We are pleased to reveal the cover for TRYST, the debut New Adult novel by Book Country member Alex Rosa! Alex first workshopped TRYST on Book Country, which was then picked up by InterMix, a Berkley/NAL’s e-initial imprint. TRYST will be out March 17, 2015. Read our interview with Alex and her editor, Kristine Swartz, about creating the cover below. Continue reading
Ever since Nevena and Alex Maurer first explained to me what the “New Adult” Genre was, I’ve been super curious to do a deep dive into this exciting new territory of the Genre Map. In some ways, it feels like the genre I have been waiting for my whole life, as a reader and as a writer. In fact, I am so enamored with this literary category that I decided on a whim that my NaNoWriMo project would be a New Adult novel and I am having a blast with it.
Alex was kind enough to share her analysis of New Adult with Book Country today: already this is a genre with its own tropes, quirks, triumphs, and guilty pleasures. As I’m crafting my New Adult novel, I’m very grateful to have Alex as my genre expert. ~LS
New Adult is a literary category occupying the middle ground between YA, contemporary romance and “chick lit” (the 90s most prominent women’s fiction subgenre). The storylines are adapted for the 18+ audience interested in characters that are in college or are newly minted grads heading into the world. New Adult shoots for the audience who’s graduated from YA and is not quite ready to read about divorce, re-marriages, or children.
Some paranormal and fantasy stories have college-aged heroes/heroines. But those books aren’t necessarily New Adult, because New Adult is similar to contemporary romance:the love story is the meat of the book. Because let’s face it. After YA, we as readers are looking for something steamier.
New Adult spans heroes and heroines that are between 18 and 25 years old. (If characters are in their mid-twenties, the book is pushing contemporary romance (i.e., Samantha Young’s ON DUBLIN STREET, Raine Miller’s The Blackstone Affair series, and Sylvain Reynard’s GABRIEL’S INFERNO). While all of these have young 23-24-year-old heroines, the heroes are older, and the story lends itself to more traditional contemporary romance tropes.
So what else differentiates New Adult from contemporary romance, chick lit, and YA? We look for the following themes!
The Reformed Man-Whore: The too-good-to-be-true hero who was essentially formed by the gods. Besides fantastic hair, piercing eyes, square jaw, high-cheekbones, and a smokin’ body, he most likely has a “little black book” the size of Webster’s dictionary. This reformed man-whore changes for the heroine and boom! the college big man on campus is now a sworn monogamist (for the most part!).
Book Country member Charles Dyer is an incredibly prolific and varied writer—he has published 12 books with Book Country, in Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, and Science Fiction. Hailing from South Africa, Charles has many interests and hobbies, including archery, gardening, computer programming and gaming, and visual art. We caught up with him to find out more about his creative process, as well as to hear his perspective on self-publishing and its challenges.
LS: What led you to join Book Country? Has it helped you?
CD: I can’t remember the details but I saw the site on the Web and it had more appeal than many others. Especially as I considered the possibility that it might expose my work to the editors at Penguin. My ultimate goal is to have best-selling paperback books out there in preference to eBooks. Book Country has helped insofar as exposure goes. My work is now distributed to a wider range of retailers than before.
LS: 12 is a lot of books! You must have some kind of brilliant time-management technique! Share with us how you are able to accomplish so much writing.
CD: Ha, ha, I wish that I did have some brilliant technique. Some of these books were written in the last century, starting in 1996. All of them have been polished several times.
I use spreadsheets to ensure that I don’t inadvertently change hair or eye color halfway through the story or any other little detail. Typically, a spreadsheet will have plot, synopsis, timeline, character details, world details, chapter details, etc. As I write, I update the spreadsheet and cross-reference it to ensure consistency.
One might say that it pays to be a methodical plodder– a plodder is a person who dogmatically knuckles down and works at whatever they are doing until it’s done.
