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The Romance of Writing for Teens?

April 5, 2007
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I should start by thanking Jackie for her review of Adiós to My Old Life. Otherwise, who knows how long it would have been before I got around to writing about this topic. Even before starting this blog, I’d been toying with the idea of discussing the number of romance and chick lit authors who also write YA, but more along the lines of “Harlequin” and “world domination” and “you’re basically publishing every genre of fiction for women but Young Adult,” except they are publishing Kimani TRU, so it doesn’t quite work anymore.

Why is it that there are so many romance/chick lit/YA authors? Just off the top of my head, I can think of roughly twenty them.

And a couple more with their YA debuts coming out this year:

Yes, there are authors in other adult genres who also write for teens, but not to the same extent, at least to my knowledge. So my theory as to why there are so many romance/chick lit/YA authors? Well, I have several:

  1. Because it’s the hot new thing. Look at how many authors are jumping/have jumped on the paranormal and erotic romance bandwagon. I would say that romance authors, especially, are notorious for this. And when there are sessions at your national conference specifically about writing for teens, is this such a shock?
  2. Maybe these romance/chick lit authors just happen to be writing in the hot YA genres right now (because it’s the natural fit for their voice, or what have you) and are therefore more likely to be published? 
  3. {Indulging in some stereotyping here} Women seem a lot more willing to read Young Adult books than men, and you have a lot more women writing romance/chick lit than you do women writing mysteries or other genres. If an author reads a YA book and likes it, why do I have an easier time seeing a woman then trying to write a YA book than a man?

If I could only pick one theory, I’d go with #1, which is why I have mixed feelings about all of this adult authors writing for teens thing.* Not to say that I won’t read the books, because I will. And not to say that adult authors can’t produce a great YA book, because they can. But so often it seems more like bandwagon-jumping (“My agent told me that YA is hot and Publishing House X is looking for it, so I’ve got to work on a YA manuscript”) than it does a move made out of love for YA literature. Publishing is a business, authors need to be published if they want to make a living writing, blah blah blah. I still feel idealistic, though, that books for younger audiences should be written because an author really loves the literature, even if a publisher itself is chasing after trends. Which doesn’t make sense, even to me, because trend-chasing publishers are exactly what piss me off when it comes to adult books. Maybe because the outside perception of YA lit is that it sells, but its trashy (and therefore easy to write)? And that authors are supposed to follow their muse, not the money?

Your thoughts?

In other news, RITA award finalists were announced last week, and I know I’m not the only one who was surprised to see a Young Adult book shortlisted for two categories in the company of adult books. (RITAs are awarded by the Romance Writers of America for “excellence in the genre of romance fiction.”) So congratulations to Caridad Ferrer and her book Adiós to My Old Life for being nominated for Best First Book and Contemporary Single Title Romance.** But how is it that there were not enough books entered in the YA category for it to exist?***

* I don’t read many children’s books, but for those who do, PW’s got more info on upcoming children’s books by adult authors

** Don’t know what most of the award names mean? Neither do most romance readers. {Controlling my urge to say something about the RITAs that doesn’t belong on a blog about YA books}

*** I know, I know, not all of these authors had eligible books, and there are some authors (though I don’t know if it’s true of any authors who did have eligible books) who don’t enter because they have issues with the RWA or the RITA process. And apparently the category is “notorious” for not qualifying. But still!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2007 4:48 am

    I’ve always been very open about the fact that I started out as a romance/women’s fiction writer– and equally open about the fact that when I was offered a YA contract, I was scared out of my head. I respect the genre tremendously and wanted to make sure that I did it justice. Yes, YA happened to be getting hot at the time I created the proposal and no, I’d never considered writing YA before for a variety of reasons (I talked about most of them on Alison Kent’s blog.) However, as a writer, regardless of genre, I’m going to do my best to make sure everything published with my name on it is the best I can make it. I’m as proud of Adiós and my upcoming release, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT, as I am any of the women’s fiction manuscripts I’ve written.

