Today, we’re continuing our segment Year of the Sub-genre with a look at young adult romance. I’m pleased to welcome New York Times Bestselling author Simone Elkeles and Young Adult Librarian Amy Alessio to the discussion. Amy has graciously agreed to stop by a few times throughout the day to answer your questions. Simone’s on a crazy book deadline and will check in if she gets a free moment.
So let’s get to it!
Tracey: How would you define the young adult sub-genre?
Simone: Young Adult literature is such a broad category, which is what makes it so exciting to be a YA author. I have infinite possibilities; every day more sub-genres are added to the genres you typically find adult literature (romance, mystery, science fiction).
Amy: From books of all lengths, graphic novels, enhanced e-books and video game book-tie ins, there is something to capture the attention of all young adults these days. Mostly a YA book will have a main character who is a YA, or is non-fiction on a subject of interest to young adults presented in a teen friendly format. The Young Adult Library Services Association (www.ala.org/yalsa) defines young adults as people ages 12 – 18, but it’s a little harder to define the genre, as it has as many formats and subjects as adult materials.
Tracey: What is your opinion of the state of this sub-genre today?
Simone: Young Adult literature is really on the rise. It’s so great teens are reading more and being so passionate about books they love. I think teens are finding that their opinions about books really matter, and authors are trying to write what they’ll like. It’s also great that a lot of teachers and librarians really know what teens want to read, so definitely ask them their opinion because they are a great resource. I’m so lucky to be writing teen romances and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Amy: We are in the golden age of young adult literature. The Michael Printz Award (www.ala.org/yalsa) for Excellence in Young Adult Literature has been around for over ten years, and YALSA also has awards for debut authors, nonfiction for teens and impact of a book or author. There are also lists of graphic novels, teen favorites and more. The Harry Potter series drove hardcover sales of books for young adults into a new tier for publishing, and was followed by the popular Eragon series, Twilight and now the Hunger Games. Subjects cover issues of interest to all teens – from GLBTQ and racially diverse teens to every literary genre and titles in settings all over the globe (and beyond). While SE Hinton began to bring teens powerful issue type books with gangs and lower income teens decades ago, many new authors are writing now about the realities of today’s teens. (By the way – 5th graders read SE Hinton now…)
Tracey: What sub-genres do you feel are hot right now?
Simone: Vampire Romance seems to be very popular right now. The supernatural romance is also a big sub-genre right now. Thanks to the wonderful book The Hunger Games, Dystopian literature is also a very hot genre for teens.
Amy: I see more and more nonfiction readers among teens, as more publishers are offering interesting things for them. I still see a lot of paranormal romances, but more with new creatures like werewolves, zombies and angels. Maggie Stiefvater and Lauren Kate are frontrunners among those. There are a lot of dystopian futuristic titles that are pretty grim but still popular. I’m writing a reference book on teen mysteries, and I’m happy to see that we are finally seeing more mystery and suspense titles even for older teens. The Pretty Little Liars TV show is helping there too. And I’m also really thankful that more diverse characters and cultural storylines are heading into the forefront. My teens at the library are happy to see themselves in books.
Tracey: Do you see any areas of this sub-genre writers should avoid? Move toward?
Simone: In writing for teens, I try to keep my language as natural as possible – I write how I talk. I remember that one of the reasons I hatedreading as a teen was because the language of the books I was required to read was so flowery and BORING. I have a short attention span, so I write what I think I would have liked as a teen. Writers should avoid writing for teens if they are not young at heart and don’t have a passion for it. Don’t force it.
Amy: There are definitely genres on their way out. But keep in mind that teens are usually only reading YA from about 7th grade – 10th grade, so new teen find trends all the time. I believe publishers are getting tired of vampires for now. The designer chick-lit gossip girl type of books seem to be growing up into better plots and less superficial titles now, too.
A while ago I interviewed some editors from Simon and Schuster, Candlewick and Harlequin Teen on what is coming up for a YARWA newsletter. All three were interested in steampunk, horror but not vampire (read the excellent Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey), angels, realistic teen stories and more. Everyone is looking for something different. New writers should read recent award winners and best sellers and think how to approach subjects in a new way.
Tracey: What do you like best about this sub-genre? The least?
Simone: Teens are the best fans! They are passionate and the emails I receive definitely inspire me to write more books. When I get an email saying a teen hated to read but because of my books now loves to read it really is amazing and surreal. What do I like least? Nothing, really. There are so many books out there for teens, there’s something for everyone!