I am so excited to have my friend and colleague Alexandra Maurer on Book Country. Alex lent her genre expertise to us during the construction of the Genre Map, providing valuable advice on romance and new adult titles–help for which we are incredibly grateful. ~NG
Many people think the TWILIGHT craze is over. And I would say to them, TWILIGHT may have run its course, but in no way does it begin, define, or end what makes up a rich and flourishing genre of paranormal romance. TWILIGHT helped bring vampires to a forefront in young adult paranormal. But there is a lot more to this genre! The authors and series I have listed here are some of the best series available to readers and writers interested in breaking into this popular genre.
Let’s start with a list of authors and series to give this article context. Some of the most popular and well-known series in PNR are:
1) J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood
2) Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series
3) Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series
4) Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series
5) Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series & Fever series
6) Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series
7) Larissa Ione’s Demonica series & Lords of Deliverance series
8) Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress, Night Huntress World, and Night Prince series
9) Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series
10) Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series
(To find out more about these books, head over to Book Country’s carousel of Paranormal Romance Landmark Titles.) What makes these series paranormal romances?
The first defining characteristic of paranormal romance has to do with the subjects of the story. PNRs involve vampires, shape-shifters, faeries, witches/sorcerers/warlocks, demons, angels, Valkyrie, ghosts, mermaids/sirens, etc. Our heroes and heroines are of the supernatural persuasion and almost always with powers of their own separating the paranormal from contemporary romance.
Secondary characters are also very important in PNR, because they’ll become main characters in other books of the series.
Take J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The first book starts with the story of Wrath and Beth. But we meet all of the brothers (Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous, Tohr, and Phury) in book one. We get little snippets of their characters and by the end of book 6, we all have a favorite “brother” and couple. We’re now up to book 11, where the plotlines are featuring these secondary characters as MCs, who are familiar but still unexplored. The importance of secondary (and likeable) heroes and heroines is another “must have” to keep readers interested in your series.
Urban fantasy is such a popular genre that we often forget that it’s of relatively recent vintage–it only came to the fore in the 1990s. Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN is a case study for this rapid transformation; in her words, “[It] was called a supernatural thriller, then paranormal suspense, and finally urban fantasy.“
To complicate matters, urban fantasy are very similiar. The most fundamental characteristic they share is, of course, the presence of magical creatures (vamps, weres, shifters, angels, demons, and fairies, to name a few). However, as paranormal romance authors have ramped up the worldbuilding in their books and crafted mythologies that any fantasy writer would kill for, urban fantasy authors have steamed up their novels with great, sexy subplots. It is harder than ever to tell the two genres apart.
We’ve come up with a genre questionnaire to help you shelve your book in the right place. Here we go.
1. Is your book set in a contemporary city setting?
One of the fundamental conventions of urban fantasy is the modern urban setting. There’s grit, there’s danger, and the dour realities of city living. If your story takes place in the past or in the country, your book is most definitely not an urban fantasy.
2. Is there a strong mystery plot to your book?
If your book follows the main character as they try to uncover some type of paranormal mystery, and it ends with the mystery’s successful resolution, there’s a good chance your book is an urban fantasy. UF books have strong ties to noir, and many of the protagonists in urban fantasy books wield a paranormal power that helps them in their work as private investigators. Famous urban fantasy PIs are Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden File Series (wizard detective), Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye (fae half-breed PI), and Alexa Craft (grave witch and police consultant).
Have you ever noticed how all of the teens that star in your favorite YA books have really oblivious parents?
There’s Charlie, Bella’s dad in TWILIGHT, who doesn’t pick up on the fact that a vampire is sneaking in through his daughter’s bedroom window every night. (Charlie’s oblivion is actually the subject of a Book Country discussion thread that I find totally hilarious.) SHIVER’s Grace might have survived a wolf attack as a kid, but her parents still leave her up to her own devices almost all of the time, meaning she and her paranormal boyfriend have nightly sleepovers in her room.
