Dee White is celebrating the release of her first novel for young adult readers, ‘Letters to Leonardo’.

‘Letters to Leonardo’ is the story of Matt, who on his fifteenth birthday, receives a birthday card from the mother he thought died ten years earlier.

As if being fifteen doesn’t have enough challenges, Matt’s world is unravelled by a single birthday card. His father has lied to him, his mother is alive. What else in his life can he believe in? He turns to a long dead artist, searching for truth.

‘Letters to Leonardo’ is a very powerful story. It takes the reader on a wild ride through Matt’s world as he struggles to make sense of that which can make no sense. Life is not neat and tidy, or constructed according to rules like paintings are meant to be. Life is messy. Life breaks as many rules as it follows. All we can do is make our way through as best we can with the tools we are given.

Dee visits today to talk about why she chose Leonardo Da Vinci as a mentor for her main character, Matt.

Why do young adults need mentors?

Young adult novels are read by people making the transition from childhood to adulthood.

It is a time when in real life parents can drive their kids crazy because the kids are trying to assert themselves and their independence. In ancient civilisations, the entire community used to support and guide the person undergoing the transition to adulthood.

Do young adults need mentors more now than in times past?

Today, kids have so many dilemmas and decisions. Often, they don’t have a community behind them, but they do need an adult who is not a parent to help guide them as they assert themselves and make their way into the wider world. They need someone who can help them understand the changes that are going on inside them, and in their broader environment.

So, why Leo?

Leonardo da Vinci seemed like the ideal choice for Matt because there were many similarities between them:

1. both were taken away from their mothers when young and essentially, grew up without them;
2. both were seekers of truth;
3. both were artistic and sensitive;
4. both were controlled when young by their fathers;
5. both were perfectionists;
6. both had to deal with becoming reacquainted with their mother after some years of separation.

I also wanted a mentor who was dead so he couldn’t write back, as this would have taken the story in a whole new direction. It also allowed Matt to mature in a more reflective way.

By choosing Leonardo as Matt’s mentor, I was able to incorporate some of his artworks into the story to represent things that were going on in Matt’s life at the time – and to reflect his emotions. This allowed me to show the depth of Matt’s anguish in a symbolic way.

Thanks Dee.

Follow the tour:

24th June 2009

Dee and Matt talk about promoting Letters to Leonardo online.

25th June 2009

Author interview

26th June 2009

How art has been used in Letters to Leonardo

27th June 2009

The research process involved in writing Letters to Leonardo

28th June 2009

Guest blogger – talking with Vanessa Barneveld – interactive discussion with bloggers

29th June 2009

An author interview covering things like inspiration and perspective

30th June

Mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book (ahem, that’s here)

1st July Cyber launch including cross to Robyn Opie’s blog – hurdles overcome on the way to publication.

2nd July

How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci

3rd July

Working with a publisher and the editing process

4th July

Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson

5th July

Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo

6th July

Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written

7th July

An overseas stop before heading home