Credit: Brian Schott; Bloomsbury

Jeff Giles has had not one, but two successful careers. Prior to moving to Montana and writing his young adult fantasy series, Giles was deputy managing editor at EW, where he saw, firsthand, how passionate the young adult audiences really are. He then decided to turn his attention to writing full-time, nabbing a rare two-book deal. After a successful first novel, Giles is back with The Brink of Darkness, the second book in his romantic fantasy series.

Here, he reveals why he loves writing for young audiences—and about chosen families.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had a long career as a journalist, including at EW. Why turn to YA?
JEFF GILES: [EW] was very good at covering young-adult fiction from the very beginning, both when the books and the adaptations came out. You just see the incredible passion there is in that readership and what an inclusive, empathetic community it is. The first time I came up with an idea, it just happened to be something that made sense as a young-adult novel. Now I’ve spent a couple years getting to know [it], and the community is just fantastic.

YA’s readership is undoubtedly unique.
Absolutely! Going to a book convention as a YA novelist, you’ll never again doubt that young people care about reading. You’ve got 500 of them sitting in front of you who’ve read more books in the past year than you’ve read in 10 years, and that’s a great feeling. Especially when we’re constantly reading that [young adults] don’t read anymore and they’re only on Snapchat.

This is the second book in the Edge of Everything series. How’d you start it?
The first book is mostly about Zoe, who lives in Montana. She’s grieving her dad and some very close friends she’s lost. The first book is really about her trying desperately to save this guy, X, because in some ways it’s easier to help someone else with their pain than to confront your own…. So I knew the second book had to be the story of X.

X lives in hell; he searches for his mom in a lot of the book. Was family a big theme for you?
There’s a hopefully exciting fantastical plot, but relationships are what I care about more than anything else. X, even in the underworld, makes a family out of virtually nothing. It’s an important theme. Every family is as good as any other family.

How did you approach expanding this world?
The biggest challenge about writing a world that’s basically hell is you need to have sympathetic characters. I knew that X was going to be in prison there, but it would be too upsetting and depressing to read a book where everyone is horrific. There had to be people that’d care about him, and there had to be people that we’d care about. How do you create characters who legitimately deserve to be in hell but you still feel something for? That was tough, but obviously what I came up with was: They have to acknowledge what they did, to admit what they did, and to be desperate to atone for what they did.