Friday, November 20, 2009

A new genre just for me

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.


jmberrygirl said...

Love it. I'm leaning more YA these days, because I just can't write steamy love scenes. I'm seriously thinking about editing my journals/scrapbooks from 7th-12th grade and attempting to work with them. There's some funny stuff there, and a lot of angst, as well. And who (among teenagers) doesn't love teenage angst?

Ashley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashley said...

I couldn't agree more, Anna Claire. Books with "new adult" protags are definitely hard to find. Think of the Gossip Girl generation...which books will the audience those books have reached read next? I've noticed a lot of books are geared towards girls in their early twenties, struggling through first jobs and all that, but what about the in-between people who are no longer in high school but aren't eligible for a first job either?

I, too, am not impressed with high school matter how dreamily they're written. The only reason I liked Edward Cullen so much is because he was really a 100+ guy trapped in a teen's body.

I've also been struggling with labeling the genre of my WIP, because my protag is neither woman really, nor child. She's still in college. I always sort of winced at calling it Women's Fiction. I still don't know if my protag's story fits in "new adult" but I'm prepared to do more research on it.

I'm glad you found your mothership! You must feel oh-so-relieved. Isn't it a wonderful feeling???

Good Luck!

Irene Latham said...

AC, this is awesome! Just the two words you NEED, from a marketing perspective. And it's my first awareness of the new genre term, so thanks for the education. xxoo

dogs for sale said...

I'm seriously thinking about editing my journals/scrapbooks from 7th-12th grade and attempting to work with them.

dogs for sale said...

I'm seriously thinking about editing my journals/scrapbooks from 7th-12th grade and attempting to work with them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for linking to my blog. Lots of folks have been over to check out the info about "New Adult." The contest was so much fun to do and I wish everyone luck with their writing whichever genre they choose to write in.

Georgia McBride

Cammie said...

I'd love to learn more about the breakdown between adult, YA, and new adult lit. I honestly don't know where my WIP fits ... I mean, the protagonists start off as 16-year-olds, and will only be 20 by the time the novel ends. But they lead rather mature lives considering their age. AND my book's a period piece set in the 1920s ... so I have NO CLUE how to pitch this thing to an agent ... HELLLLPPPPP! ;-)

Guinevere said...

Great post -- and good news, indeed. The novel I've been pitching to agents seems to fall into the same middle ground -- a 22-year-old who assisted her terminally ill father in his suicide as a teenager, trying to find her place in the world and a sense of peace. I love the idea of a New Adult genre that fills the gap between YA and everything else!

Michael Clutton said...

I too am having trouble figuring out which "genre" my book falls into... since it crosses over the accepted boundaries for a couple of them.
Not an expert on YA or NA, but I would offer this. If you write what YOU want to write, you're on the right track.
I didn't try to conform to any style or genre. I wrote a book exactly like I personally would enjoy. Turns out, a lot of other folks like the same thing.
So... is it a thriller or a suspense? Is for adults... young adults... late teens? Is it horror or terror? Is it comedy or romance? I reached the point I don't care.
Write what you like and be true to yourself.
I'll let others decide what "genre" it is.
Just my two cents.

Kimberly at Echowood said...

Hi Anna Claire - I linked to your blog from the St. Martin's contest for New Adult Fiction. Just for fun, I've been wading through the entries, seeing what's there. They're mostly all so BORING, but I saw yours and said, "Ah-ha! Now THERE'S a novel I would actually want to READ!" Mind you, I'm not a judge or anything, and I have no idea what the results are looking like. But as a fellow writer, I just wanted to give you that little boost to your morale and let you know that your entry is a stand-out. Wishing you all the best, in the contest and in your writing career!
~ Kimberly