Teen writer pens imaginative, adventurous debut
January 7, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Most 12-year-olds spend their summer vacations riding their bike, swimming and trying not to think about school, but Sammamish resident Jacqueline O’Hara sat with her computer and wrote.
During her 2012 summer break, O’Hara authored several small stories, which she began piecing together into a bigger novel. Eighteen months later, the results are available for everyone to read. Tate Publishing picked up O’Hara’s story, “When Circles End,” and released it Dec. 31.
“It was just kind of a way to stay ready for school when summer ended,” the now 14-year-old O’Hara said of writing the novel.
Her mother Gretchen didn’t realize Jacqueline’s book had serious interest until her daughter handed her a permission slip from the publishing company.
“She researched all the publishers, picked the top three that published for young adults, and without an agent, they selected her, which is a pretty big accomplishment for 12 years old,” Gretchen O’Hara said.
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Jacqueline, an eighth-grader at Pine Lake Middle School, said it was a big shock to her teachers when she began passing out the novel at school.
“Circles” is an action-adventure tale aimed at teen and pre-teen readers. The story follows the lives of several children who come together from locations around the U.S. and are tasked with saving the world from obliteration.
“The thing that people will like about this book is that someone can relate to one of the characters,” O’Hara said. “There’s 12 of them, and each one has a certain background. They’re all sort of similar, but at the same time, they’re different.”
O’Hara’s influences include a variety of action and fantasy writers with experience in the apocalyptic genre.
She enjoys “The Hunger Games” trilogy of Suzanne Collins, and the young-adult novels of James Patterson, but she traces her love of books to Rick Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief,” the first of the well-known “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series.
“Books have definitely influenced a lot of what’s in here,” O’Hara said of her book, “and I would not be where I am today without the books I’ve read and the teachers that I’ve had.”
She’s in the process of writing the manuscript for a second book in the “Circles” series, and is looking to expand upon the existing storyline by introducing new characters and locations throughout the world.
O’Hara takes her cues from Riordan, whom she lauds for writing stories that are simultaneously imaginative and grounded in reality.
“I try to get a lot of research in, and I try to keep it as factual as possible, because the more factual and realistic it is, the better the storyline,” O’Hara said.
Her budding career as an author isn’t all that defines her. She’s well-rounded, sporting a straight-A average at school, while mixing in her interests in sports and music.
She plays soccer for the Crossfire Premier club, runs track and cross country at Pine Lake, and takes private viola lessons once a week. She was selected for the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra’s top ensemble.
O’Hara also has her own microscope, part of her ambition to attend medical school.
“Broad horizons, right? I’ve always been interested in science and everything around that,” she said.