Sunday, September 30, 2012

Revisiting Adolescence

A study of adult fiction authors that write YA

In honor of J.K. Rowling, arguably one of the best children’s authors of the past century, publishing an adult fiction book this past week, I’m examining the adult fiction authors that have ventured into the ever-growing YA genre.

One can’t speak of authors that have spidered their way from adult fiction to YA without first mentioning the feats of James Patterson. His series Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard are mainstays of the bestseller list. Patterson’s son, Jack, did not have the inclination to read as a child. So Patterson was inspired to write Maximum Ride to encourage his own child to be passionate about reading. Now, with his website, Patterson “is on a mission to turn kids all across the nation into passionate literate and inspired readers.” Patterson recently finished the Maximum Ride series with the publication of Nevermore in August.

With one of the highest selling authors venturing into the YA market, this was bound to become a growing trend. Cory Doctorow, author of YA novels Little Brother, For the Win and the newly published Pirate Cinema, started in adult fiction. However, it appears as though he has now fully jumped ship to YA with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother due in 2013. In a excerpt that appeared on, Doctorow says, “Writing for young people is really exciting…  We all read for entertainment, no matter how old we are, but kids also read to find out how the world works.” For Doctorow, the transition to YA has meant a new way to write his characters. He realized that “young people live in a world characterized by intense drama, by choices wise and foolish and always brave.” Having his teen characters be drama-filled means that every event is monumental and the book is a natural page-turner. He says simply: “This is a book-plotter’s dream.”

Richelle Mead was well on her way through two series for adults when she began Vampire Academy, a YA series. In an interview with Book Wholesalers Inc, Mead admits her writing style isn’t too different between adult and YA books. Although she does recognize that “teen characters are so passionate with their emotions that it’s nice to let down all the barriers and just write." Mead’s third book in her Bloodlines series, another YA series, is due in February.

Mystery author Harlan Coben was inspired to dive into YA fiction by his four children. Myron Bolitar, the star of Coben’s adult fiction novel, Live Wire, has a 15 year old nephew, Mickey, with his own stories. Coben wanted to tell Mickey’s story and also write something for his children. His YA debut novel, Shelter, overlaps with the adult novel as a companion for the younger crowd. Coben is not the only author who has written a YA book which companions to an adult series. Kathy Reichs, with the help of her son Brendan, also falls into this category. Her Bones series stars forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, and their Virals YA series stars niece Tory Brennan. Because of the number of teens and children that read the adult books and watch the TV show spinoff, Reichs and her son came up with the idea to venture into YA fiction. Since Virals, Seizure and the third book Code (due in 2013) have themes of science, it not only encourages teens to read and write, but to expand their knowledge of the sciences.

Other notable adult authors who have published adult fiction include Sherrilyn Kenyon, with her Chronicles of Nick series (also a spin-off from the adult series). Richard Paul Evans, Christian fiction author has recently published Rise of the Elgen, the second book in his Michael Vey series. Gena Showalter, a popular romance author, has ventured into teen with the Intertwined series and her recent release, Alice in Zombieland. Also, look for Jasper Fforde’s debut YA novel, The Last Dragonslayer, first published in the UK in 2010, which will be released in the US on October 2nd.

Doctorow, Cory. “Context (excerpt),” (2011).
“Interview: Richelle Mead” Book Wholesalers, Inc (blog.)
“James's Top Ten: Surefire Ways to Get Your Kids Reading,”
Jerome, Richard. “James Patterson & Son Jack: Getting my Kid to Read,” People (2008).,,20238301,00.html
New Day Producers. “Bestselling Author Kathy Reichs' new novel + incredible life,” (2012).
Rohrbach, Erika. “Harlan Coben’s New Teen Hero,” Kirkus Reviews (2011).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lessons from Libba

So, Libba Bray is funny. Hilarious, in fact. She visited Cincinnati the day after The Diviners released, and I traveled to Joseph-Beth Booksellers where she held a discussion and signing. Instead of reading from The Diviners, she read a *unique* selection from her juvenilia. As a ten year old, Libba Bray wasn’t destined to be a writer, as she proclaimed after reading this four page story in an entertaining fashion. She meant it as a point of inspiration, and that’s how I took it. Not every writer is destined with a Potteresque the-wand-chooses-the-wizard type moment the instant they pick up a pencil at age 4 or 5 or 10. Lucky for us, a writer is what Libba Bray is now. And with any luck (and tons of hard work) maybe I’ll be there someday too. Through the discussion, I noted some of Libba’s lessons that are handy for a budding author such as myself.  


