Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"T" is for That Genre Otherwise Known As Young Adult

As we wend our way through the alphabet in the A-Z Challenge, today's letter is "T", for "Teen", a.k.a Young Adult. Our special guest is author Natalie D. Richards to tell us about the joys and challenges of writing for the Young Adult!

And some quick blog business: The winner of Susan Gee Heino's book from our "R is for Regency" blog post is Natalie Aguirre. Please contact Susan at:

Now, take it away Natalie!

Oh, you write for teens, huh?  How come?  I hear this question at least once a week. And I always have the same reaction—a brief deer-in-the-headlights pause before I suck in a breath and explain my passion is and always has been teen literature. That The Greats doesn’t make me think of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens (though I’m a fan of both) but rather of Judy Blume, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, and my newest love, Rainbow Rowell. In short…I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to write Young Adult.

But…you’re not a teenager! Despite the fact that I wear Chucks, suck down girly faux-coffee drinks at Starbucks, and talk as quickly as humanly possible all the time, I am definitely on the wrong side of thirty to be passing as a high-schooler. So, yes, it’s true, I’m not a teen. I’ve been found out!

The truth is, teenager or not, I’m profoundly moved by the teenage experience. I’m convinced there’s no more amazing time in a person’s life, where we begin to really shape who we are, what we want, and what kind of mark we will leave on this crazy world. I couldn’t fathom writing for an audience I love more.

So while it’s been done before, I figure I’ll do my shot today at busting three myths about Young Adult fiction.

MYTH:  Teen books need to be simple because your readers are younger. The quality isn’t the same as it is in adult books.

FACT: Horse poop! My readers are studying literature in school on a nearly daily basis, are you? Also many teens are voracious readers. I know teens who read three to five books a week. A WEEK!

As for the quality question, I have a quick assignment. Go read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. If you still have questions about the quality of Young Adult fiction, I’ll be very happy to discuss them.

MYTH:  Teen books are chock full of all that fandangled modern-day music and slang. I can’t keep up!

FACT: Actually, most of us avoid it. In truth, by the time a book releases, we’re already on to the next phone, tablet, band, song, TV show, etc. Pop culture can be a part of teen literature, but it’s generally used sparingly.

MYTH:  Teen books are easy to write.

FACT: There are no easy books to write. From picture books to romance novels to literary masterpieces—they’re all hard for different reasons. And yes, as much as I love writing my books, it certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park!
Kat and Sia, thank you both SO much for having me today. I can’t wait to hear from some of your visitors!!

Let's chat: Natalie says: So how about you guys? Have you read any teen fiction? Do you have a favorite? Or maybe you want a recommendation? Hit me up!
Natalie D. Richards is the 2014 YALSA Teen Top Ten Nominated author of Six Months Later, a YA thriller about a girl who falls asleep in Study Hall and wakes up six months later to a suddenly perfect life that’s anything but.
Natalie was born and raised in central Ohio (Go Bucks! Go Jackets!) where she lives with her husband, three children, and a seventy pound dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog. Six Months Later, her debut novel with Sourcebooks Fire, is available in bookstores now! Her second book, Gone Too Far, is due to be released in January of 2015.
The "T" book list:
Daniel Tammet: Much like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tammet has savant syndrome (autistic savant). His books are a beautiful look inside his extraordinary mind.
Travis McGee: Noir-ish knight-errant, salavager, beach bum, finder of lost things created by John D. MacDonald.
The Trade: by Colby Marshall. Reporter McKenzie McClendon is on the trail of a serial killer stealing unborn babies from women's wombs. Suspense thriller.



Tammy Theriault said...

this was so true in so many ways!!

Kat Sheridan said...

Good morning, Natalie, and welcome to Over Coffee! I am so far removed from the teen years I can't imagine trying to get in their heads, but you're right that it's a time of great emotional upheaval, just ripe for a talented writer!

Robin said...

I started reading YA (again) almost two years ago now. I really enjoy it. The genre is thriving. This book, Six Months Later, looks really good. I just added to my TBR list.

Natalie Richards said...

Thanks so much, guys! I'm thrilled to be here. I completely agree, YA is overflowing with amazing books these days! It's easy to find books to love! Thanks south for adding Six Months Later to the list! I hope you enjoy it :)

LD Masterson said...

I don't write teen fiction because it would be too hard. The quality of the writing has to be as good as "adult" fiction plus I'd have to fathom the teenage mind. I don't remember doing that very well when I WAS a teen.