This isn’t just true for YA Paranormal: Even in the YA Contemporary novel (and our inaugural #BCReadalong!) THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, the main character (also named Charlie) has parents who are very prominent characters in the story. Yet they tune out a lot of what’s going on in Charlie’s life in terms of drinking, drugs, romance, friends, and drama. This is also true of another one of my favorite YA books of all time, GIRL by Blake Nelson–Andrea’s parents are just totally unaware of all the stuff she is out doing with her friends. It’s not quite as extreme as in TWILIGHT and SHIVER, and certainly, both Charlie and Andrea’s parents are wonderful, realistic, well-drawn characters, but it got me thinking about the role of adult characters in YA books. What should a writer do with them?
Ever heard of a little genre-bending book called TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer? TWILIGHT took the publishing industry, and then the movie industry, by storm when the series launched a few years ago. Paranormal themes had indeed been dancing around YA lit for many years, but TWILIGHT was the book that took it to the mainstream, in an unforgettable way. Suddenly, readers from middle schools up through senior centers were declaring themselves “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob.” (One mom I know always jokes that she’s “Team Charlie”–you know, Bella’s single dad.)
What we’ve seen since TWILIGHT is that publishers and readers embrace genre-bending Young Adult fiction in a big way. Take the New York Times-bestselling SHIVER trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater: It’s YA Paranormal, but it has many of the the hallmarks of YA Contemporary as well. It definitely takes place in the contemporary world of small town Northern Minnesota. We go to high school with the characters, who wear jeans, backpacks, and rainbow-striped mittens. We ride in cars with them and eat candy and canned soup with them. Their cell phones ring. There’s nothing about this book that isn’t contemporary. It’s actually because SHIVER is so realistic that the haunting paranormal romance also works: once we as readers start to believe in the “real” world that Stiefvater creates in her fiction, we more readily accept the incredible plot twists that ensue (SPOILER ALERT: There are werewolves).
Young Adult is a genre rich with innovation, and by reading and reflecting on recently published Young Adult titles, we can learn a lot about good writing of any genre.
Over the next two weeks, I’m going to be sharing some approaches to writing Young Adult Fiction, especially Young Adult Contemporary. To go along with the Genre Map metaphor, I’m calling these suggestions “guideposts.” They aren’t rules. Instead, I’m imagining myself coming upon various crossroads in my Young Adult writing, and needing to make choices about the path I want to take through this area of the Genre Map. The guideposts are there to—you guessed it—guide those choices, with the ultimate goal of writing my best Young Adult Contemporary book.
Here’s the first:
Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #1: How contemporary is contemporary?
Michelle Hiscox is a career counselor who hails from Drumheller, Alberta. The dinosaur bones buried in the hills of her hometown inspired the first stories she ever wrote. Michelle holds a degree in psychology and is a member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as an avid paranormal romance fan. One night, she pulled her nose from a book to start working on her own and has been writing ever since.
NG: How did you become a writer?
MH: I was a reader first. My grandma introduced me to Stephen King when I was about twelve and I was hooked. In my twenties, I found the paranormal romance genre and that’s mostly what I’ve been reading ever since. I always read but hadn’t written since high school. Over time, the urge to write grew until I had no choice but to create a story of my own. That was about six years ago. My commitment to writing has grown over time.
NG: Why do you read and write paranormal romance?
MH: I get lost in the stories and love the characters. When they are well done, I get to live through their experiences, feel their feelings. I can’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next and will neglect sleep to find out. It likely relates to my interest in both horror and romance. Where else could I find such a perfect match?
NG: True! Tell us more about your novel on the site, A NEW DAY AT MIDNIGHT. Why should the Book Country members check it out?
MH: Can I say because it’s worth it? I put all of my heart, and head, into writing something that I hope invokes emotion in the reader. Merik and Hannah, the main characters, are flawed, passionate, and conflicted. Their lives come through the pages.