Amy: Many adults are finding YA books great pleasure reading as YA authors have to capture readers’ interest quickly and sustain it. I have given The Hunger Games to many happy adult readers. I like that YA literature is always reinventing itself. I do wish there were more quality mystery series for teens now though, more books with intelligent teen boys that aren’t fantasy, science fiction for girls and definitely more diverse characters. I wish more publishers would develop bigger nonfiction lines for teens too that include intelligent, thought provoking subjects and not just Cosmo-type quizzes.
Tracey: How do you think this sub-genre has changed in the last five years?
Simone: I think book trailers are really revolutionizing the entire book industry, but especially in YA literature. Teens are very visual. They might not read a book critique to find out what books they might like. But, if they find a book trailer on YouTube that catches their interest, they’re probably going to read the book and tell their friends about it. I filmed a book trailer for Rules of Attraction (the 2nd book in my Perfect Chemistry series) that looks just like a movie trailer. It’s been a big hit on youtube with over 70,000 hits! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhEx0kaUlrU
Amy: Paranormal stories really grew, and graphic novels gained acceptance. Everyone is doing them these days – from Meyer to Evanovich to Patterson. Television and movies have really boosted mainstream interest in YA books also, both graphic novels and traditional print titles. Five years ago I got a lot of challenges from folks who wanted me to remove graphic novels from the library. Now we hear more about video games!
Tracey: Advice you have for writers who want to break into this sub-genre?
Simone: I will give the same advice I give any aspiring author. Don’t give up! It took me 5 years to get published, and believe me, I got plenty ofrejection letters in those five years! Now I’m on the NY Times bestseller list. It’s been an amazing journey and I hope it will last for a long, long time!
Amy: People who want to write for teens should strive to learn about the books they read and what interests them, and try to write in a realistic way about their life.
I see a lot of new YA writers who contact me at the library wanting to ‘teach teens writing.’ Most libraries have longstanding teen advisory boards as well as writing and/or drawing clubs already. Try and market in a new, creative way – not just a facebook, but facebook trivia and games. Or design a craft program based on something in the book. There are many reference books in creative teen programs for ideas (I’ve co-written two…). Offer libraries something special for Teen Read Week or Teen Tech Week. If you don’t know about those, go to www.ala.org/yalsa and learn more.
Get to know some teens and have them check your writing to see if dialogue is realistic or if terms are dated, and get their opinion. Remember they don’t hold back! Respect very smart and savvy teen readers and do not try to teach something with your writing other than how to enjoy a book!
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Thanks Amy and Simone!
RU Crew, what is your take on the YA sub-genre? Share with us your favorite book(s) and why.
Be sure to stop back on Wednesday when Tracey Devlyn shares a personal story about emphysema, courage, and love.
Amy Alessio is a Teen Librarian at the Schaumburg Township District Library, where she has enjoyed teen input for over 12 years. Nationally known, Amy has given over 80 presentations, including programs at RWA, ALA, PLA and RT. She co-authored A Year of Programs for Teens (ALA Editions, 2006) , with another volume to be published in 2010 and a guide on teen mysteries for 2011. She reviews teen titles for Crimespree Magazine and Teenreads.com, and is currently on the 2011 YALSA Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee. She has edited other professional titles, including Excellence in Library Services for Young Adults (YALSA, 2008). Amy is the author of two adult romantic suspense short stories. Her first Young Adult mystery is being published in 2013. Her first young adult mystery is under contract for 2013.
For over four years, she has also blogged about Vintage Cookbooks, her passion. She now enjoys talking about the fun food and recipe trends she sees in her collection of over 350 titles. She is training her two young sons to bake and cook with her (or instead of her…) .Find about more about her, the blog and the schedule of her programs at www.amyalessio.com.
Simone Elkeles is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Her funny way of looking at life and the world around her has an effect on the people she hangs out with. If you hear people laughing, you’ll probably find Simone not far away.
Simone has also been voted the Illinois Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English.
Simone went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and received her Bachelor’s of Science there in Psychology in 1992. She continued her education at Loyola University-Chicago where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Relations while working for a manufacturing company creating diversity programs for their employees.
She loves animals (she has two dogs – a labradoodle and a German Shepherd), kids (she also has two of those) and her family. In her spare time she’s the Hockey Mom for her kids hockey teams and is an active Girl Scout leader specially trained in outdoor education. She also spends time mentoring other teen and adult authors. (she also loves sushi, which you can probably tell by reading her books).
Simone writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80’s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances.
For more information, please visit her website www.simoneelkeles.net/
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