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Author dreams up teen love story

A story of everlasting love comes to life with a paranormal twist in Lisa Schroeder's debut young adult novel, 'I heart you, You haunt me.'

'I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died in a tragic accident, but he loved her so much that he came back as a ghost,' the Cooper Mountain author said. 'I remember waking up and feeling their love so strongly, I had to go to the computer and start writing their story that morning.'

She hopes her haunting tale about 15-year-old Ava and the spirit of her boyfriend Jackson will resonate with young readers as well.

'To me, this book is mostly a story about love,' Schroeder said. 'It's more than a ghost story, it's a story of love, loss, healing and hope.'

Published by Simon and Schuster's teen division Simon Pulse, 'I heart you, You haunt me' hit bookstores Tuesday. A book signing will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at Powell's Books in the Cedar Hills Crossing.

First step

Although Schroeder also wrote a picture book called 'Baby Can't Sleep' that was published in 2005, writing a novel has always been a dream.

'I always loved to write,' she said. 'Writing was something I could do in my spare time.'

During the week, Schroeder serves as a compensation analyst for Oregon Health and Science University. She's also a mother of two sons, Sam, 13, and Grant, 10.

When she's not spending time with her family or reading, Schroeder writes.

'I dipped my toe in at first' when it came to branching out from picture books and trying her hand at penning short stories for children's magazines and mid-grade novels, she said.

'It sort of evolved from there,' Schroeder said. 'Taking that first step is sometimes the hardest. Once you take that first step, sometimes you can be surprised at the doors that then open.'

Schroeder wrote three mid-grade novels and tried to attract the attention of an agent and editors. Although nothing ever came of those projects, she viewed the experiences as steps in her journey as a writer.

'Those three books were training so to speak,' she said.

When she sat down to write 'I heart you, You haunt me' following her dream, she discovered she had a gift for telling a story in as few and unique words as possible.

Instead of writing in traditional prose and chapters, her novel is written in verse or poems.

'The book literally poured out of me,' Schroeder said. 'I had a first draft written in a month.

'I hesitate saying that, because I don't want people to think writing a novel in verse is easy. It's not! But the story swept me up and carried me away. When I'd leave it, to go to work or whatever, I couldn't wait to get back to it again.'

Ava and Jackson's undying love story pulled at her heartstrings.

'It felt like I knew the characters - that's probably how it's supposed to be,' she said. 'I think I really connected to their coupleness.

'Ava's a pretty normal girl who likes to make CDs, go to the movies, bake cookies and who loves to swim. He was very adventurous. They were really drawn to each other. It took me back and reminded me of that special time when teens fall in love for the first time. It's a magical time, and there's nothing else like it.'

Story with heart

Schroeder's story impressed Sara Crowe with the Harvey Klinger Agency, who signed on as her agent and began sharing the manuscript with large publishing houses.

When Simon Pulse decided to publish her novel, Schroeder was overwhelmed with excitement.

'I almost had a heart attack - I couldn't believe it,' she said.

Doors continued opening for the Cooper Mountain author from there.

Schroeder is a member of the Class of 2K8, a group of 28 young adult and middle grade authors with novels debuting this year from major publishers.

'Together we help promote our books because there is power in numbers,' she said.

The group is dedicated to helping booksellers, librarians, teachers and readers find exciting new books to enjoy.

Schroeder hopes Ava and Jackson's paranormal teen romance will be one of the stories that readers will connect with and read again and again.

In the meantime, she already has a couple manuscripts circulating in New York, one is a middle grade novel in verse and the other a young adult novel in prose.

'I'm crossing my fingers for more sales,' she said. 'It doesn't get easier. It all comes down to having a fantastic book. It's very competitive.

'I think editors want a great story - a story with heart. A story that will make the reader feel something, and one in which those feelings linger long after the book is put down.'

For more information, visit www.lisaschroederbooks.com or www.classof2K8.com.