Thursday, April 07, 2011

Making the jump to YA

Part of a writer's dilemma is, when you write a book that doesn't really resemble anything else you've found, how do you classify it by genre?

Awhile back, I mentioned to some of my writer friends that I wished I were writing YA (young adult) fiction. And I'm not just chasing trends here: I really like YA books. Before high school, I read YA and not much else. I'm still around teenagers all the time, so I sometimes read what they're reading. In the past few years I loved books like Tithe and Stargirl. I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and laughed all through it. I am, in short, a YA addict.

But Flyday, for a long time, struck me as a really non-YA book. The main character, after all, is in his twenties, engaged, and well into a career. But as some of my readers pointed out, that's not the whole story. Much the book is dedicated to 18-year-old Ariel, who essentially runs away from home when her brother is sent to fight in Iraq. She's also a time traveler; tell me that's not cool. There's another major character, Emily, who is a teenage princess. I think this fits quite well in the YA genre.

Plus, I've been reading a lot of adult fiction lately, and I realized that Flyday is a lot more tame than the other books I was seeing. That's not by accident. When I was writing it, all of my betas were teenagers or young adults. Heck, I was a young adult when I finished the first draft (spring of 2008, which would put me at around 19 or 20) before putting it aside to go to nursing school.

I worried that the rock star, Jamie, would be a bad influence on teens, but lots of readers commented that teens would really identify with his struggles. There's some violence, but it's over quickly, and The Hunger Games trilogy qualifies as YA despite the violence it portrays.

So, with lots of encouragement, I'm going to say that this is definitely a YA novel. And I'm really relieved, because now, as I'm writing the draft of the second book, I can expand Ariel's role and not try to force myself to write an adult thriller (which I don't think is a good fit for the story, in any case). I'll let her deal with typical teenage things like romance, but she'll still manage to travel through time and get lots of people angry at her. It's win-win. I'll change the genre categories for Flyday soon.

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