NG: A romance novel needs to tell a good love story. How did you go about crafting yours?
MH: It didn’t start out as much, just a picture I conjured in my head and then jotted down on paper. I had Merik in my mind first with Hannah soon to follow. I can honestly say that who the characters are allowed me to develop much of the plot. The more I work on it, the more it has become about learning the elements of fiction. Grammar, plot development, and executing proper point of view are just the start of a long list of areas I had to learn more about. I think the best tool I found is being open to the idea that I can always improve.
NG: Let’s talk about your process. Do you keep a strict writing schedule?
MH: My strict writing schedule consists of writing every spare moment I have. At night, on my lunch break, in the passenger seat of the car. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, either studying the craft or looking at examples in the work of popular authors.
NG: How do you go about learning more about the craft and the business of writing? Do you have favorite resources you can share with us?
MH: When I get constructive feedback on Book Country, I research it, try to build my understanding, and then try to put it into practice. The last item is the one I struggle with the most. I like to have a good grasp of one concept, such as breaking out of the passive voice, and can execute it before I move on to the next area I need to work on.
I’ve also learned from some of the more experienced writers on Book Country, such as Elizabeth Moon. I read her entries because she gives insight into writing in terms I understand. Romance Writers of America has been helpful, providing access to free workshop content on anything from writing a synopsis to creating believable characters. Miss Snark’s blog and Query Shark are also great for picking up valuable pieces of information.
NG: Thanks for the tips! Who are your literary role models?
MH: Stephen King is probably the first. I’ve read every book he’s written with the exception of the Dark Tower series. Many of his euphemisms about the life of a writer really resonate with me. J.R. Ward is another. Everything she writes invokes emotion and every character is original. When I need inspiration or to see an example of how I think romance should be written, I read passages from her books.
NG: Why are you on Book Country?
MH: I joined Book Country because I wanted objective feedback on my work, but it definitely evolved into more. It gives me the chance to learn about the craft of writing from those willing to share what they know. It’s also good to be connected to people who can relate to other aspiring writers.
NG: Do you want to give a shout out to any of your friends on Book Country?
MH: I would like to say thanks to a few people. Is four still a few? David Downer, Michael Hagan, Rosie Ward and Kathleen Shaputis all helped me to identify areas I needed to work on in my writing. They also stuck with me until I understood what they were talking about. Their honesty and encouragement still means a lot to me.
NG: A round of applause for them!
What is something fun that we don’t know about you?
MH: I’m hooked on made for TV movies. Show me a good Danielle Steel special and I’ll show you an attentive aspiring writer. For some reason, my husband doesn’t think I should share that with others.
NG: Haha, we all have our guilty pleasures! Thank you so much for being our guest. It’s been a pleasure.
Kathleen Shaputis is a Book Country writer from western Washington who is, in her own words,“well experienced in the headline lifestyles of the baby boomer generation.” She balances writing and professional speaking with a day job at a book printer. She’s the author of Gramma Online and The Crowded Nest Syndrome and the ghostwriter of a dozen books.
Kathleen sat down with us to talk about her newest book, HER GHOST WEARS KILTS, upcoming on August 26, 2013 from Crimson Romance.
NG: Congratulations on selling HER GHOST WEARS KILTS to Crimson Romance! You must be really excited. Can you take us through the publishing deal?
KS: I had just started sending query letters for HGWK when fellow author Eva Shaw and I were both presenting at a conference earlier this year. Her second book with Crimson Romance, a new imprint with F&W Media (Writers Digest), was coming out in a few weeks and she encouraged me to submit a query request to her editor. “Pushed” may be a better word, and Eva followed up with an introduction email after my submission.
They asked for the entire manuscript but shortly after the editor moved to another publisher. I didn’t hear anything for weeks; then came a long list of changes. The manuscript was too chick-lit with too many side characters, not enough romance, but if I agreed to the changes, they would review the manuscript once I made them. I did and they sent a contract.