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!

Why Write: Contemporary Fantasy with Marcy L. Peska

marcypeskaHey, gang! Today we have Marcy L. Peska to talk about why she writes contemporary fantasy. She has some really fantastic things to say about contemporary fantasy versus urban fantasy, fantasy in general, and genre-writing in a larger way. Enjoy, and take notes! She has some great stuff to say.

Hello, Marcy, and welcome!
Thank you for having me. I’m tickled to participate in this project and eager to read all the interviews!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I was born in Grand Rapids, MI but came to Alaska when I was 7 months old, so I’ve always considered myself an Alaskan. I’m very attached to the region of Alaska where I reside and it’s had an enormous impact on who I’ve become, as an individual, and also as a writer. For nine years of my childhood, I lived in a tiny and isolated “bush” community in southern Southeast Alaska called Edna Bay. My experiences living a sort of pioneer/subsistence lifestyle gave me a different perspective on life than many modern Americans and I think that colors my life choices, my writing voice and the general themes in my writing. Early this month (April 2013), I published my short memoir, Head Buckets & Hashtags: An Alaskan Childhood In Tweets on Amazon Kindle and that talks about my childhood in a lot more detail.

My fantasy novel, Magic All Around (5/12/13 release date at Amazon Kindle) is set right here in Juneau, the capital city of Alaska and this setting is central to who my characters are. This is a good place for me to explain why I consider Magic All Around to be a work of contemporary fantasy instead of one of urban fantasy. These two sub-genres overlap and there aren’t any universal definitions but urban fantasies are generally set in a city that is real and recognizable. My novel meets those two criteria but few people would describe Juneau, Alaska as urban. The U.S. Census Bureau considers any community with a population of 50,000 or more to be urban but Juneau has only about 30,000 people. Although it’s located on the mainland, the only transportation in or out of Juneau is by air or water and it’s a community defined more by its breathtaking landscape of ice fields, mountains and ocean, than its structures or streets. Juneau just doesn’t have that gritty, urban feel to it and neither do my characters. If there were such a category as rural fantasy, Magic All Around would fall tidily into that, but there isn’t and so contemporary fantasy is the best fit.

What made you decide to write in contemporary fantasy?
I read many genres but fantasy has been my favorite since I was about ten or eleven. I don’t think I’ve ever made a deliberate choice to write fantasy, I’ve just always known that fantasy is what I would write. The sub-genre of contemporary fantasy provides the framework, (the real-world setting and current cultural milieu) at the foundation of my novel. Nonetheless, my process was story first, sort out and define genre after. I think genre intentionality is terrific; it just hasn’t been part of my writing process yet.

What types of stories does contemporary fantasy make possible?
One of my favorite things about fantasy is how a deft author can use it to hold a mirror up to reality and help us examine various aspects of life. High fantasy and some of the other sub-genres lend themselves especially well to the examination of culture, mores and taboos. I like to think of those sub-genres as taking an anthropological or sociological approach to fantasy. Contemporary fantasy seems to lend itself particularly well to a more narrow focus: to exploring how an individual character makes decisions and interacts with his or her world and I think of this as more of a psychological approach to fantasy.

The other thing that I think is useful in contemporary fantasy is that it can be a gateway genre. Folks new to fantasy or those who usually read other types of fiction sometimes feel confused or off-put by the foreignness of high fantasy and other sub-genres that utilize extensive world building or require a greater suspension of disbelief. It’s not quite as big a leap, for these readers
to sample contemporary fantasy, where we all start with a common reality quite similar to the one we live in on a day-to-day basis. Then, once a reader has begun to enjoy a dally in the shallow end of the pool, so to speak, that reader is more likely to venture into deeper water.

What audience do you think contemporary fantasy attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
I think contemporary fantasy attracts and accommodates folks from across the age spectrum and readers with a lot of different genre preferences because it frequently crosses genre boundaries with contemporary fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, mystery, chick-lit, you name it. As I touched on earlier, my approach to fiction writing is to share the story I have inside of me rather than to create a story that meets a particular set of criteria for a specific genre or audience. Then, once the story is complete, I can define genre and audience and learn to market to the right folks.

How does contemporary fantasy affect the stakes for your characters and your
First, I want to say that you ask great questions and you’re making me think more deeply about genre than I have since I was in college back in the early 90’s. I hope you won’t be grading my answers!

Definitely no grades here! I actually worried more about writers grading my questions than grading their answers in any way!

