Pop Culture

Teenager publishes first novel at 14

Laura Simula is 15. Like most of her friends at Westwood High School, she'll have a list of achievements to put on college applications: participation in basketball and softball and her school's band program, along with a good academic record.

But she has a unique feather in her cap — the publication of her first novel at the age of 14.

"You just get an idea and keep going," Simula, now 15, said.

Laura began writing “A Broken Yesterday” when she was 12. The book, about 130 pages long, follows teenager Carrie Foster as she struggles with the death of her older sister while conflict within her family leads to a deeper mystery.

That mystery will be continued in the still-untitled second book that Simula is working on completing now.

"I have the story line and I'm just adding details," she said.

With her father Kurt acting as her agent, Simula began the publication process with Tate Publishing and Enterprises — a Christian-based publishing house in Oklahoma — at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

"To have that focus and that responsibility is great," Kurt Simula said. "It's great to have one of your kids be this motivated."

The book is available through TatePublishing.com/bookstore, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com or target.com. It can also be ordered through local bookstores.

Laura is donating 10 percent of her sales to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and 20 percent of signed copies sold through her Web site LauraSimula.com.

Through Tate, which requires the author to help finance a portion of the book's marketing costs, Simula got the chance to help design her book's cover and take part in other parts of the publishing process.

"They're really nice," Simula said of the publishing staff. "They do a lot for me, like the whole marketing thing."

Simula said she began her search for a publisher online when she found out about Tate and sent in her manuscript.

As for her writing process, Simula said she usually works when she gets an idea, usually late at night or early in the morning.

"Sometimes she'd disappear for the whole weekend," Kurt Simula said.

In fact, he and Laura's mother, Shelley Simula, said they didn't even know Laura had sent her book to the publisher until a representative called asking for permission to publish.

"We knew she was writing a book. I had asked her to read it. ... She came downstairs one day and said, `How does someone get a book published?'" Kurt Simula said. "Really she did all that, getting it going at least, by herself."

Mom Shelley agreed.

"Laura's always been creative," she said, adding that her daughter often made up stories using dolls or other objects when she was little. "We're extremely proud of her."

Class work at Aspen Ridge also gave Simula experience writing in groups and individually, her father said.

An avid reader as well as a writer, Simula said she was inspired by favorite authors like James Patterson to focus on mysteries and family life.

Besides writing, Simula said she hopes to go to college for her other interest — architecture and engineering.

For now, however, she's focusing on finishing the second book and learning more about the publishing process.

"I think the first one, I could have explained things more. I could have gone into more detail," Simula said.

Overall, she said becoming an author has been a good experience.

"It's kind of cool," she said.