First book: Belleville West teen imagines herself an author

News-DemocratSeptember 15, 2013 

Shelby McDade's fear of doctors and dislike of being trapped or chased were the inspiration for her novel. It started as an idea scribbled on a notepad decorated with butterflies.

It turned into pages handwritten in pencil in a notebook she takes with her everywhere. Eventually, her idea blossomed into "Winged."

"It's a very complicated story," Shelby told classmates at Belleville West High School. "I didn't intend to write this for anyone but myself."

The 16-year-old junior from Millstadt has managed nearly straight A's while writing books in her spare time. "Winged" was published last month by iUniverse, and she already has her second book in manuscript form.

"Winged" is the story of five kids who were "guinea pigs" for experiments in an illegal lab. They figure out a way to escape the lab, then must learn to live in the modern world.

"They are not completely sure how to live outside of it," Shelby explained, since they grew up in the lab. The escaped children are hunted by the lab's warhounds -- human-wolf hybrids.

Belleville West Library Director Mary Barteau is currently reading "Winged." She said it reminds her of "Maximum Ride" by James Patterson. "It's a nice adventure story, but it has the fantasy mixed in," Barteau said. "It keeps moving."

"Winged" is 302 pages and retails for $18.95 in paperback. It can be purchased at bookstores or online at Amazon.com. "Winged" is also available as an electronic book.

Shelby never imagined her book would be published but was encouraged by friends and family who read "Winged" to send it to a publisher.

She signed a contract with iUniverse when she was 14 years old, and the book was published when she was 15. Shelby turned 16 on Aug. 14.

Shelby's mother Michelle McDade said originally, they were going to self-publish the book through iUniverse, but once publishers read it, they decided to publish it themselves. Shelby will receives 50 percent royalties from sales of her book.

Shelby's pen name is Shelby Rayn. "It's my first name and middle name," she said. "I just love my middle name. It's pretty. It's a very Irish name. ... Shelby Rayn has a bit more of a ring to it."

Getting started

Shelby started writing toward the end of seventh grade at Millstadt Consolidated School after reading "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton. "The Outsiders" follows rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs, who are divided by their socioeconomic status.

Like Shelby, Hinton was a teenager when she wrote "The Outsiders" in the late 1960s and chose to use a pen name, because she was a woman. "It was at a time when women really didn't write books," Shelby said. "She wrote such an amazing book and proved to the world women can do this too."

Shelby writes whenever she can, including between classes, during study hall and lunch and at home after school. When she gets writer's block, Shelby draws the characters in her novels.

"I don't really have a schedule for writing," she said. "Inspiration comes when it comes."

Her advice to other aspiring authors: "Stay calm. Don't think about who you are writing for; write for yourself and what you think sounds good. Just be yourself. Don't try to copy someone else's style. Write what you would say to somebody else."

Imagine that

Shelby credits her vast imagination to Asperger syndrome, which is a disorder on the autism spectrum.

She was diagnosed at age 6, but her parents, Bill and Michelle McDade, didn't tell her until she was 13.

"We chose not to tell her, because we didn't want her to think she has limitations," Michelle said. "She should be judged by who she is and not by something she is diagnosed with."

Shelby described Asperger's as "a different way of looking at the world that allows you to see the bigger picture. It makes that bigger picture look like something so small," she said. "It helps you think of creative ways to solve a problem."

Individuals with Asperger's are detail-oriented and need routines to follow, Michelle said.

"It's the simple things that pass us by," Shelby said, like remembering to brush your teeth, comb your hair, match your clothes and be polite.

Shelby said learning how to be social is the most difficult aspect for her. "I don't understand the social things," she said. "I don't get things. Sarcasm is one thing I'm still struggling with."

Unlike most teenagers, Shelby has no interest in social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. "I don't get it," she said.

Some may consider Asperger's a learning disability, but Shelby doesn't. "It's actually the opposite," she said.

Shelby has tremendous focus. For a freshman art project, she spent seven hours drawing a life-size wolf from an encyclopedia picture.

"It was totally worth it," she said. "The assignment was to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary by making it extra big."

Dealing with doctors and hospitals over the years had an impact on her writing "Winged."

"I don't really like them that much," she said of doctors. "They creep me out. I can't even stand the smell of hospitals anymore."

Busy student

Shelby has a rigorous class schedule. Her school day typically starts about 8 a.m. in the library at Belleville West where she meets her large group of friends to converse before the bell rings at 8:30 a.m.

Her first class is concert choir where she sits in the back of the large class of 75 students and sings Alto. Then it's off to ceramics.

During class on Sept. 5, Shelby was tasked with transforming pencils into a work of art. Shelby's vision was to create a three-dimensional "cartoony" sculpture using the pencils.

Ceramics teacher Dan Krause described Shelby as a "very creative student" who is "very outspoken and very insightful" during peer art critiques.

In her spare time, Shelby enjoys reading, writing, drawing and Cosplay (costume play). She likes dressing up as her favorite anime character, InuYasha.

Looking ahead

Shelby's second book, "The Devil's Cat: This Means War," is currently in the editing phase. It's also a science fiction/fantasy book.

It tells the story of Daniel Kross, who was an assassin for an association called Creed. "Some things happen. He ends up leaving the association and turning against it," Shelby said. The book, which is more than 650 pages long, is set several hundred years in the future. Shelby hopes to release it before Christmas.

She also has other books in the works including a yet-to-be named third book and a sequel to "The Devil's Cat," which she plans to call "On the Hunt."

Shelby doesn't know what career path she wants to pursue.

"I want to do something that's art and English related," she said. "I like being able to work with my hands, and I like being able to work creatively. I'm also really into and pretty good at sciences."

Shelby has a book signing scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 5 at Barnes and Noble, 6510 N. Illinois St. in Fairview Heights.

Shelby Rayn McDade

Age: 16

Family: Parents Bill and Michelle McDade and brother Jake, 10

"She just amazes me everyday what she wants to do and what she wants to try," Michelle said.

Hometown: Millstadt

School: Belleville West

Favorite classes: Ceramics and physics

Favorite book: "There's too many out there," Shelby said.

Current book: "House of Leaves" by Mark Danielewski

Hobbies: Reading, writing, drawing and anime Cosplay (costume play).

"I visit Barnes and Nobles just about every weekend to pick up a new book," Shelby said. Her walk-in closet in her bedroom is being converted into a small library to house her books.

Family pets: Two cats, one named Puppy and another named Kirby, and a turtle named Sharky, aka "the escape artist."

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service