Charlene Thomas is the author of Seton Girls. Seton Girls is her debut novel. The book follows Seton Academic High, a prep school obsessed with its football team and their thirteen-year conference win streak, a record that players always say they’d never have without Seton’s girls. The novel explores platonic friendship, power dynamics, and much more. YEM was able to speak with Charlene about why she wanted to write a book that deals with exploring privilege shifts changing the power dynamic, if her group of friends in high school were inspiration for Seton Girls and the friend groups we see in the novel, and why she finds it important to focus on relationships that were platonic in Seton Girls and not so much on romantic relationships.
Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first start working on your novel Seton Girls?
Charlene Thomas: I started writing SETON GIRLS in 2019, while I was actually looking for an agent for a different manuscript. But I had a dream with one of the SETON GIRLS characters in it (Britt) and it was so vivid that I couldn’t resist the urge to start writing things down.
YEM: Seton Girls deals with the idea of privilege. In your book, the privilege shifts changing the power dynamic, what made you want to write a book that deals with exploring this?
Charlene: I think we’re finally reaching a point in society where more people are willing to accept and acknowledge the reality that privilege exists, and I really wanted to write a story that explores privilege and all of its sharp edges. It can be dangerous when people with power go unchecked, and SETON GIRLS was my effort to showcase just one example of how that can be the case.
YEM: What is the number one thing you think about when writing a young adult book?
Charlene: There are a few things, actually! One would be the way that I was feeling at that age, remembering what it was like to be in high school and how big those memories still are today. I also like to consume a lot of the YA content of today—not just books, but so many of the huge hits on Netflix and Hulu and HBO are really just YA stories. So I like to watch those when I’m getting in the headspace to write more YA. And, lastly, I like to think about how I want a book to feel while people are reading it—cozy, suspicious, excited, etc. I’m a big believer that teens are more than capable of digesting big and important topics, which makes me excited to think about how I might want to weave those topics and feelings into my stories.
YEM: How have the fan reactions to Seton Girls been so far?
Charlene: We’ve gotten such an incredible response to SETON GIRLS; it’s been amazing. It still doesn’t feel real when people I don’t know tell me how much the story means to them. As a writer, one of the most fulfilling things for me is being read, and I feel so grateful that that’s the experience I get to have now.
YEM: Was your relationship with your group of friends in high school inspiration for Seton Girls and the friend groups we see in the novel?
Charlene: Yes, definitely! The main girl group in the book is hugely inspired by my group of girlfriends in high school. I didn’t realize it then, but I was so lucky to have such strong, intense, committed friendships at such a young age—so it meant a lot to me to include that kind of platonic love in SETON GIRLS.
YEM: Seton Girls is empowering for young women. Has writing a book that focuses on feminism always been something you wanted to do?
Charlene: I believe so much in strong female friendships and girls supporting each other, and I really wanted to write a story that encapsulated that. I think it’s so important for all of us to remember our worth, and empowering young women through this story means a lot to me.
YEM: Have you found that boys and men have been learning from your book as much as the girls that have been reading it?
Charlene: Of the ones I’ve spoken to, yes!
YEM: Why did you find it important to focus on relationships that were platonic in Seton Girls and not so much on romantic relationships?
Charlene: I really wanted to showcase a different kind of love story in SETON GIRLS. I love romantic love, but I also believe that love—in all forms—is a miracle. Especially in high school, I think it’s really easy to get caught up in dates and crushes, and I wanted to tell a story that focused on friends instead. Hopefully it helps remind all of us how lucky we are for the platonic love that we have in our lives, too.
YEM: How does it feel to be a National Novel Silver Award from Scholastic Books? Does that validation help you in your writing at all?
Charlene: I won that award my senior year of high school and it meant so much to me! It was the first time I received any real third-party validation that I had a knack for writing, and it was that new confidence that helped me start dipping my toe into the world of traditional publishing.
YEM: Do you plan to continue writing books for young adults in the future, or do you want to write for other audiences?
Charlene: I’m definitely interested in trying other things, but I’ll still be writing YA, too! I actually have a second YA book, titled PEEKABOO, coming out in 2024. It’s a speculative story about a small town (named Peekaboo) where a magical stranger grants a girl named Kady the power to change her world forever on Halloween night. But as she’s reveling in her newfound abilities, she uncovers the major secret that Peekaboo has been keeping from her—from everyone—all along. It’s super twisty and my first time writing speculative, so I can’t wait for people to get the chance to read it!
YEM: With this being your debut novel, what surprised you the most about the process?
Charlene: Everything, honestly! I went in not knowing what to expect and have come out learning so much. But I think it will always be that way. I’m excited for everything that this journey has yet to teach me!
YEM: Do you yourself have any relationship with football? Did you already know alot about it before writing Seton girls?
Charlene: Yes! I’m a big football girl 😊 My dad’s a huge fan so I grew up watching games all the time, and his love for the sport 100% wore off on me.