Why Write: YA Romance with E.M. Caines

EC 0125Greetings, and happy Monday to you all! Today we have young adult (YA) writer E. M. Caines here to talk about why she writes teen romance and why people of all ages love to read YA. Once again, I learned a lot, and I think I’m going to have to write a blog post all about writers’ relationships with their audiences. You authors! Stop making me think! *shakes fist*

Okay, not really. Thinking is good for me.

For now, though, dig in and learn a little about YA Romance.

Hello, Eileen, and welcome!

Hi, Kristin! Thanks for having me. *sits down & sips coffee*

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m a SoCal native now living in Florida and the mom of a precocious little boy. I’m also the Retail Analyst for an global restaurant chain (yes, you read that right) in my non-writing life, so juggling life and writing can be tricky. But I know I’m not alone, so I don’t complain. (Out loud. Often.) And lest anyone think my identity is tied to geography or occupation, I’d also like to share that I enjoy fine foods, hate shopping (especially for shoes), and have a weird eye-shadow phobia.

I have one completed novel under my belt which earned me representation from Julia A. Weber, and I’m working on a companion novel now. My finished manuscript is a young adult (YA) novel that I described as a twist on the Snow White tale that picks up where the story ends and she discovers Prince Charming isn’t so charming after all. But there are no supernatural elements or anything, so the magic is entirely removed. The result is something that resembles teen chick lit: romance novels for the teen set.

You describe your work as “teen chick lit.” What made you decide to write for teens? And why teen chicks? (Teen chicks sounds totally weird out of context, LOL)

LOL Teen chicks do sound weird!

So why write for teens? Hmm… *takes another sip of coffee and ponders*

I didn’t pick the genre because of its marketability. Truth be told, I think the genre is getting a bit saturated. But I really wrote my novel for my nieces and for my son’s classmates. I know a lot of younger girls and wanted to put something on the shelves for them, something that wasn’t all about back-stabbing frenemies or falling for the quintessential bad boy. I wanted to give them characters who weren’t extraordinary, just everyday people who felt the same things they did. For my first novel, for example, I wanted to point out that bad guys don’t always show their colors right away. From what I’ve read that’s currently on the shelf, I don’t see a lot of light, fluffy romance novels for teens out there. So I just wrote what I wanted to read.

What types of stories does this genre make possible?

YA as a genre is very broad. Basically, I think anything that is written from a teen’s perspective falls into YA. As such, YA is wide open to all the subgenres: horror, suspense, fantasy, romance, etc. I know as a reader that I would LOVE to see a good YA suspense novel, but don’t look to me to write it. My plot would be thus: Girl gets threatening phone call, Girl tells her parents and goes to police, Police find and apprehend culprit. (See why I write romance?)

What audience do you think YA attracts, aside from the obvious? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a “normal” writer because I write for myself first and my nieces and son second. Anyone else who picks it up and likes it is just gravy.

But that being said, YA attracts more than just teens. (Duh.) I think a good YA book spans several age ranges. Your more advanced Middle Grade (MG) readers (8-12) will pick it up. Of course, you’ll get your teen readers, but then you’ll also have adults reading it, whether it’s a mom who is reading something her kid wants to read or someone who just thinks it looks like a good read.

I can’t speak for other writers, but it doesn’t alter my stories or characters one bit. Again, I mostly write for my myself, and then I think of my nieces. Right there, that’s a considerable age range, but I think if I can tell a story that (first) interests me in a way that (second) my nieces can relate to the characters and plot, I should attract a pretty significant size of potential readers.

How does age of the characters affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

I don’t think I gave age much thought until I got older and had a child of my own. I try to see the world through his eyes, and it’s helped me imagine the world through my nieces’ eyes, too.

So, I write YA novels right now. (I have ideas for MG, too, but right now, I’m strictly YA.) Young Adult books should encapsulate those formative teen years. Those were the days when you had no idea what you didn’t know, and EVERYTHING WAS TRAGIC. Any deviation from the norm was tantamount to the end of the world. (Funny enough, when I’m recalling emotion as I write, I pull from my more recent memories of watching my son navigating the world at the age of 2. It’s more exaggerated at that age, but it’s not very different.)

To write my novel as New Adult (NA) would be more challenging–not impossible, but challenging. A YA character is allowed (expected) to have a degree of innocence that NA characters should have shed long ago. While NA characters still think they know everything (and make the adult in me want to slap them around), the fact that they’re a bit more jaded adds another layer to their personas and, as a result, to the plot.

It’s like the old parenting adage that my sister shares with me when I’m venting about the craziness in my household: Small children, small problems. The older the character, the bigger the stakes.

Why do you think people (even adults!) love to read YA? How do you think the genre affects that audience?

There have been so many articles on this very question!

YA appeals to adults, I think, because it takes them (us) back to a simpler time, a time before a mortgage and kids and balancing a career with some semblance of a real life. It was a time of stolen glances across the classroom and first kisses and getting goosebumpy because the guy you liked [insert desired action here]. So I think a lot of adults feel a sense of nostalgia when they read YA.

MG readers like reading YA because they can imagine what it’s like to be a bigger kid. (So sad, but so true.)

And, of course, teens like to read YA because there are characters they can relate to. And it’s always more fun to read something when you’re like, “Oh my God! I totally know what the main character is going through! It’s like the author is writing about ME!” (Which, of course the author is because, well, when you’re that age, it’s all about you, anyway.)

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

Oh, I read everything. No joke. My Kindle is full of all kinds of random stuff. Historical fiction, Regency romance, thrillers, crime drama mysteries, you name it.

At the moment, I’m addicted to MG books. I just started the Septimus Heap series, and I love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & Heroes of Olympus books. Of course, I’ve also just finished Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage, and I loved it so much that I’m going to have to read The Parasol Protectorate, too, now, and those are YA Steampunk. Also along that vein (though not steampunk) is Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, and I have to admit that Lisi Harrison’s Clique series and Sara Shepherd’s Pretty Little Liars series are guilty pleasures.

Why do I like reading these? They’re easy reads, and they all work to cleanse my writing palate. I like to mix things up when I read, though: I don’t like to read too much of a single genre at once. So I read Etiquette and Espionage and am now reading Magyk, and when I finish that I’ll probably pick up a Regency romance in the queue to keep myself from getting too accustomed to a single voice.

Readers, you can contact Eileen at…

My blog is NeverWordless.wordpress.com
I’m on Twitter at @emcaines
And my FB author page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/E-M-Caines/321528474630898

Thanks spending some time with us, Eileen!

Thanks again for having me!

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