Andrea Cremer: Haunted at 17


My new novel, 17 & Gone, is now out in stores (!!!), and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s Andrea Cremer revealing what haunted her at 17 years old and what she worries haunts teenagers today even more…

Guest post by Andrea Cremer

I turned seventeen the summer before my senior year of high school. What felt like infinite questions and possibilities shaped my world: What would senior year be like? What colleges would I get into? Where would I decide to go? Is this when everything changes and my life really begins?

All in all my final year of high school was a great one, full of fantastic memories that I treasure, but hovering over it all remained this cloud of questions that shaded every experience with a gray of uncertainty. Questions and doubts like these are completely reasonable if treated that way, but allowed to run amok they can become obstacles to the joys of the present. Too often my questions became about who I thought I ‘should’ be rather than looking at my life, my experiences, my dream to better understand who I truly wanted to become as I stepped out into the world on my own.

So many years later, I was lucky to teach remarkable students at Macalester College. Each year meeting new freshmen, I was startled by how much more competitive the race to college admission had become and how overscheduled my students had been. Many of my students expressed relief because once they arrived at college they only had to focus on their classes instead of constantly trying to become the ideal candidate for admission at their college of choice.

Thinking about my seventeenth year, I often feel like I was haunted by the future, constantly chased by ghosts of what was yet to come. Those pesky spirits sometimes impeded on my happiness and my ability to feel confident in who I was, and even more so, brave enough to take the risks to become the person I truly wanted to be.

Between conversations I’ve had with my students and with teen readers I worry that now teens are even more haunted by their futures than I was. I hope that young men and women on the cusp of independence will exorcise those spirits and instead of fearing the future, to embrace the singular beauty of the present.

InvisibilityAndrea Cremer is the internationally bestselling author of the Nightshade series.  She taught for years at Macalester College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and now lives in New York City.

Find her online at

Follow @andreacremer on Twitter.


Don’t miss the other posts in the series. Throughout the week, more YA authors will reveal what haunted them at 17. Here are the Haunted at 17 posts so far…

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be featuring all the posts in a round-up when the week is over, on Monday!

You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.

 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me TONIGHT, Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.


What haunted Bennett Madison at 17?


Turning Points: Guest Post by Andrea Cremer (+Giveaway)

This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? I’m honored and excited to host their stories. Read on as Andrea Cremer reveals the accident that led her to writing her first novel, and the choice she had to make to keep writing more…

My turning point has been both sudden and slow. It began with a horse and ended by turning everything in my life upside down.

I’ve always been a writer. Since I first could hold a crayon I’ve drawn pictures and created stories about those pictures. The picture to written story ratio reversed as the years went by, but the creation of worlds and characters never ceased.

Despite my love of writing, I didn’t see a career as an author as a viable option. To strive to be a writer was akin to hitchhiking to New York in the hopes of making it on Broadway. Sticking with the sensible road, I pursued graduate education until there was none left to pursue and set out into the working world with a Ph.D. in early modern history. I landed a dream job at Macalester College, a wonderful liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota. Work was both close to my family and introduced me to an abundance of smart colleagues and incredible students.

Though I was thrilled at the job and enjoying the start of my ‘real’ adult life following so many years of studenthood, the summer after I finished my first year of teaching I felt that something had been missed. Having given over so much time to study, I decided that some time off was in order and went in search of the those things that I’d left behind when I dedicated my life to the study of history almost exclusively.

Like many girls (and boys) I was obsessed with any and all things horse, and benefited from summers working on a local horse ranch. Once I went to college both time and money kept me from riding. With a job secured and the summer free I thought it no better time than to return to my love of horseback riding.

In June 2008 I had my horse all tacked up and ready to go on our first trail ride. As I led him from the stable, he was startled by another horse, jumped, and came down on top of my right foot. With two broken bones in my foot, the summer of riding came to an end before it began.

Not only would I not be riding, I had doctor’s orders to stay off my foot for the entire summer. My days would be spent on the couch, rather than on the trail.

I consoled myself for a time with my go-to comfort activity—watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But even Buffy couldn’t offer a full reprieve from my sense of a summer lost. In Minnesota, where winter goes on forever, a lost summer is something to truly grieve.