I don’t think any genre, or sub-genre, has an exclusive license on low, medium or high-stakes situations. The more research and/or world building an author does, however, the further up the stakes continuum they tend write; there’s a level of investment on the part of the author and the reader that must be paid off. The opposite, however, certainly isn’t true. In other words, plenty of authors write high-stakes stories in genres that require little to no research or world building.

I consider contemporary fantasy to be low on the research and world building scale but I’ve read novels in this sub-genre from across the stakes continuum. As a reader and a writer, I often prefer low to medium stakes stories. Again, there are exceptions to this, but as a rule, I have little tolerance for anxiety, suspense, tension and large-scale carnage. In my life, and in my writing, I’m more concerned with personal, family and community level challenges than I am with impending doom or grand battles of good versus evil.

Why do you think people love to read contemporary fantasy? How do you think the genre affects its audience?
I believe that reframing the way we view our environment and our experiences has the potential to change our thoughts, feelings and reactions to those things. All genres…no, all art, has the potential to catalyze this kind of transformation, but the proximity of contemporary fantasy to consensus reality (not too close and not too far) makes it a brilliant vehicle for stories that may inspire readers to generalize what they learn from characters and transfer that knowledge to real-world scenarios to reframe their own views.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
Fantasy has always spoken to me most deeply and most comfortingly, with science fiction in a close second place. I suppose this has a lot to do with growing up among people who valued questioning reality, questioning mainstream culture, questioning authority…questioning everything really! I internalized those values and, for me at least, this is what a good fantasy does, it takes the characters and the reader (maybe even the author) on a journey where they’re forced to reevaluate the nature of reality and how they respond to it. That being said, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that fantasy and science-fiction make up the bulk of my reading diet. (It totally makes up a large portion of my reading diet, so no judgment here!) I read widely and enjoy a variety of fiction and non-fiction
genres, especially things related to psychology/mental health, dogs and Alaska.

Wow, Marcy, you gave some great answers and got me thinking about still more genre-related blog topics. Thanks for stopping by and chatting with us!
This was fun; thank you for interviewing me and getting me thinking more about genre.

Readers, if you want to track Marcy down, you can find her at…

Amazon Author Page





E-mail: marcylpeskaATgmailDOTcom


Why Write: YA with Shauna Granger

shaunagWelcome to another episode of Why Write! Today we have Shauna Granger, whose new book, Spirit, just came out yesterday! Shauna’s here to talk about Young Adult fiction, and why so many people of so many ages love to read about teens.

Hello, Shauna, and welcome!

Thanks for having me!

For those of you who don’t know, Shauna is a fellow Spellbound Scribe and one of my #teamawesome writing buddies.

Woot! Go #teamawesome!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

Talking about myself always feels so awkward, lol. But seriously, I’m the author of The Elemental Series, a five part young adult paranormal series. My books follow the lives of three teens who have the abilities to control and manipulate the five elements of our world. The fifth and final installment, Spirit, comes out April 30th, 2013. (That was yesterday, guys!!) I live in Ventura in Southern California, where my books are also set.

What made you decide to write YA / write for teens?

I didn’t really set out with the purpose of writing YA when I first started writing. For me, it’s all about the main character and the voice of the story that comes first. For this series, the voice of Shay, the main character and narrator, was incredibly loud in my head and I knew she was in high school before I ever started writing. But age doesn’t really define whether or not a book is for a younger or older audience, it’s the voice of the book and the voice of my Elemental Series was very much Young Adult.

What types of stories does YA make possible?

I think every type of story is possible in YA. I think teens today are very lucky to have such a wide and prevalent genre at their fingertips, featuring characters their own age and dealing with the same trials and tribulations they are going through.

It hasn’t been that long since I was in high school myself, but even that short amount of time ago Young Adult wasn’t a category in your local bookstore. The closest I ever remember reading was R.L. Stine and Catcher In The Rye, the former being in the Children’s section and the latter in Classic Fiction. And I did enjoy those books, but I would’ve killed for an entire section at a bookstore dedicated to me at that age.

Having a Young Adult genre as an accepted genre now, means that teens can read about characters going through the same things they are going through. They can see that it is possible to live through the hell of being bullied, or depressed, or a horrible breakup, or school-wide gossip. Anything really. When you’re a teen you’re often terrified that you’re alone in your struggle; that no one else is dealing with issues that you’re dealing with. That maybe you’re the class freak and you can’t talk to anyone about your problems. With YA you have someone, or someones, who know exactly what you’re dealing with. And more than that, with the resurgence of the Fantasy genre, teens have a chance to escape their day to day lives.