I love seeing Travis McGee on your book list. I think I read all the TM books a few decades ago.

Kat Sheridan said...

LD, Travis is one of my faves. I live in Florida six months out of the year and decided to make a point of reading Florida authors while there. There are plenty, and they have a very particular kind of voice. MacDonald was at the top of my list!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I could certainly get into the mindset (men are just thirteen year olds in a grown body) not sure I'd want to tackle the angst again. Admire those who do!

Chrys Fey said...

Writing for teens is where it's at in the publishing world! I'm not a teen, nor have I been for a long time, but I still love to read YA. :)

VA said...

Before a few years ago when a friend convinced me to try a YA book I thought, why? How could this possibly be relevant to me? You know what? Loved it. It reminded me that there's a time when we're less set in our ways and more open to accepting new ideas and concepts--even rearranging the rules.

I don't think anyone in their right mind wants to go back and do it again, but to revisit it and feel the struggle and vitality and unsettledness is invigorating. Makes you believe change is possible.

Jo said...

I read quite a lot of YA such as Twilight and The Hunger Games. I enjoy them and certainly don't think they lose anything by being written for a younger audience. I do NOT fit into that category by the way, far from it.

Sheila Deeth said...

I love teen fiction, and it's great to read how well you explain its attraction.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Natalie for dispelling the myths about writing fiction for teens. In my experience, no writing is easy, but it's worth the effort to do it well.

Kat, Travis McGee remains one of my all time favorite characters. MacDonald's Florida was also an amazing character -- he showed the seamy underside of overdevelopment, but clearly loved the variety of coastal locales. overdevelopment

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Sia, Hi, Natalie,

YAY for Y/A.... I wrote an edgy Y/A novel and let me say it was a trip. Writing for teens isn't easy at all! There is SO much going on in their lives and emotions are running ALL OVER THE PLACE.

SO good for you, Natalie... setting the disbelievers straight...

Congrats on your books! All the best!

Natalie D Richards said...

Aw, I'm so sad, guys! My first phone comments worked, but now a couple are missing!! :-( Clearly, I've had technical issues!

Sorry this is later than I'd like! I had no idea my replies weren't taking -- thank heavens my lovely hostess nudged me on email! (hugs)

LD, thanks for that nod to YA. It is tough stuff, but again, I think all writing is. I do think it's crucial in YA to really understand the teen mind and the teen experience. I try hard!

Kat, I *love* that you read regional authors -- that's terrific. I'm an Ohioan and there are actually several other amazing YA authors from the area -- maybe there's something in our water!! ;-)

Alex, if I didn't write for teens I would write for boys. Frankly, I think guys make WAY more sense to write -- which might mean I'm a 13 year old stuck in a thirty-something body too!!

Chrys, me either -- I'm a full teenager away from teen years (LOL!) but man, I still love reading and writing about that time. :-)

Natalie D Richards said...

More comments because my phone ones disappeared -- still so sorry! :-)

VA, I love that you tried out YA, even if you were skeptical. I find that many books I've ADORED (Hunger Games included) are books I never would have considered picking up at first glance/thought.

Jo, that makes two of us. I think one of the most amazing thing about writing YA is the diversity of my readers -- I ADORE that!

Sheila, YAY! A fellow YA fan! Thank you so much for popping by! :)

James, thank you for your comments! Writing is a boogie of an undertaking. I think doing it well in ANY genre takes tremendous effort and dedication.

Michael, Thank you SO much! It's been a fantastic, amazing ride. Six Months Later was a bit emotionally exhausting to write (LOL!) but writing it in first person present tense really kept me in Chloe's shoes. I sort of experienced her fear and confusion and even anger as I wrote it. It was rough--but cool. So what happened with yours?? Is it out somewhere where I can check it out? :-)

Leigh Anne said...

Love this blog post! Thanks for your great questions Sia, and for the fun insights Natalie.

I'm in my 40's (meep!) and I love YA books! They're great reads, IMO. And, Natalie, I ADORED Six Months Later! :)

I think all adults can relate to the the teen genre, after all...we've all been there, right?

Thanks again for the great post/interview!

Natalie D Richards said...

So true, Leigh Anne -- we HAVE all been there. Maybe we wouldn't want to relive our ACTUAL high school experiences, but we can all remember. Thanks so much for coming by! :-)

Heather's Home (aka Chez Hez) said...

