career as an author.

The presentation took place Jan. 27 thanks to the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. Carter is the fourth author that WMS has hosted through the Red Balloon Bookshop.

Carter, who is best known for the “Gallagher Girls” series, the “Heist Society” series and the “Embassy Row” series, is on a national book tour.

“I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, and today, I’m able to do the job I wanted to do when I was a kid,” she said.

Even though Carter dreamed of becoming an author from an early age, it took several years for her to realize her dream.

“While I wanted to be an author, I also didn’t want to starve,” she said, “so I got a practical degree and a practical job.”

It was a random day, not like any other, that Carter said she decided to finally sit down and start writing.

So, she went to the Dollar Store and picked up a 50-page notebook and made a deal with herself that she would fill it.

“Everybody says they’re going to write a book, but very few people actually do,” she said. “It felt so good that I actually had done the thing that I said I was going to.”

The books

Carter eventually connected with a literary agent and a publisher, and as luck would have it, her young adult novels were just what the market wanted.

“Everyone was starting to talk about YA fiction,” she said. “There was this big freight train coming and that freight train was ‘Twilight.’”

The first young adult series that Carter released was the “Gallagher Girls” series, which is about students at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.

Even though the academy seems like a fairly typical all-girls school from the outside, inside the school taught advanced martial arts in physical education class, the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies.

Carter said she was inspired to write the “Gallagher Girls” series after watching an episode of “Alias,” a show about a college student who moonlights as a spy.

“I got obsessed with this idea of a boarding school for spies,” she said.

Carter’s second series, “Heist Society,” is about Katarina Bishop, a girl who has been a part of the family business, thieving, for as long as she can remember. When Kat tries to leave “the life” for a normal life, her old friend Hale conspires to bring her back into the fold after a mobster’s art collection has been stolen, and Kat’s father is the only suspect.

Carter’s newest series, “Embassy Row,” is about a girl named Grace who lives with her grandfather on Embassy Row in Washington.

However, Grace is constantly struggling with the death of her mother, who everyone believes died in a fire, but Grace knows the truth – she was murdered.

Grace’s past eventually catches up with her, but she must be extremely careful, because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

“If you get in a fight with the neighbors,” Carter said, “you could start World War III.”

Carter said it typically takes her about nine months to complete a book.

“I can’t get out of my own head,” she said.

Carter’s presentation at WMS ended with her taking questions from students and signing autographs.

“All paths are available to you in the future,” she told students.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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