I'm Crazy Excited about "New Adult" lit. I don't want to jump on the "OMG It's the Next Big Thing" bandwagon just yet, but...OMG. I think I've found my Mothership.
You can read more about what New Adult lit is here. (Basically it's just what it sounds like: books for late teens and early 20s). And see a Twitter chat discussing it here (scroll to Nov. 11, around 9 p.m.). An even better interview with the New Adult guru editorial assistant JJ is here. Then Michael at Upstart Crow Literary discusses it here (but he's not a fan).
When I queried my previous manuscript earlier this year, a mystery with a college sophomore as the heroine, I got more than one response from an agent saying she (usually it's a she) liked the writing but wouldn't know where to place it. My heroine was too old for YA and too young for adult fiction.
Well, crap. Where does that leave me?
My writing voice right now, for good or bad, leans more YA (and, shudder, a little bit Chick Lit though I really hate to call it that) but - and this has plagued me for months - if I'm being honest with myself, I'm not drawn to teenage characters and I don't care about high school. There, I said it. I thought maybe the YA genre was for me, but it's just not.
I first mentioned my problem here. I like writing about girls in their early 20s, the ones who are little more mature but certainly not adults yet. Also, I hate writing love interests who are high school boys. High school boys are lame; everyone knows this. High school itself can be kind of lame sometimes, and I think most people start to truly discover who they are in the years after high school. If you read through the Twitter link above it's obvious at least a few other writers out there feel the same way.
The whole idea of a "New Adult" category of fiction seems like such an obvious choice for a new niche because:
1. Lots of people around my age (26) and a few years younger have postponed - whether purposefully or not - what's generally considered "adulthood." I have many friends who've moved back in with their parents post-college and/or are struggling to decide what exactly they want to be when they grow up. They're not (that) spoiled and they're not whiny. It's an honest and genuine problem for this generation. If you don't believe it, ask yourself why Judd Apatow comedies are so popular.
2. There have been lots of great YA books out for a few years now. Those readers expect good lit geared just to them. Now they're getting a bit older and they're going to keep expecting that. Like @EdgmontGal said in the twitter convo above, "like suddenly those kids would want to read about people in their 30s w/jobs and families"?
3. College and early 20s is an intense time of life, filled with major changes and upheaval. It's ripe for literary exploration, but books about college-aged MCs are hard to find (Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl books and Donna Tartt's The Secret History are the only ones that come to mind). It's even rarer to find them written about a college-age protagonist for college-age readers.
I've been worried for months about my WIP, the Southern Gothic piece, thinking I'm shooting myself in the foot again because the MC is 19. She's an adult, and yet not an adult. But I can't help it; she's the kind of character I want to write. Plus, and this is awesome: JJ, the editorial assistant at St. Martin's who is looking for New Adult, said in the Twitter chat, and I quote: "Yes, du Maurier's REBECCA could be New Adult. Same with Bronte's JANE EYRE".
SWEET MOTHER that is exactly what I want to write...well, updated, of course. Those two books are the main inspiration for my Southern Gothic. Heck yes. Things are looking rosy.
I'm so, so over high school. Long live New Adults.