Not long ago my agent was approached by an editor from one of the big NY publishing houses. The editor wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a YA novel (young adult). At first I was so flattered by the request that I said “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
And then I stopped and realized that I had no idea HOW to write a YA novel. Were there situations I couldn’t write about? Words I couldn’t use? I was at a loss. I started doing a little research but it didn’t take me too much time to figure out I had another problem, lack of time. Writing my adult novels and homeschooling my son is enough to keep me plenty busy. Taking on a new project, particularly a learn-as-you-go-kind-of-project, was just asking for a breakdown. Still, I haven’t ruled out writing YA in the future and continue to be curious about the genre.
That’s why I was so excited to find out that one of my fellow GCC members, Lauren Barnholdt not only writes YA novels but also teaches an online course titled How to Write and Sell the YA Chick-lit Novel. She even wrote a book on the subject.
Her latest novel is Reality Chick which has been receiving rave reviews from the likes of Teen People. Anyway, I figured I’d pick her brain by inviting her to be interviewed on this blog. I know many of you are aspiring writers and a few of you are aspiring YA writers so perhaps you’ll find her answers as helpful as I did.
What attracted you to the chick-lit young adult fiction genre?
I’ve always been fascinated with adolescence, that time when everyone’s trying to figure things out. I think my writing voice naturally fits into the YA chicklit genre. My characters tend to overanalyze everything (kind of like me, ha), but in a funny, absurd kind of way.
The common assumption is that YA novels consist of fictional tales that deal with issues which are of interest to teens and adolescents while simultaneously side-stepping, or only delicately touching upon, adult situations and language. But in a world where very young children are exposed to “adult situations/language” in the media all the time, where does an author of YA fiction draw the line?
I think YA fiction has really grown up over the past few years. Before, YA authors were writing books with sixteen-year-old protagonists, but the books were geared toward a twelve-year-old audience. YA fiction is now writing books about sixteen-year-olds FOR sixteen-year-olds, and the topics, language, and issues addressed in the book are becoming more mature. The genre is really exploding, as teens are staying longer in the YA section before graduating to the other parts of the bookstore. My agent always says that today’s YA books address the same issues and topics as adult books – the only difference is that the YA characters are experiencing these things for the first time.
I’ve definitely noticed a lot of older teens reading YA novels but I’ve also noticed a lot of adults reading YA. Are adults part of YA’s target market these days?
The YA demographic has definitely changed over the past few years, with lots of books (like Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling books) having crossover appeal. I think a lot of the issues addressed and brought up in YA literature can appeal to adults as well, so the demographic is definitely shifting a little bit.
Your book is about a college freshman who has her first semester filmed for a reality show. What about reality TV perked your interest as an author?
I’m obsessed with reality TV. There’s something about knowing that what you’re watching actually happened that’s really compelling. I tried out for THE REAL WORLD once, and I didn’t make it. All my friends were like, “It’s because you’re too normal!” And I thought, “That’s exactly why they should have picked me!” I thought it would be cool to see how a normal person reacted to living with a bunch of people with issues – so I decided to write a book about it. (A lot of the stuff that happens during Ally’s audition in REALITY CHICK actually happened to me when I tried out for THE REAL WORLD. But I won’t tell you exactly what, ha.)
What’s next for you? Are you working on anything right now?
My first novel for tweens, DEVON DELANEY’S SECRET IDENTITY, will be out in May of 2007. It’s about a thirteen-year-old girl who goes away for the summer and lies to the local girls about how popular she is. She then has to scramble to recreate her “secret identity” when one of the girls shows up at her school. My second YA novel, ROAD TRIP, will be out next summer, and it’s about a girl who gets stuck driving cross country to college with the boy who just broke up with her.
Okay, if you’re anything like me you will now buy Reality Chick and analyze every incident in the book trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. Maybe they’ll be some hints in her blog. It’s worth checking out.
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