Does YA stand for Young Adult or Young Author? In this case, both

01/10/2014 12:00 AM

01/12/2014 4:09 PM

Some people spend their entire life trying to get that first novel published.

Colleen Boyd made it happen before graduating college.

The 22-year-old’s young adult fantasy novel, “Swamp Angel,” hit bookshelves in November. The novel focuses on an average teenage boy who befriends a monster living in the swamp in his back yard.

“I’m proof people can do anything they want to do in life,” said Boyd, an Overland Park native. “I want people to look at my story and realize anything is possible.”

A bookworm, Boyd grew up immersed in fantasy books, devouring novels by her favorite authors, such as Harry Potter writer J.K. Rowling and self-proclaimed “weird fiction” writer China Miéville.

When she was 16, a seed of inspiration from an unlikely source sparked her own literary ambitions.

Boyd, then a student at St. James Academy in Lenexa, was examining a CD of the rock band Story of Year that had a song titled, “Angel in the Swamp.” Intrigued, she tried to picture exactly what an angel of the swamp would look like. The thought process turned into five-year writing stint.

In between classes and after-school activities, Boyd wrote a half a page per day. She completed the novel while a sophomore at her current school, Knox College in Illinois. She sent the completed manuscript to a literary agent in Texas who found a willing publishing company, Spencer Hill Press, based out of New Hampshire.

When her book was published, Boyd felt a mixture of pride and disbelief.

“I was at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and saw my book in the YA section,” she said. “I picked up a copy and realized this is real. That was the moment when it really hit home.”

Over at Spencer Hill, Boyd’s novel is considered a gem.

“When I want to turn the page, the book has done its job, and that’s exactly what Colleen’s book did for me,” said Richard Storrs, a senior editor at Spencer Hill. “When I found out her age, I was completely blown away. I was expecting her to be in her forties.”

He says he was drawn into the novel because Boyd’s teenagers actually sounded like teenagers and the issues they faced were realistic.

Plus, in the young adult genre, publishing houses are often bombarded with vampire and zombie stories. Boyd’s manuscript about an endearing swamp creature immediately stood out.

“If the book is any indication of Colleen’s talent, we’re going to be hearing from her for a long time,” Storrs said.

Boyd hopes he’s right.

She currently has two other completed manuscripts her agent is handling. One is a ghost story, the other is an urban fantasy.

She’s also working on a science fiction novel geared towards 20-somethings.

When she graduates with her creative writing degree in June, Boyd not only hopes to continue being a published author, but also start a career in publishing.

The young author’s ambition and dedication impresses her family.

“It is amazing to see your daughter’s name on the cover of a book,” said Kathy Boyd, her mother. “To know all the work and determination that is behind it, it really is quite unbelievable. I am not only proud of Colleen, I am a huge fan.”

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