Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's My Age Again?

Last night, Twitter's #yalitchat featured two hours of discussion with S. Jae Jones, aka JJ, a new member of the editorial staff at St. Martin's Press, who was there to introduce a genre she and her boss are calling “New Adult.” In a nutshell, New Adult bridges the gap between Young Adult and adult literature. The first time I saw the word, I squealed and laughed and clapped and was very geekishly thrilled.

Most of us at the chat were very excited about the idea. Some seemed a tad confused. And a few folks came across as fairly antagonistic. One person in particular stood out to me as being against the label, repeating saying that a lot of mainstream adult lit focuses on the age group already so no distinction is needed. I was a little confused as to why he was in #yalitchat to begin with, honestly, as the same argument was made against the emergence of the Young Adult tag once upon a time. It seems to me that the argument of “It's out there, let readers find it themselves” can be extended to preclude any sort of genre distinctions at all. There's some merit in that, but I personally appreciate being able to find books I'm likely to enjoy without having to pick up hordes of things my grandmother would enjoy first. I already spend several hours a week browsing for books, I don't need to make the process harder.

There are two things about the concept of a recognized New Adult label that I really like. The first is that I want to be able to find these things easier. The second is that I want these books to see print more often. Even though I'm past thirty now, I mostly read YA and it isn't just because I write it, it's because in general it appeals to me more. The sense I got from JJ is that her vision is to blend more mature focus with the more accessible and fun voices of YA. She says she's targeting herself and I think our tastes have a lot in common. Except she's into skydiving, which I think is crazy. Then again, people have told me I'm crazy for strapping sticks to my feet and sliding down mountains, so... =)

The fellow who kept saying the age group is covered kept quoting examples of general fiction. And I conceded he may have a point about that. Since I read remarkably little general fiction I don't really know. I do know that in urban fantasy and paranormal romance, the characters tend to be either in high school or past their mid-twenties. In the exceptions, they're people who we are told are younger but who act as if they're at least thirty and somewhat stodgy. There are a lot of ideas and roughs that I've pushed aside due to the fact that the characters are too old for YA and too young and/or immature for adult. I love the notion of having somewhere to classify them.

None of this has any affect on SHADOW or the marketing thereof. SHADOW is Young Adult, not because Drew is still in high school but because of the themes and tone. However, I've been holding off on rewriting my dragons again in part because I wanted to make the leads younger than they were in the original, but not young enough for the story to be YA. And I have a bunch of faerie stories that I wanted to revise into what would be New Adult, but that wasn't an option before so they've just been sitting there. I've actually been toying with the notion of posting those tales as an on-line serial. Which I may still do for a variety of reasons, but this makes me feel I have more choices available.

JJ has much more discussion on the New Adult concept on her blog, www.sjaejones.com, which is worth checking out if the idea intrigues you at all. She's also on Twitter as @sjaejones and doesn't seem like she'd be averse to answering questions if you have any for her.

In the meanwhile, I must be back to my NaNo project... 22k and rising!

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