Jump to content
Michelle

Ask the authors...

Recommended Posts

Is there anything you'd particularly like to ask our YA authors who are visiting?

 

My first question is, as writers of YA, how do you define it? Are you thinking about the age of your intended audience, the age of your characters, or something completely different?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

 

  • Did you make a conscious decision to write YA from the outset? Or did you write a novel that someone through the publishing process suggested would fit into the YA market?
  • Do you only write for YA, or have you/will you written for younger/older readers?
  • Do you find you have to defend yourself as a writer of YA, and that other writers/journalists/publishers consider it easier/less important than popular or literary fiction?

Thanks in advance! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

 

  • Did you make a conscious decision to write YA from the outset? Or did you write a novel that someone through the publishing process suggested would fit into the YA market?
  • Do you only write for YA, or have you/will you written for younger/older readers?
  • Do you find you have to defend yourself as a writer of YA, and that other writers/journalists/publishers consider it easier/less important than popular or literary fiction?

Thanks in advance! :)

I write what comes into my head and that's pretty much it. I think that any writer with serious aspirations of getting published should focus on their story and not what the market might or might not want because all the professionals in the publishing industry truly don't have a clue what the next big thing will be. My first three books were adult urban fantasy, the next two, POLTERGEEKS and STUDENT BODIES are YA but my agent has two completed projects she is about to begin shopping - an adult urban fantasy and a YA post-apocalyptic project. None of these projects were written with a mind for what might possibly sell because the reality of the publishing industry is that it takes up to three years from the sale of a project to the time it makes it to a bookstore.

 

As for defending myself as a writer of YA - I don't think I've ever had to do that but what I can tell you is that mainstream media will only report on big established brands or new wild trends as evidenced by the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi guys! Thanks for inviting us over.

 

For me, I do think of YA as a genre--but a genre made up of other genres. I particularly like the freedom of being able to take elements of, say, mystery and romance and fantasy and mix them up together or to write a book that goes in a different direction to my last one and feel confident readers will still be able to find it. Not that you can't do this in adult fiction, because of course you can--but there's more of a risk that your books will not be in the same section of the bookstore or library or where your readers can easily track them down. The only defining characteristic that I see is stories focusing on protagonists who are, well, young adults. Certainly, a sense of heightened immediacy that comes from first-time experiences is also often present, if not always.

 

I did make a conscious decision that I wanted to write YA, but it was because it's where my voice naturally wanted to go. In the early and mid-2000s, I started reading the new crop of modern YA authors and felt an immediate recognition. These were the kind of stories I wanted to tell. I have been working on my first thing for younger readers over the summer, and that was fun too--and a story that just fit middle grade better than YA. Maybe someday I'll write something for adults, but I have no idea what it would be or when.

 

I suppose there are some people who look down on YA authors -- or grubby genre authors, in general (*rolls eyes forever*) -- but I've been lucky enough not to run into many of them. And there's really nothing like hearing from a teen who has loved your book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

 

  • Did you make a conscious decision to write YA from the outset? Or did you write a novel that someone through the publishing process suggested would fit into the YA market?
  • Do you only write for YA, or have you/will you written for younger/older readers?
  • Do you find you have to defend yourself as a writer of YA, and that other writers/journalists/publishers consider it easier/less important than popular or literary fiction?

Thanks in advance! :)

 

I wrote YA partly by accident. I started a book with the same protagonist but 10 years older, got stuck, and decided to write a "short story" about his background as a teenager joining the circus. That became Pantomime. I initially subbed it as adult as I wasn't 100% sure it was YA. But that's what it sold as :-)

 

I've always planned to write both YA and adult fiction. I'm working on an adult SF thriller right now. 

 

I haven't really come across that much YA prejudice, however I think it might make it harder to get mainstream press coverage on my books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

 

  • Did you make a conscious decision to write YA from the outset? Or did you write a novel that someone through the publishing process suggested would fit into the YA market?
  • Do you only write for YA, or have you/will you written for younger/older readers?
  • Do you find you have to defend yourself as a writer of YA, and that other writers/journalists/publishers consider it easier/less important than popular or literary fiction?

Thanks in advance! :)

 

Like Laura, I wrote YA by accident! I wrote The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish as one book without really thinking of it as YA (or adult, really, it was just a book I wanted to write). But it wound up being published as YA which is fine by me!

