CHATHAM, NJ - There was one meeting of the Chatham Rolling Hill Association Book Club where Yvonne Ventresca must have sounded like the know-it-all on the book being discussed, Pandemic.
The other members of the club didn't mind that Ventresca did a lot of the talking because she didn't just read the book, she wrote it.
Although Pandemic is categorized as a "Young Adult" novel, it was of interest to the book club members because they knew the author and also because the fictional setting was based on Chatham and the surrounding area.
Ventresca, a Chatham mother of two, was the winner of the 2015 Atlantic Region Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for her novel Pandemic.
"We did do Pandemic in our book club," Ventresca said. "It's always interesting to hear what people say. Not everybody in a group of 15 is necessarily going to like it. What's fun is that they can ask about the process. 'How did you get the idea for this? Does this refer to this in Chatham?' It was really a fun conversation. We talked about plot points and what was believable and what wasn't to them. I think they enjoyed it.
"Pandemic is about a deadly bird flu. Even though the setting was Chatham, I changed the name to Portico because I thought it would be really bad karma to unleash on my neighbors. All of the other places are in there, like Morristown Hospital and Florham Park. Chatham people get a kick out of reading it because you definitely recognize the landmarks of our town. I just changed the name."
The Rolling Hill Association Book Club might consider reading another Ventresca novel, Black Flowers, White Lives, which is now available for purchase. Even before it was published, Black Flowers, White Lies was rated as the No. 1 Young Adult must-read books of the fall by BuzzFeed.
Described as a "suspenseful psychological thriller," the main character "Ella" is searching for information about her father, who died before she was born.
"There is a little bit of a paranormal side to it," Ventresca said. "You don't know whether she is being haunted or suffering from mental illness. I pitched it as being like the movie Gaslight for teens."
The setting for Black Flowers, White Lies is based on Hoboken, which is where Ventresca lived before she moved to Chatham. She enjoys writing for young adults, which is for 12-year-olds and up.
"It's such a great age," she said. "They have a lot of potential, but there is a lot of uncertainty about what their future holds. So it's an interesting time to write about."
Ventresca has a computer science background and she was a computer programmer until she transitioned into writing about technology. She laughs about how she wrote video copy for a VHS film on how to use the internet. After breaking in as a technology writer, she wrote a biography for teens on singer Avril Lavigne.
But her real passion is fiction and now that she's written two books, she already has an idea for a third, which she started writing over the summer.
"It's tricky to write a thriller," Ventresca said. "You learn something from each book that you write. My next story is about a missing person. I just have a vivid imagination. It has to be something that is intrinsically interesting because you spend so much time researching it."
In addition to writing, Ventresca practices Isshinryu Karate, in which she has achieved the level of third-degree black belt.
More information about Ventresca's books can be found at http://yvonneventresca.com/index.html