When I was younger, the only books I could escape into were classics or more adult books. I read a lot of Anne Rice and Mercedes Lackey as a teen but I would’ve loved to have gotten my hands on Beautiful Creatures, The Madison Avery series, The Hunger Games, The Darkest Powers series, and so many more.

Aside, from the obvious, what audience do you think YA attracts? Lots of adults read YA — why do you think that is?

As a matter of fact, according to my Facebook Fan Page stats, the largest demographic for my readers is 25-34, this is my age bracket as well. I think this goes back to my comment about there not being a Young Adult genre when I was in high school, but because that wasn’t too long ago, I still enjoy reading these books. High school was a bitch for a lot of people, me included, so to be able to read about high school, in a fantasy setting, without actually dealing with high school now, is kind of nice. I’m sure that’s part of the reason so many adults read YA now. But more than that, I do have a lot of readers who are parents now and they are pre-reading books their kids are interested in to make sure the content is appropriate for their kids. I think this awesome. For one, it shows responsible parenting and two, many of those parents have reached out to me to tell me that, because they read my book to approve it for their kid, they in turn have become a fan of mine. Awesomesauce all around.

How does the broad audience alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

It doesn’t. I do not write to cater to an audience. I have had many readers tell me that some of the actions of some of my characters have driven them crazy, but they keep reading. And that’s all that matters. Yes, writing is a business and we all want to make money, but first you have to write a good story. Readers are smart, they can tell when they are being pandered to and I won’t do that. The most important thing is to write a good story, and it is impossible to please every single reader. So I just write the story I want to write and I try to make it as good as possible and hope for the best.

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

Now that is something to think about. In YA you have to remember that there are parents at every turn. A tired trope is to kill off the parents or make them absentee. I don’t like to do this because it isn’t as common as some people think.

In my books my characters sneak in and out of their houses and school on occasion. This was real when I was teen. I remember my mom reading my books and laughing at a point where the main character sneaks out of her bedroom in the middle of the night to go out. She really didn’t think that was something I ever did. Then I told her how I did it, which was the exact way my character did it in the book. Of course my character is scared of getting caught. She has moments where she thinks, “My parents are going to kill me,” because that is what I remember thinking as a teen. And my characters lie to their parents about where they’re going to be so they could go do their epic paranormal battles, but if their parents caught on, they would get grounded. You do have to steep your fantasy in reality if you want people to buy your fantastic stuff.

So in YA, your characters aren’t just worried about getting killed (if your subgenre is Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/etc); they’re also worried about their parents, teachers, and principals catching them breaking the rules. You can’t forget about these factors in YA because it’s always in the back of your readers’ heads.

How do you think the teen characters and their stories affect your audience?

You know, one of the most gratifying things I’ve experienced since publishing my first book, has been the reaction of my readers. I was shocked when readers started reaching out to me to talk to me about my books and my characters. I set out to write a fun story with the sole purpose of entertaining people, and maybe remind them that magic was real if we only choose to remember to believe in it. But since publishing readers have reached out to me and told me stories about my books giving them strength and courage to be who they want to be, rather than who their friends, family and other people expect them to be. That has meant the world to me. My characters might frustrate readers from time to time, but to know they also inspire people? I couldn’t ask for more.

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

Urban Fantasy, all the way. My favorite series is The Hallows Series by Kim Harrison. I heart Rachel Morgan so hard! I’ve always been a fan of Fantasy, as you can see from my earlier references, but I really love Urban Fantasy and I’m so glad it’s so prevalent now. I do enjoy Swords and Sorcery books, but I love modern day, city life fantasy so much more. Maybe because it’s more relatable? Maybe because I can envision myself as the main character and because it’s set in a real city, in my time, there is that tiny possibility that I really could be the main, badass character.

How can readers reach you?

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorShaunaGranger
Twitter: @dyingechoes
Blog: http://shaunasspot.blogspot.com
Barnes and Noble

Thanks for stopping by, Shauna!

Thanks for having me! This was fun!

Why Write: LGBT with Richard Pearson

Readers, today we welcome Richard Pearson, a fellow “Rubenite” novelist (part of my agency family) and a Twitter-pal of mine. I’m excited to host him here not just because of that, but because this interview is new territory for a blog that frequently discusses real life issues only when they have a magical spin. Richard has some fantastic things to say, so sit back and prepare to absorb some of his wisdom.

Hello, Richard, and welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

Sure! I write LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) Fiction. When I’m not working at being an author I’m also and actor and attorney. So I’m a triple A threat. I grew up in Arkansas, but have lived right outside NYC for the past 5 years.