 

I have an adult science fiction book out right now called The Mad Scientist's Daughter, so I definitely write across the age groups! I've always wanted to write a middle grade book as well because I've always loved middle grade books (even before I knew they were called that). I like writing YA and adult, though. It mixes things up.

 

I also haven't come across much YA prejudice. I think it depends on the book in question, honestly, rather than YA as a whole.

 

My first question is, as writers of YA, how do you define it? Are you thinking about the age of your intended audience, the age of your characters, or something completely different?

 

I think YA is a "genre" in the same way that literary fiction is a "genre" in that it's defined by certain stylistic choices rather than content (for the most part). Both YA and lit fic also borrow heavily from other genres, and in YA in particular that means you get to mix and match and blend everything together, which can be very exciting. However, I've noticed that in the United States bookstores are starting to divide YA by genre, so I wonder how much longer the mix-and-matching will be viable. 

 

I also YA is faster paced and (generally) with a stronger focus on voice. There's a lot of immediacy to the writing that makes it so easy to get sucked into the plot and characters.

 

Personally, I think about the age group of my characters more than my intended audience. I figure my readers will be all ages anyway, and I tend to keep the writing at the same level as my adult fiction, just with a fast pace and stronger voice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Like Laura, the fact that TBD fits well in YA was accidental... I see myself as a writer, not a writer of any specific category or genre. In my career I'm hoping to publish a fairly wide variety of books from YA to adult historical fiction. Genres and categories are interesting to play with as a writer, but they don't dictate my writing choices. TBD ended up being YA because a family friend suggested it might be hard to sell the book as adult fiction because (a) it has a teenage protagonist and (b) it blurs adult genre boundaries too much to be an easy marketing proposition. I just wanted to get the book I wanted to write to readers. I don't have strong views about what label it comes under: so long as it is getting to people who will like it, I'm happy.

 

Some of the stories I want to tell during my writing career will work better as adult books and some will work better as YA, but I doubt I'll write for younger readers. Or at least write for publication for younger readers! I've got a few little books I want to do for my Goddaughter and her lovely little sister, but that's a captive audience that can be bribed with chocolate to say they're the best books ever.

 

I've never *had* to defend myself as a YA author... though I have faced times when people have gone 'Oh, published as YA? <sniff, sniff> Ah yes.' But as I just find that type of response a bit silly I've never felt a need to defend myself against it. Some people look down on YA... but some people look down on the Classics as boring and outmoded. I think it would be better if we could all recognise and discuss our preferences without dismissing whole categories of literature out of hand as 'inferior'. Certainly, in universities I think it's important that we move away from limiting what students read and write because of individual prejudices about high and low culture. It's the quality of the writing and scholarship that should matter, not the genre of the text or manuscript in question.

 

Alexia

www.thebonedragon.com

www.alexiacasale.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think I was probably writing YA before I knew that's what I was doing.  The main character in my first (unpublished) book was 16 years old but I thought it was an adult horror novel.  I think I’m drawn to teen characters because everything they experience is so surface-level. Every day is the best day they’ve had or the worst day.  Things are new and more exciting; they’re just less jaded than most adults. But writing teen characters doesn't necessarily mean you're writing YA. STAND BY ME by Stephen King is the perfect example of an adult novel with teen protagonists, and even now I'm reading THE SILVER STAR by Jeannette Walls, where the MC is 12 years old but it's definitely an adult-themed novel. Someone above mentioned voice and pacing, and that's definitely a large part of what makes a book young adult. It's also about the your main character figuring out who they are as an individual, and usually (I say "usually" because there are no hard-and-fast rules) YAs end on a hopeful note. Not happy necessarily, but hopeful.

 

I do think the age of your protagonist has a lot to do with the age of your readers. Most high schoolers don't want to read about middle schoolers. Readers will usually (there's that word again!) read up for their main characters. Although there was that one guy named Harry Potter... ;)

 

I love these books. I'm proud to be part of a writing community filled with so much talent and imagination, fueling the minds of young (and not-so-young) readers. Defend my genre, I surely would. Why anyone looks down their nose at us is beyond me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello all. Sorry I'm a bit late to the party, but October's turning out to be a very busy month. (Tentacle slides around door jamb) GO AWAY. (Tentacle slides back, ashamed) I should think so, too. 

 

Right, to address the questions: 

My first question is, as writers of YA, how do you define it? Are you thinking about the age of your intended audience, the age of your characters, or something completely different?

