By Jordan Freisleben
A juniorâs novel was featured at a book signing at an Encino Barnes & Noble on Jan. 26.
Melissa Gertler â11 first self-published “The Champion of Valens” in May 2009.
Shortly after its publication, Barnes & Noble agreed to stock Gertlerâs book in a few select stores as well as online.
Gertler wrote the book for kids between ages 10 and 14, about the same age she was when she began to write it.
“I figured âI love to read, so why not?â” she said. “I couldnât put a book down, so I said âwhy not write my own characters or create my own rules?â”
The fantasy and adventure novel takes place in the fictional land of Valens during the Middle Ages.
It focuses around the heroine Nara, who wants to be a warrior and succeed on the battlefield.
“My main character viewed the world from a romantic perspective,” Gertler said. “Even in my romanticized version of a bloody time period, it wasnât as great as we thought it would be.”
Gertler published her novel through AuthorHouse, a self-publishing company for first-time authors.
“Finding a publisher was an endless circle,” she said. “Publishers donât want you without an agent, and agents donât want you unless youâve been published.”
While writing, Gertler researched Latin words as inspiration for the names of the fictional locations in her novel .
She eventually chose Valens, meaning powerful, for her country as well as Fortus, meaning strong, for its capital.
A large portion of the plot focused on the theme of growing up.
Gertler noticed themes that were prevalent in Nara and in herself at age 13.
“Both [Nara and I] struggled with conformity and nonconformity. I struggled to differentiate from people,” she said. “In the end, we were able to differentiate between ourselves and being nonconformist. Both Nara and I have somewhat grown up.”