    Which is why I was so disappointed that we couldn’t make the YA category in the Ritas work this year. I’ve mentioned my disappointment in various other places– I think it was even commented on in Jackie’s blog, my feelings on the subject– and believe me, I’m incredibly proud that I still managed to final, against a lot of odds, in adult categories. The same way I’m proud that I finished with a bronze medal in the Florida Book Awards YA category and have done well in the other, non-RWA contests I’ve entered.

    With respect to your theories, I think it’s some blend of #1 & 2. Again, in Alison’s blog, I touch on why I felt it was able to work for me and how I came to be writing YA. Thanks for a thoughtful post–

    Barb AKA Caridad

  2. April 7, 2007 6:24 am

    Heh– it was you who mentioned my comment in Jackie’s blog. This is what I get for posting before my coffee’s kicked in. 🙂

  3. April 7, 2007 1:22 pm

    Our first author comment! Woohoo!

    Thanks for dropping by. I’m glad to know that there are authors who may be novices when it comes to YA lit but who treat it with the same respect and effort as adult books. Obviously, you did a great job, judging by the RITA nominations and reviews from people who read a lot of YA books.

  4. April 11, 2007 9:49 pm

    Glad to have been a bee in your bonnet?

    lol, it’s a great discussion, Trisha.

  5. August 23, 2010 2:47 am

    With some hugely egregious exceptions (whom I will not name), for the most part, it’s been a fairly good, reasonable shift for many romance authors to switch to YA, so I go with reasons 1&2. To my mind, though, I feel like I can tell the difference between the novels written with a fresher perspective and actual teens in mind, written by people who know and love the literature. There’s a difference between that and those novels which seem to be written by people trying to take out the hop-into-bed bits, and just scale a regular romance down into high school. If you read enough of both genres, I think you can tell (but that may just be me). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. How long we’re going to be hot? Who can tell — I just hope we continue to attract really excellent authors who know young adults, and fewer people who figure you can just dumb a thing down, and it’ll work…

    • August 23, 2010 1:44 pm

      I think the amazing thing is that I originally wrote this over 3 years ago and I’ve long since reached the point where seeing yet another deal report for adult romance authors writing YA is so typical that I don’t even say, “Another one?” exasperatedly any more.

  6. a teenager permalink
    November 13, 2010 1:20 pm

    maybe it’s because that’s all they are capable of writing. Romance, chick lit and most YA is not known for it’s intelligent plots or clever dialogue or memorable characters. It’s just talentless writers writing what comes easiest to them. Those genres are what draws the talentless. YA is the most respectable, but sometimes you can’t help thinking those writers can’t really write anything above a ninth grade reading level.

    • November 22, 2010 5:00 am

      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree about the quality of YA fiction (and romance) and the capabilities of its authors. Certainly there are poorly written YA novels and romance novels, but I don’t believe the proliferation of authors writing both types of novels is due to how easy it is or isn’t to write.

  7. February 4, 2013 6:35 am

    It’s supply and demand, screaming loud an clear, if you ask me. Now that teens have access to iPhones & iPads, Nooks, Kindles, etc., it’s a lot easier to get their hands on the kinds of books they want to read. As a teenager, I had to rely on word of mouth to know what my peers were reading and most of them weren’t. Now teens can join online reading groups and find others with similar tastes. So yes, some writers are capitalizing on it. As a RWA PRO, I typically write contemporary romance with younger characters. Then one night I had a dream that I wanted to make into a book. In the dream I was a teenager. Maybe this was because I’d just read a YA novel, or maybe it was fate. I wrote the book and found I had a better YA voice than my Adult Romance voice. I want to make money from my writing, but that doesn’t mean I’d write a sci-fi novel for the right price. I would however, try a new subgenre if an agent/publisher suggested it and I found the right inspiration. Good post!

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