What made you decide to write LGBT fiction?

The first LGBT novel I ever read was The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. I adored it! While I loved a lot of novels that featured women (I remain a huge fan of Amy Tan) I was so happy to finally read a novel that spoke to the LGBT universe I lived in. A novel that talked about how difficult it can be to come out, the uncertainty of how to act with a potential lover in public, etc. It was a novel that spoke to me in a way no other novel had before. It made me feel like I wasn’t nearly as alone as I thought I was.

In college I wrote a lot of LGBT short fiction, and my class was a bit scandalized by it. I went to Rhodes College, a small Liberal Arts College in Memphis, Tennessee. After that, I decided that I wanted to write more LGBT fiction, to show kids like me that they are not alone.

What types of stories does LGBT-focused fiction make possible?

Being LGBT is unique because, in addition to being a sort of culture in and of itself, any person (regardless of race, class, or gender) can end up also being LGBT. It can lead to a lot of additional struggles, especially since people realize and accept that they are LGBT at different times.

However, there are also stories like mine, which don’t focus as heavily on the fact that the cast of characters are mainly gay men. In my novel the LGBT status of the characters has very little to do with the conflicts they are forced to deal with. Stories featuring LGBT characters, without harping on that, is something I am hoping we see more of in the future. I love stories where being gay is tantamount to a character having grown up on the farm. It informs their characters, but is not their sole identifying characteristic.

What audience do you think this genre attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

The audience for LGBT Fiction is wider than I expected. I thought it mainly was for gay men. However, I’ve been equally pleased and surprised to learn that women (straight or otherwise) also make up a large portion of the audience. Those are the readers I know of, but I hope there are straight men out there who read it as well. The symbol for LGBT pride is the rainbow for a reason, we happily accept anyone. It takes all colors to make a rainbow!

 How does an LGBT focus affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

I think that it depends on the story, but if the novel is focusing on the fact a character is LGBT it is often because it is a secret. As a result, the reader tends to feel included immediately. After all, they now share a secret with a character, and it’s fun to be in the know. Often times it is uncertain how people in the story will react to this news, so it can build tension to a variety of different reactions. When a person or character comes out it can result in an explosive “You are dead to me!” kind of reaction, but it can also lead to a humorous “Finally! I’ve been dying to ask you about these shoes!” joke.

Characters in any novel are fighting to overcame the conflict. When you’re writing about LGBT characters, who are often marginalized by society as a whole, the conflict is often enhanced. It makes their struggles even more difficult to overcome but also more interesting to read about.

Why do you think people love to read LGBT fiction? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

I think many people love to read it because they are either LGBT themselves, and want to read about the lives (fictional or otherwise) of other people like them. Of course, I think that some people are just curious what the life an LGBT person is like. Given the unfortunate situation, especially in terms of bullying these days, it can be really enlightening to walk a mile in the shoes of someone overcoming the additional challenges LGBT people are forced to confront on a daily basis.

I think readers enjoy insights into parts of the world they know about, but are somewhat wary to explore without someone to guide them. It’s like when I go to a football game, I enjoy it more because I watched and loved “Friday Night Lights.” So when I ask what some position is, my friends can tell me “A fullback is what Tim Riggins did, they are both on the line to guard/rush the quarterback, but they can also catch the ball or run with it.” Without context, that’d go over my head, but since I liked that character, I want to make the extra effort to understand it. I think it can be similar for readers. It’s easier to think of going to a gay bar or pride parade, if you first dip your toes in the water by reading about it.

Also, many age old stories feel fresh and interesting when sexual orientation and gender is flipped around. It adds a new layer, and often deepens the meaning of certain themes. One of my favorite versions of Romeo and Juliet had Tybalt played by a lesbian, and it really made that age old story feel fresh and interesting.

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

Favorites are hard, but I’m a real sucker for any coming of age novel. I love seeing someone discover who they are. It’s a big part of being LGBT in general, so I’m sure that is why.

That said, I have a HUGE love of any novel that features kids, teens, or adults attending a magic school. I was like that LONG before Harry Potter came out, but that series was especially fun for me as a result. I like it the idea of having your homework be “learn this spell.” It seems like the coolest thing on the planet.

I also love anything about the life of actors in the theatre.

Readers, if you haven’t gotten enough, here’s how to contact Richard!

My twitter handle is: @PEART10

The website (which includes a sneak peak at the first chapter) for the novel I’m hoping to publish is: http://therole.wordpress.com/