Great post! I agree so much about the supposed needed quote-unquote simplicity for ya authors. The Fault in our Stars wrecked me in ways that most main stream adult fiction never ever would have. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Ps - I'm on the early side of 40, love Starbucks and my chucks equally. Keep on keepin on! ;)

Natalie D Richards said...

Heather, I *LOVE* it! I always do this little ridiculous chin-up nod at anyone who seems to be in the over-25-and-still-wearing-chucks crowd. We're a dying breed. We must stand strong!! ;-) And, SO true. TFIOS...I needed a minute after that book. A *lot* of minutes.

Melissa Jolly said...

I love YA! Always have, always will. I was one of those voracious teen readers. One summer I challenged myself to read 100 books over summer vacation. NAILED IT!

Romily Bernard said...

Yay Nat!!! I feel you on the no books are easy to write...and the being on the wrong side of 30 in the teen section....and all of it actually :) Great post!!

Natalie D Richards said...

Haha, love it, Mel! 100 books in a summer doesn't almost sounds like a vacation plan to me!! ;-) I miss having the kind of reading time I had as a teen!! So glad you stopped by. :)

Rom, with your super-slick hacker books, I truly have NO idea how you do it. My books are hard -- you hit a whole new ball park!! Thanks so much for coming over!

Slamdunk said...

Well argued Kat. It makes sense that this is a popular genre as the teen years were so challenging for most of us.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Natalie Glad to see you visiting with us Over Coffee!

I agree, writing any book isn't easy. I think the success in writing any genre is the passion the author feels for the story and subject matter. Teen years are fraught with so many emotions and learning points. I don't write a lot of YA, although I have written a couple. I still have a teen at home and lord knows I'm mother confessor to a few handfuls of teen friends of my kid. It boggles the mind, lol!

I really liked your 3 mythbusters.
:-) Good points.

I read a few YA, not a lot, but I am drawn to adventures and boys--growing up with 7 brothers and lots adventure, I think it comes natural--those sort of stories appeal more to me than girl/teen romance. When I do read YA it tends to be suspense, sci-fi, and light fantasy.

Btw,I checked the blog spam and none of your comments went there. Sometimes smart phones aren't all that smart, lol!

Thank you for being here and sharing such a thought provoking post with us!

Natalie D Richards said...

Slamdunk, that's so true! They aren't the easiest time in anyone's life, are they?

Sia, it has been AMAZING to be here, thank you! And I'm pretty sure my phone internet locked up. I had an email that "sent" but didn't, too. What a bummer. :( I wish I'd seen it -- SO glad Kat gave me a head's up!

WOW, seven brothers -- that's incredible. I'll bet you're not a girl anyone should be picking a fight with! ;-)

I like my romance with a pretty heavy dose of adventure/intrigue. I don't mind the mushy bits (there are a few scenes in Six Months Later for sure!) but I really love the fast-paced, heart-pounding stuff as well. :)

Thanks again so much for having me -- it's been lovely!

Kat Sheridan said...

Natalie, so glad I nudged you, although I figured as a busy mom and writer, you were either dealing with kids, or had gotten head deep in your next book! Can't fight the muse!

~Sia McKye~ said...

LOL! No, I've never been a girl a wise one would pick a fight with. I wasn't allowed to fight with girls when I was a young one. My dad said since I knew how to fight like a guy I could hurt them. :-)

Oh, I don't mind mushy or the romance--actually love adult romance stories. But, I've always loved the danger, adventure, and derring do and if there's romance all the better. :-)

Natalie, you're welcome anytime. Drop me a line when your next book is about to be released and I'll be glad to feature it.

Natalie D Richards said...

Haha, Kat! This is so true, and I did have a busy day, but what I really had was UTTER SMARTPHONE INEPTITUDE. Le sigh!

I'm so very glad I got to pop in and really chat though. It's been a lovely day. Thank you SO much!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat Thank you for bringing Natalie to our attention. You've featured some fabulous guests and topics this month!

Margaret said...

It's ridiculously late to be commenting but I wanted to drop by and say hello. I just ordered SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (thank you for turning me on to her). By the way, I LOVED SML. Congrats on all the awards.

cleemckenzie said...

I'm so glad you wrote this. I think I'll just steal a few of your comments for the next time I have one of those conversations.

Shonna Slayton said...

Yay, YA! I've got Wintergirls on top of my TBR pile right now. I think writing for YA is a challenge, but a good one. I was targeting middle-grade, but then my book got picked up for a YA imprint and I had to age everyone up. It was a lot of fun. The teenage years are magical in so many ways.