 

Personally, I regard YA not so much as a genre unto itself as a sub-genre within each genre. So, Kim Curran's Shift series and my own Russalka Chronicles, for example, are YA within SF. It's all perception and however you want to draw your Venn diagram, really. For the sake of argument, it's probably just as well to call it a genre, though, for lack of more elegant term. 

 

As for how I write for it, I just think of the sort of things I liked reading at that age and find it pretty easy to rediscover those enthusiasms and fascinations. That I've done a singularly poor job of growing up helps enormously. It's hard to imagine YA without teenage protagonists, admittedly, so that's possibly one of the few bits of necessary formula in a genre that is otherwise so fluid. 

 

chesilbeach, on 03 Oct 2013 - 13:44, said:snapback.png

 


I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

 

  • Did you make a conscious decision to write YA from the outset? Or did you write a novel that someone through the publishing process suggested would fit into the YA market?
  • Do you only write for YA, or have you/will you written for younger/older readers?
  • Do you find you have to defend yourself as a writer of YA, and that other writers/journalists/publishers consider it easier/less important than popular or literary fiction?

Thanks in advance!  :)

 

How I came to write Katya's World (the first novel of the Russalka Chronicles) is complicated. It was originally written with only half an eye on publication, but mainly inspired by a visit to a bookshop where I ended up in the MG/YA section and was depressed to see how little SF there was. Tonnes of fantasy, but barely any science fiction, and none that I could see of the pretty hard nut'n'bolts stuff that got me into SF when I was young.

 

So, I wrote Katya's World as a reaction to that, and made the protagonist female partially because I like female protagonists and partially because I wanted it to appeal to my daughter. I read it to her piecemeal as it was being written, so she was the first to hear it. Then my Johannes Cabal books got into print and I thought I might stand a chance of seeing Katya's World published too. Depressingly, my agent had no luck placing it specifically because the publishers just wanted fantasies, ideally with love triangles. Then along came Strange Chemistry asking for all sorts of things, including hard YA SF, and Katya found her berth. 

 

As intimated above, Katya's World was actually my fourth book in print, being preceded by the first three Johannes Cabal novels. Oddly enough, the Cabal books are intended for adults, but have a strong following amongst readers who can be characterised as YA. 

 

I've never had anyone turn their nose up at me for writing YA. Thinking back, I once had someone get a bit sniffy because I write SFF, but they were an arse so I couldn't give a monkey's about what they thought. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I knew I wanted to write a teen romance, so I was definitely writing YA from the outset. It was a conscious step up (in terms of age group) from the children's books I had written previously.

 

I tend to follow the old rule of your main characters being a year older than your target readers - in which case my readers for When the World was Flat (and we were in love) would be 15 and 16 years old. I only use this to confirm it is YA though - as there is really no limit to age-group for books!

 

I am extremely proud of writing YA and am happy to explain to people that I write commercial fiction, not literary fiction. I do think there is some stigma attached though, which I think would be nipped in the bud if any critics actually attempted to write a YA novel themselves. YA novels have their own challenges, like capturing the teen voice and the range of emotions and drama without being condescending or turning it into a soap opera. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Chesilbeach,

I've written all sorts - adult fiction (not the 50 Shades kind!), screenplays, features and now non-fiction - but the idea for Soul Beach came to me and it was just demanding to be written, and with younger characters who'd engage with a strange other world online. I didn't set out to write YA because it was a hot genre, it was simply that the story seemed right for that age group and I had to do it!!

I was pretty used to being told I wrote 'fluff' because I wrote books that women liked, so to be honest, the world of children/teen fiction is more respected. In all honesty, what matters to me is the readers - what I love about YA readers, and YA books themselves, is that they are more open to crossing genres and exploring ideas of life and death alongside the more everyday. Adult fiction tends to be more narrowly defined.

Does that make sense?

xx

 

I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

 

  • Did you make a conscious decision to write YA from the outset? Or did you write a novel that someone through the publishing process suggested would fit into the YA market?
  • Do you only write for YA, or have you/will you written for younger/older readers?
  • Do you find you have to defend yourself as a writer of YA, and that other writers/journalists/publishers consider it easier/less important than popular or literary fiction?

