From the Screen to the Page: How the YouTube Sensation Became a YA Book, a guest post by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel (#YouTubeWeek)
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a gasp out loud ghost story that began as a YouTube series. I was not familiar with the web series until I read the book, but I really liked the book so I went and checked the YouTube channel. The book kept me on the edge of my seat and is another new addition to ongoing list of great reads for Buffy fans. It’s not a typical ghost story and I’m looking forward to reading more. Today for #YouTube week we have co-authors Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel discussing how they turned this hit YouTube series into a haunting read for YA lit lovers. I enjoyed this book and recommend it, I think teen readers will enjoy it as well.
Paige: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl started as a YouTube web series in 2010, when I was sixteen-years-old, and it took off in ways I never could have imagined! When we first started working out the concept, we didn’t have a name or anything much beyond the idea that it would be “Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity.” But right from the start, it just felt special. I loved creating this character. And not just because I got to play her! I just knew that the world could really use a bit more Sunshine. Her bravery, positivity, and quirkiness were things I wanted to share with the world.
But after of few years of telling Sunshine’s story on YouTube, we started thinking about ways to tell a bigger, more behind-the-scenes sort of story than we had so far. In the web series, you don’t know a whole lot about Sunshine’s life before she moves into a haunted house, and you don’t know why her house in haunted, or why her mom doesn’t believe her. So when we had the opportunity to put her story into a book, I was thrilled!
Alyssa: I am so excited to be a part of telling Sunshine’s story. To me, one of the coolest things about The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is that it was a collaboration from the very start. To begin with, the web series was a collaboration between Paige, her mother Mercedes Rose, and producer Nick Hagen and all the amazing actors they worked with; they created this rich world with compelling characters and I joined Team Sunshine to help figure out how to bring all of that good stuff to the page. It’s the most collaborative project I’ve ever worked on, and it is so exciting to be part of something that has a life both outside and inside of the pages of a book.
Paige: It’s so much fun because existing Sunshiners will get to learn so much more about Sunshine’s world and at the same time, readers who never watched the web series before will be able to go online and see how it all started!
Alyssa: I think the most important part of bringing the story from YouTube to the page was staying really true to the characters and the world of the web series. Paige and everyone who worked on the web series had already done so much of the heavy lifting involved in creating these voices and personalities – I just had to try to remain true to everything they created! The book takes place in the same setting and is based on a lot of the same ideas as the web series, but we also worked on a plot that would take Sunshine on some new adventures. In fact, we decided that the book is a bit more “Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Veronica Mars” than “Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity,” so that’s one way that it’s a little bit different from the web series! But I hope that viewers of the show will feel like the characters in the books behave just like the characters from the show would in these situations.
Paige: It was super cool to see the character that I created take on a life outside of the videos! We wanted the Sunshine on the page to look and sound like the Sunshine in the videos – she even has all of my mannerisms, like raising one eyebrow when she’s feeling particularly skeptical, and saying blah when she just can’t think of anything else to say.
Alyssa: And, it’s amazing because the story doesn’t have to end when you finish the book – you can stay in Sunshine’s world by watching the videos and vice versa.
Paige: And just like the videos keep going – season after season after season! – Sunshine’s adventures will continue on the page, with two more books coming in the next couple years.
Alyssa: Plotting what’s next for Sunshine was exciting. We’re taking her out of the setting that viewers of the videos – and now, readers of the first book – are familiar with. Sunshine will be leaving Washington behind to continue her work as a luiseach, and we’re also introducing some new characters. (But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of action with Nolan and Kat!) Yet even as we bring Sunshine to new places and have her interacting with new people, we’re always working to stay true to the voice and character that Paige created. Of course, Sunshine is growing and changing with all of these adventures, but she’s always going to be quirky and funny and full of light (if occasionally a little bit sarcastic…). And even as the setting changes, the creepy atmosphere of the videos and the first book will be following Sunshine wherever she goes.
Paige: I’m so excited about what’s coming for Sunshine. The world of the books just keeps getting bigger, and the stakes get higher and higher with each of her adventures. She’s gone from a girl living in a haunted house with a skeptical mom to a sort of ghost-hunting superhero, and I am loving every second of it!
Paige McKenzie, the irresistible face of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, is thrilled to bring her unique voice to life in a book series. At the age of sixteen, McKenzie teamed up with producer Nick Hagen and her mother, actress Mercedes Rose, to create The Haunting of Sunshine Girl on YouTube. Soon the spine-chilling series – and its unforgettable title character – boasted a viewership in the tens of millions. McKenzie was recently named one of Seventeen magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” finalists. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @hauntedsunshine or visit her online at thehauntingofsunshinegirl.com.
Alyssa Sheinmel is the author of the young adult novels Second Star, The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl, as well as the forthcoming novel, Faceless. The New York Post described The Beautiful Between as “endearing, realistic, and heart-wrenching”; and New York Times bestselling author Anna Godbersen called Second Star “gorgeous: at once sun-soaked and haunted, elegant and strange…perfect.” Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York, and attended Barnard College. She now lives and writes in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaSheinmel and visit her online at AlyssaSheinmel.com.
Publisher’s Book Description:
Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as “ Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age.” YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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