World-building comes first
To build your story world, you have to research. Whether it be little things like: “When did that happen again?”, or big things like: “How did such-and-such event affect the population and inspire change?” It’s been four years since the conception of The Diviners, and in that time, Libba did a lot of research to make sure that her characters talk, think and act like they are from the 1920s. In the journey of this historical fiction novel, Libba also had assistance. As she stated, “when the going gets tough, the tough get a librarian.” Her librarian assisted with the research to ensure that Libba’s story world was true to the decade. It’s important to set up the world through research, to have your facts right and to know the slang and the formative events (I.E. Stock Market Crash, Kennedy assassination, 9/11) that would shape the world in which these characters lived. Then, as you write, rewrite and research some more, your story will become ever clearer.

Write what you don’t know
We’ve all heard the old adage: “write what you know.” But, as Libba heard Lois Lowry speak of recently, authors should also write what they don’t know. You should write about what you won’t say out loud and what troubles you as you lay awake at night. Write with questions and write to learn the answers. I believe the point here is to be an explorer in your writing. Because our day-to-day, coffee runs, cubicle jobs, humdrum traffic isn’t outstanding. But escape, that’s why we make the trip to the bookstore. So please, be a revolutionary and explore new, frightening, awe-inspiring territory.

Be a Narrative Tweaker
In the terms of historical fiction, sometimes history doesn’t assist in the story that you’re writing. There’s a fine line between historical fact (what actually happened) and the story that you’re trying to tell (what could have happened). It’s important to learn from the past, and be true to it. However, Libba suggests that in writing, an author can pull from an actual event (such as a court case) yet create something that they can control. Libba terms this “narrative tweaking,” essentially re-creating an historical event with a different name but with only small tweaks, as it should be made of the truth. In this way, you can use this fictional event to further your story and still be true to history.
Update 9/25: To be true to Libba Bray, I would like to mention that what I refer to as “narrative tweaking” is called “narrative tinkering” in the Author’s Note of the Diviners. The connation is slightly different, so I thought it was important to note.
Read everything… and write everyday
This point may seem obvious, but it’s always worth mentioning. And mentioning again. And drilling into your brain! Libba Bray is a self-proclaimed binge reader. Because reading is like food, and writers need it to sustain themselves. Read in your genre, but outside as well, to gain perspective and fresh ideas. Because “when you read, you become aware of what’s possible.”

Also, write every single day, even if it’s just a little.


Thank you, Libba Bray, for traveling to the Midwest and stopping in Cincinnati for the release of The Diviners. Thank you also for sharing your awesomely weird personality and your writing wisdom.  


DISCLAIMER: This post in an unofficial account of the event with Libba Bray on September 19, 2012 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, OH. The views that I present in this article are my interpretations of the event. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of Libba Bray, Little, Brown Books or any affiliates.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Most Anticipated Teen Books: Fall 2012

September 18
The Diviners- Libba Bray
What it’s about:
New York City welcomes Evie O’Neill, who is thrilled to have been relocated there from her boring hometown. The only downside is living with her Uncle Will, a museum curator, but she won’t let that get in the way of her having a good time. However, a string of occult-based murders might ruin her fun, especially when Evie’s mysterious, secret power could help catch the killer.
Why I’m excited:
Because the Diviners is historical fiction (taking place in New York City circa 1926), and that is where Libba Bray shines. Yes, she won a well-deserved Printz Award for Going Bovine. But I love the Gemma Doyle series because the story took place in turn of the century England and had an amazing fantastical twist. The Diviners is bound to be a hit!