Thanks in advance! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great questions, chesil, and interesting answers, thank you! :)

 

I have a question, but I fear it's not really to do with the YA aspect, but it's more a general question (or a series of related questions) I would love to ask all authors, and now that I have the opportunity, I shall :)

 

 

Are you an avid reader yourself, and if so, have you always been? And what kinds of books do you enjoy reading the most?

 

Also (and this just occurred to me): do any of you have a young adult as a sounding board for your ideas? How much 'help' do you get from young adults themselves when it comes to the whole process of writing a book?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great questions, chesil, and interesting answers, thank you! :)

 

I have a question, but I fear it's not really to do with the YA aspect, but it's more a general question (or a series of related questions) I would love to ask all authors, and now that I have the opportunity, I shall :)

 

 

Are you an avid reader yourself, and if so, have you always been? And what kinds of books do you enjoy reading the most?

 

Also (and this just occurred to me): do any of you have a young adult as a sounding board for your ideas? How much 'help' do you get from young adults themselves when it comes to the whole process of writing a book?

 

I did have a young adult as a sounding board for my book POLTERGEEKS - my daughter Mary-Kate. I dedicated the book to her,actually.  I wrote the sequel STUDENT BODIES without really seeking her input because by then, I knew I'd captured a genuine teen voice. Another project my agent is currently shopping was done without her help as she's not a huge zombie fan.

 

Am I an avid reader? Yes - I read every day before I go to bed. And I generally read what I like to write, so urban fantasy in all its incarnations. I just finished Ben Aaronovitch's BROKEN HOMES and right now I'm reading one of Simon R. Green's Ghosthunter books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you to all the authors who've answered my questions!  I haven't had much time on the forum over the last couple of weeks, but I have read your responses, and appreciate you all taking the time to answer. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too would like to say thank you to all you authors for coming, I never have been a Young Adult fan after my teens, but you have made me consider trying some again in my older age. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd also like to say thank you, all the answers given in the various threads have been very interesting and helpful :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first question is, as writers of YA, how do you define it?
Are you thinking about the age of your intended audience, the age of
your characters, or something completely different?

 

Really I think that there is very little difference between YA and great adult books, but key things that I think define YA books include (but are not limited to):

The age of the characters - YA books tend to star teenage characters

The graphic nature of the content - The majority of YA books have very little in the way of sex, swearing and drugs references (of course there are exceptions, but most editors will make you justify every swear word and remove drugs and sex from a YA novel)

The levels of tension and conflict - YA novels are gripping.  Publishers have the impression that teenagers will not persist with a book that is boring them, so while an adult novel can (and often does) get away with pages of exposition, describing the sunlight on a grassy field etc. YA books tend to get on with the action. Not that we don't include beautiful description and literary language, but YA novelists are not self-indulgent with it.  We are trained to pick out the best couple of sentences, the most effective description and lose the rest.  That is one of the reasons I love to both read and write YA, in a way it is harder than writing adult literature because we have only a couple of sentences to convey what an adult novelist might use two pages for, it is more difficult (but more effective) to write concisely than floridly (as anyone writing to a tight word count will attest).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi All

Very interesting questions and answers  ! 

 

 

Do any of you watch the book reviews done on YouTube ? There are hundreds of them ,and from what I've watched, the majority are about YA books, so that shows how popular that Genre is .

I'm wondering how many of you get fan mail , and if you have your email address in your books so that fans can contact you ?

 

 

How many of you draw on your years as a teen when it comes to writing your books  ?

 

 

Do you guys get any percentages of ages of your readers ? YA is a very popular Genre for adults, too ,so I'm wondering if anyone knows what the percentages are ?

 

 

Thank you in advance for your time .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Julie!

 

I've only recently started watching reviews on youtube. I agree that a lot of them seem to focus on the YA genre. Maybe it is the right generation for vlogging?

 

I have received a bit of fan mail and it is REALLY awesome. It seriously makes my day. I have a contact form on my website.

 

And I always draw on my teen years when writing YA. Most of my characters contain personality traits from my friends (not naming any names!) and many scenes are inspired by real life events.

 

x

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ingrid

 I bet it would be really rewarding to get emails from your fans . I have never attempted to write a book, but if I were to write one with a character that was a teen, I'd definitely have to go back in time to revisit my teen years and try to remember things that happened during those years .Such a lot of really good memories .