Wanting to salvage my days before school began again I wracked my brain for something that would give me a sense of accomplishment. Something couch friendly. As I mulled over the possibilities, a long-time dream came to mind. I’d always wanted to write a novel. My journals, notebooks, and computer hard drive were already filled with scenes, thoughts, and scribbles accumulated over the course of my life, but I’d never given myself the space or time to write a book from start to finish.

Still on the couch, but armed with my laptop, I began to write.

That was the beginning of my turning point.

My love of writing was not only confirmed, it was transformed: into an obsession. I had never felt so alive, or complete, as when I put words to the page. The experience was thrilling and terrifying. It reminded me of falling in love—I was afraid to let go of the experience, thinking I might never capture the magic again and at the same time the thought of trying to make writing more than a sideshow in the carnival that was my working and personal life seemed an impossible task.

But I couldn’t stop writing.

And I began to live a double life. Professor by day, writer by night (and morning, and any time I could snatch for myself). In addition to writing, I did research. I  consumed every piece of information I could about the publishing industry. I taught myself about literary agents and query letters. And after writing two “practice” novels, I wrote Nightshade. And I knew I’d reached the point where I wanted to take my work into the world.

I began to query.

There were rejections.

I continued to query.

My (would soon be) agent requested the manuscript.

I waited.

My (almost) agent offered to represent me.

I signed with the agency.

We revised the manuscript.

Nightshade went on submission.


Michael Green purchased Nightshade in August 2009, a little more than a year from the accident that started it all.

This is halfway through my turning point.

By phone and email I met my editor, Jill Santopolo, who turned out to be (and still is) one of the most talented and amazing people I’ve ever met. Not only did Jill understand my writing, she understood how to make it better.

I learned much more about writing and revising through working with Jill. Nightshade went into copyedits. I wrote Wolfsbane and began Bloodrose while Nightshade was in the run-up to release.

Nightshade was published in October 2010 and hit the NYT bestseller list. I cried and danced. I kept writing. I kept teaching.


Writing and teaching managed to be both complementary to and at odds with one another. My students always inspired and energized me, but the time of preparation, instruction, office hours, recommendations, and meetings sapped the time I needed to write. When I’m drafting a novel, I want to immerse myself in it—an aspect of my process that required compromise in the face of my “real” job obligations.

Wolfsbane debuted on the NYT list. I finished writing Bloodrose and embarked on multiple new projects. I requested and received a reduction in my teaching load to part-time. For a year I thought I could do it all.

I discovered I could not.

The time and energy required not only by writing, but also in promotion, answering email, touring, was draining my enthusiasm for teaching. Not because I didn’t love being in the classroom, but simply because I was exhausted. I’d been stretched thin by my schedule and while those sacrifices were reasonable when I was trying to get my foot in the publishing door, I seemed to have landed in a room of my own and I wanted to live in it instead of feeling like a sub-letter.

I had a choice to make. To maintain my academic career and continue to write would mean I’d have to scale back my life as an author by a long-shot. I’d have to travel less and write fewer books. I would have to take time off from writing to focus on my academic work.


I could have made that choice, but my turning point had set me on another path. What I wanted was to be a full-time writer. A writer who could lose herself in her books without apology. Admitting that the writing life was the one I wanted was as frightening as beginning to write my first novel. It meant leaving a life of comfort and security, for one that is more unpredictable. It meant that my Ph.D. would still be put to use, but in an unconventional way that might draw questioning gazes from more than a few people.

But my life had turned, opening a new road that I wanted to walk. Turning back would only feel like defeat.

I write this piece amid the last semester I’ll teach at Macalester. When classes end, I’ll pack my bags and head to New York to chase a dream. And life will begin again, until the next turning point.

—Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer lives in Minnesota and teaches history at Macalester College in St. Paul. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling Nightshade series. She wants you to know that history is not boring and dreams are best lived.

Visit Andrea at

Follow @andreacremer on Twitter.



Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway via the entry form—and thank you to the author for donating the prize! I’m happy to announce the winner:

Kel Vorhis won a signed copy of Bloodrose! Congrats! I’ll email the winner to ask for a mailing address. Thank you again to everyone who entered!

Want more in this blog series?

The Turning Points series will continue with new guest posts three times a week. Subscribe to distraction no. 99 to keep up with the series, or read all the posts with this tag.

Here are the posts in the series so far:

Series images by Robert Roxby.