Amy Alessio and Susan Miura know something about books and attracting teenage readers.
Both work at the Schaumburg Township District Library -- Alessio is a teen librarian, while Miura works in public relations -- and regularly review books, develop programs and sponsor author appearances.
Now, they find themselves on the opposite side of the table. After years of writing for library journals and hoping to one day publish a fiction work, both have done it. Their books came out within weeks of each other.
Miura will be signing copies of her book, "Show Me A Sign," at a book launching party at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 in the library's Teen Place. Alessio's book, "Taking the High Ground," will be launched with a party at 6 p.m. Feb. 19, also at the library.
Both novels are teen mysteries, and not surprisingly, each author drew from her own experiences to develop the characters and storyline.
Miura's inspiration was nearby Blackwell School in Schaumburg. The school serves the deaf and hard of hearing students in Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54, and requires each child in the building to learn American Sign Language as part of its instructional program.
In "Show Me A Sign" ($14.95, OakTara publishers), the fictional Beethoven School is patterned after Blackwell. Consequently, the heroine in the book, Haylie Summers, is deaf and yet a boy from her school, Nathan Bolivia, finds that is not an obstacle since he knows sign language and he wants to meet for pizza. Before their first date, however, Haylie is kidnapped, and Nathan is a prime suspect.
"You have to have a lot of action to draw teens' interest," says Miura, who has also had several short stories published in an anthology. "And I found you have to interject some humor into the drama."
Alessio's book, "Taking the High Ground" (4RV Publishing, $16) follows a young heroine, whose parents are involved in Civil War re-enacting, as she tries to uncover a murder mystery that occurs during one of their weekend encampments. Both Alessio and her husband participated in Civil War re-enacting and she plans to include some period dress and Civil War weapons on display at her book launching party.
"The pacing of today's teen books is much faster than it used to be," adds Alessio, who kept meticulous outlines just to keep her mystery lines straight. "Everything has to tie together."
Their road to getting published took months of rewrites and critiques, from everyone from their editors and family members, to teens themselves.
Alessio, who monitors the Schaumburg Library's Teen Corps, asked a couple of them to read her manuscript and make comments, especially about the dialogue.
"One of them pointed out a quote that he called stiff," she remembered. "Another told me I didn't want it to sound like an old lady. I remember that."
Miura and Alessio already are working on their next books and say they are nothing like their current ones.
"There are so many good books in young adult fiction now," Alessio says. "I almost prefer it to adult fiction."
Miura agrees, adding that they strive to incorporate diversity into their characters as well as some with special needs.
"Readers need to know about people who are different, who have different colors and cultures and have different abilities," Miura says. "People need to be more aware."
Look for some of that awareness to be on display at her book launching, where she will have a sign language interpreter on hand and an instructor from S.B. Kim's Martial Arts Academy in Schaumburg to demonstrate self-defense moves.
To register for the free event, visit: http://teen.schaumburglibrary.org/teen_events/.