 

 

Thanks for taking time to reply !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The levels of tension and conflict - YA novels are gripping.  Publishers have the impression that teenagers will not persist with a book that is boring them, so while an adult novel can (and often does) get away with pages of exposition, describing the sunlight on a grassy field etc. YA books tend to get on with the action. Not that we don't include beautiful description and literary language, but YA novelists are not self-indulgent with it.  We are trained to pick out the best couple of sentences, the most effective description and lose the rest.  That is one of the reasons I love to both read and write YA, in a way it is harder than writing adult literature because we have only a couple of sentences to convey what an adult novelist might use two pages for, it is more difficult (but more effective) to write concisely than floridly (as anyone writing to a tight word count will attest).

This is a really good point, and one which is important to me. I rarely get a decent length of time for reading, it's always done in short bursts, with interruptions. I've found that I don't particularly want to get caught up in long descriptions etc.. each time I pick up the book, I want to have the story move along.

 

I also see it with my teen daughter - she will happily admit that a book needs to grab her attention at the outset, and keep that attention held. She also doesn't get much time for reading, so she wants that time to count. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great questions, chesil, and interesting answers, thank you! :)

 

I have a question, but I fear it's not really to do with the YA aspect, but it's more a general question (or a series of related questions) I would love to ask all authors, and now that I have the opportunity, I shall :)

 

 

Are you an avid reader yourself, and if so, have you always been? And what kinds of books do you enjoy reading the most?

 

Also (and this just occurred to me): do any of you have a young adult as a sounding board for your ideas? How much 'help' do you get from young adults themselves when it comes to the whole process of writing a book?

 

I am an avid reader! I read across pretty much all the genres--literary fiction, science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, thrillers... it all depends on what I'm in the mood for.  So I wouldn't say there's one type of books I enjoy reading the most. It's all about what I feel like reading at that particular time. And I've always been like this, too. My mom was a librarian and I used to come home with stacks of books every couple of weeks. It was awesome!

 

I don't have a particularly young adult that I ask for input, but I am a teacher, and I work with both high school students and first year college students. I definitely think that helps me when it comes to writing teenagers.

 

 

Hi All

Very interesting questions and answers  ! 

 

 

Do any of you watch the book reviews done on YouTube ? There are hundreds of them ,and from what I've watched, the majority are about YA books, so that shows how popular that Genre is .

I'm wondering how many of you get fan mail , and if you have your email address in your books so that fans can contact you ?

 

 

How many of you draw on your years as a teen when it comes to writing your books  ?

 

 

Do you guys get any percentages of ages of your readers ? YA is a very popular Genre for adults, too ,so I'm wondering if anyone knows what the percentages are ?

 

 

Thank you in advance for your time .

 

I generally stay away from reviews in general because it gives me anxiety :( But I do think it's wonderful that people are posting YA reviews on Youtube! That's really neat.

 

I have gotten fan mail and it makes my day every time I get some  :smile: And I do list my email address on my website so people can contact me (for any reason, not just fan mail!)

 

I actually don't know much about the percentage of my readers. I feel like most of the people who've contacted me through email or on Twitter tend to be high school or college aged, but that's not really a scientific survey. It's an interesting questions, though. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a general question.

Why do authors write First Person pov, I've always found them hard to read. I much prefer Third.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi All

Very interesting questions and answers  ! 

 

 

Do any of you watch the book reviews done on YouTube ? There are hundreds of them ,and from what I've watched, the majority are about YA books, so that shows how popular that Genre is .

I'm wondering how many of you get fan mail , and if you have your email address in your books so that fans can contact you ?

 

 

How many of you draw on your years as a teen when it comes to writing your books  ?

 

 

Do you guys get any percentages of ages of your readers ? YA is a very popular Genre for adults, too ,so I'm wondering if anyone knows what the percentages are ?

 

 

Thank you in advance for your time .

 

I have seen a few review vlogs and think it's incredibly cool they're so popular. Any way people can talk about books is good by me. :-)

 

Getting fan mail or a nice email or an @ on twitter about one of my books never fails to makes my day. I list both a snail mail (po box) address and an email on my site, and am easy to find online generally, so I hear from a fair number of readers. I do not imagine this will ever get old. And, yes, as others have said: my inner teenager is very easy to access; I suspect that's true for all of us.

 

There's no way to know for sure exactly who's reading. I would say that I hear from more adults or just out of high school teens directly than actual teens. But there are exceptions. Bowker did a study a few years back that said 55 percent of YA book buyers are adults (though the YAs buy more YA books overall).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×