Raven Boys- Maggie Stiefvater
What it’s about:
Blue Sargent has been told for as long as she can remember that she will cause the death of her true love. Her stance has always been that this is impractical nonsense. However that changes when she is drawn to Gansey, a good-looking, rich Aglionby, or Raven Boy. The Raven Boys can only mean trouble, and soon she’s caught up in their sinister world.
Why I’m excited:
Because this book has a fantasy element, but I can’t quite tell what it is yet. Stiefvater has conquered both faerie and werewolf realms in previous novels, so I’m excited to see where she falls on the fantasy radar this time around. Her most recent release was stand-alone novel The Scorpio Races, but Raven Boys is a projected four book series. I imagine this will be a strong start and leave her readers craving more!

October 2
Mark of Athena- Rick Riordan
What it’s about:
The third in the Heroes of Olympus series will see our heroes from Lost Hero, Jason, Piper and Leo meet up with the heroes from Son of Neptune, Percy, Hazel and Frank. However, the prophecy calls for seven, so who will complete their team? And with the joining forces of Greek and Roman demigods comes the challenge of cooperation. Can they work together to fight Gaea’s giants and fulfill the mysterious prophecy?
Why I’m excited:
Because I can’t wait for Jason and Percy to meet. They are both alpha dogs and natural leaders, so there is bound to be a clash between these Greek and Roman demigods. Riordan is a proven author, and I’m sure this will be another action-packed, adventure-filled hit with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger!

Son- Lois Lowry         
What it’s about:
In this sequel to the Newbery-awarding winning The Giver, a new hero emerges. Claire lost her son at the young age of 14. It was stolen from her body, and she doesn’t know what became of him. But she will stop at nothing to find out. Jonas from The Giver and Kira from Gathering Blue make appearances to complete this quartet.
Why I’m excited:
Because I just found out about this last week! And The Giver has been one of my favorite books for years. I’m thrilled that there is a sequel, and that Jonas will be making an appearance. It seems as though we will have a look at the world outside the Community, and a chance to tear down its walls with Claire, Kira and Jonas. This will undoubtedly be another award-winner from Lois Lowry!

October 9
Opposite of Hallelujah- Anna Jarzab
What it’s about:
Caro Mitchell’s meek yet mysterious sister Hannah is returning home after an eight year absence. Caro barely remembers her, and has considered herself an only child until this stranger returns to her family. Hannah returns with secrets, and Caro resorts to lying about her reappearance. These lies alienate her parents, friends and new boyfriend and her emotional upheaval begins. When Caro discovers a clue from Hannah’s past, one that could save her, Caro begins to see her sister in a new light.
Why I’m excited:
Because Anna Jarzab’s first book, All Unquiet Things is one of the best teen books I’ve read, ever. It was intelligent and well-written and I’m expecting the same from Jarzab’s second book. The premise of the Opposite of Hallelujah is intriguing, and I love how Jarzab takes real life and turns it into a thrilling tale. This will certainly have a place on my bookshelf!

November 13
Reached- Ally Condie
What it’s about:
In the conclusion of Crossed, Cassia and Ky found each other only to be separated by the Rising. Cassia works from inside Society, and Ky is stationed outside its borders. In an ever-shifting finale, Cassia faces unpredictability, seeks a seemingly impossible sense of freedom, and fights to honor her one true love.
Why I’m excited:
Because this is the conclusion to Cassia’s story. It’s been a thrilling twist of a ride, and I hope that Cassia and Ky can make it work in freedom, not to mention get there in the first place. Reached has been long-anticipated, and I’m eager to see Cassia inside the Society as a Rising agent. She’s now officially part of the resistance, and I hope there is some teeth-clenching adventure in it for her.

November 20
Struck by Lightning- Chris Colfer
What it’s about:
Carson Phillips is an outcast. And he’s a high school senior with a big dream: to become the editor of The New Yorker. First he has to get into Northwestern. And he’s attempting to do that by blackmailing the popular students at his school into contributing to his literary journal in hopes of bolstering his college application. Scratch below the surface of high school, and find the dark yet hilarious dirt that lies just beneath.
Why I’m excited:
Because Chris Colfer became a NYT best-selling author with the release of his children’s book, Land of Stories, this summer. This teen book is bound to be a bestseller as well, as it’s based on a screenplay (also written by Colfer) to a movie that will be released soon! It appears Colfer is a quadruple threat (sing, dance, act, WRITE!) and I’m anxious to read his contribution to the teen genre.