Good morning, RU Readers! Let’s take a moment to salute our veterans on this day of remembrance.
Thanks! Now on with today’s program…I’m really pleased to introduce you to today’s visiting professor. I first met Leanna Renee Hieber in New York, while attending a reading at Lady Jane’s Salon and then again at our Sourcebooks author dinner. Leanna’s enthusiasm for writing is infectious, and I can’t wait for you to meet her.
Writing Adult Vs. YA Titles, one author’s experience
Since the beginning of time, authors have crossed between genres, and all of them have done so differently. There are no rules in storytelling besides telling a damn good story. There are, however, genre expectations each genre expects of the author, and YA is no different. Here are some of my choices and thoughts on the matter.
Firstly, I should say that more than most other authors who’ve crossed between these two aisles, I’ve kept things similar. I’m still a Gothic novelist in style. Still Historical Paranormal. I’ve kept my name. I’ve kept my “PG-13” rating to my books. I’ve even kept my decade: 1880. I’ve kept many themes: disenfranchised, “unfortunate” heroines finding a beloved community of people where their strengths are recognized and valued. I layer my paranormal setting delicately onto ‘realistic’ Victorian lives. So thusly, I don’t really look at my Strangely Beautiful and my upcoming Magic Most Foul series as being all that different in mood or intent. The differences are what shelf they’ll sit upon in the bookstore and the rest is semantics: London vs. New York City. 1888 vs. 1880. A large cast of characters vs. a smaller one. Third person sweeping narrative for my adult books versus intimate, epistolary (diary entry) first person narratives for my YA books.
The two most obvious differences between my series are the age and life experience of the characters and their peer group, and 3rd person to 1st person. A YA world doesn’t have to be populated only with teens, but the reason my Strangely Beautiful series ended up as adult rather than YA is that Miss Percy was the main teen in a world of adult people and situations, so the tone skewed adult event though it’s “rated” PG-13. Alexi, the hero, is much older than Percy and that fact alone steers it onto the adult rather than YA shelf. For a book to be shelved as YA, there has to be a teen/young adult peer group. But even though my third Strangely Beautiful book is filled entirely with teenagers, it sits next to the first books in the series, where they are all already shelved in adult genre fiction, (it also has so many different POVs that the style is more adult than YA).
Key needs of YA: A teen peer group, relatable teen characters, a youthful driving voice. You don’t have to use a first person narrative but the bulk of YA novels are. Generally POV needs to stay in the main character’s head, or hero/heroine’s heads at most. The world of the teen is everything, the world is all-consuming and yet based entirely from within their own perspective, thusly that perspective and world-view is intimate to the main character. There must be something inherently youthful about the narrative, even if, as in my case, there was no such thing as a ‘teenager’ in the 19th century. Don’t just take an adult novel and change the ages of the characters. That doesn’t work. But don’t talk down to teen readers either.
A few things my YA heroine Natalie taught me when I sat back and let her drive the carriage: Mean girls translate to any time period. Struggling to find one’s voice, figuratively or in Natalie’s case, literally, is something every human, not just teen girl, can relate to. The desire for beautiful things is universal. Falling in love for the first time is an act of bravery and insanity. The impulsivity of youth can create the most rich, conflict-laden and nerve-wracking stories; just dream up an interesting young character and let them run around, they will take you to incredible and unexpected places if you let them.
What’s the core of YA? The Rite of Passage.
I recently said in an interview that Young Adult literature presents “life at it’s most critical”. And the most critical moments of life are by far the most compelling. The rite of passage is one of the most if not the most important journeys in a person’s life. The Coming of Age story is a beautiful, often fraught, and timeless one. It is a tale we will all go through and have been through. That relatable core is why YA fiction is read by young adults and adults alike. The rite of passage inherently hold the key to good drama and storytelling: a journey, a conflict, a change resulting in growth. We must as storytellers tap into this beautifully precarious point of raw power for all our characters. We learn the most about characters as to how they each individually approach this journey and rite. And we, the readers, always learn something of ourselves along the way. Because the Hero’s Journey parallels a coming of age and rite of passage story, a staple of classic storytelling is already at the heart of YA literature, and I look to that journey as my compass.
Thanks, Leanna! RU Readers, tell us about your favorite YA novel. Do you read both adult and YA? If not, why? If so, tell us what you love about both worlds. To read an excerpt from DARKER STILL, please visit http://www.leannareneehieber.com/darker-still-magic-most-foul/.
On Monday, Christina Hollis discusses…From Idea to Acceptance: Five Things to Smooth Your Path to Publication. Great information!
Actress, playwright and author Leanna Renee Hieber graduated with a BFA in Theatre, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. Having adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage, her one-act plays have been produced around the country. THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER, first in the Strangely Beautiful saga of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels, hit Barnes & Noble’s bestseller lists, won two 2010 Prism Awards (Best Fantasy Romance, Best First Book) and has been optioned for adaptation into a musical theatre production currently in development. DARKER STILL, first in the Magic Most Foul series of Gothic Paranormal YA novels set in 1880s New York City begins 11/11 from Sourcebooks Fire and has been chosen as an “Indie Next” recommended title by the American Book Association.
A member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, she was named RWA NYC’s 2010 Author of the Year. A member of actors unions AEA, SAG and AFTRA, Leanna works often in film and television. When not writing or on set, she’s a devotee of ghost stories and Goth clubs, adventuring about NYC, where she resides with her real-life hero and beloved rescued lab rabbit Persebunny. Visit her at http://leannareneehieber.com and on Twitter @LeannaRenee
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