When writing for teens, write for teens and not trends.

Standard

You know, when I started writing POLTERGEEKS a couple of years ago, I really did try to create some authenticity. A challenge of course, given that I was 42 at the time and my experience of teen life was about 30 years past its best before date. I did have help though, a lot of help, actually. I wanted to make the story relevant in some way and of course, it was important to make all my teen characters sound like they were teens of today. A lot has changed since  my days as a long-haired youth- from values to technology to fashion and music. Still, I think teens are teens and it basically sucks to be a teenager regardless of whether it’s 1982 or 2012.

I didn’t set out to become a YA author, by the way. I just sort of write what’s in my head and I don’t consider myself to be a YA author. I just write books. (I’m writing a middle grade book right now – finishing it up, at any rate.) Again, I write what comes to me and I don’t once consider whether adults will be reading my YA stuff – but I know they are – at least on Goodreads and among most bloggers.

This would be consistent with the study from Bowker released earlier this year that said 55% of YA readers are over 18. A quandary, no? If one is writing for young adults and the majority of the readers are adults then is it in fact, young adult?  Goodreads has a really cool thread about explaining what YA is – I recommend that anyone contemplating writing for teens should give it a quick scan. Are the majority of my readers teens? Grown ups? Octogenarians?

I really don’t know. And … I don’t really care. I’m just glad someone is reading my stuff.

But it’s still a sticky subject because there’s the matter of reviews – the bulk of which I suspect might well come from that 55%. Many authors say they don’t read reviews for their books. Hmmmm … maybe. I doubt it because I see links to them being posted all over Twitter and Facebook by authors who are promoting their work. Also, don’t forget that 2012 was the year of the Goodreads author meltdown. Here’s my post about the 12 Stages of Goodreads Author Meltdown. Look at the pretty pictures!

See, I think the majority of reviews are coming from outside the demographic that an author is writing for. Gasp! Are the good (or terrible) reviews going to have an impact on a book’s sales? That’s a darned good question, isn’t it? Sadly, I have no idea whether they do or don’t – maybe online sales. Perhaps. Possibly… anyone got a study on whether Goodreads reviews or book blogger reviews drive sales and please, don’t point to 50 Shades of Grey because that doesn’t count. The lack of sales information leads me to be a bit skeptical and here’s why:

I have a hunch that most people who read books aren’t on Goodreads.

I also have a hunch that most people who read books don’t read book blogs.

Which brings me to the point of this posting. If you’re an author who is tinkering away on a YA project, do try to write for the demographic and not the trends. Write what comes into your head and not what’s at the top of the charts on Amazon or Goodreads. Write because you have an interesting teen story to tell and don’t worry about that 55% of adults who are reading your stuff. Why? Because teens are also reading books where the characters aren’t teenagers. Go figure. I know this because I predate YA and I was reading adult horror and true crime as a teenager. Also because I see teens aplenty at my local brick and mortar shop buying Stephen King and George RR Martin. I saw a teen with a thick book about Churchill written by Martin Gilbert.

What are teens reading? Talk to a librarian and they’ll tell you. I have a librarian friend of mine and I posed the question to her. She answered with once simple word: EVERYTHING. (I didn’t ask if teens were reading 50 Shades of Grey but I suspect a lot are. Why? Because it’s a book. Because it’s top of mind. Because teens are curious, etc. Hell, I would have read it had such a thing existed in 1982).

In other words – it’s the story that matters. Not the genre or sub-genre. Not what USA Today or the NY Times Bestseller list says is selling because bestseller lists only offer a glimpse at the top of the charts and not what’s in the middle or at the bottom. Reading is subjective, as mentioned, and I’ve read a ton of books that were never bestsellers. Why? Because the story grabbed me. Because the cover art made me pick it up off the bookshelf. Because the back cover blurb sounded interesting. So if you are wanting to write a great YA novel, then write a great YA novel and focus on the mechanics of your book and not what everyone on Goodreads or on book blogs are saying the next big thing might be.

Because.

Writing.

Is.

A.

Crap-shoot.

The market is and ever will be a fickle beast. Nobody will ever figure it out. Ever. Trends will come and go as they always do. Right now the latest “next big thing” I’m hearing about is so-called “new adult”.  I’m reading Tweets from writers all over the place about getting that “new adult” project done before the market peaks. Who knows, maybe “new adult” will be huge … then again, maybe it won’t. But whether it is or it isn’t, just like with YA, just like with horror, romance, or even literary fiction … the story matters. It’s about the story and not the market. So write your story and forget about the market. Write your YA novel because it’s something you love and believe in. And guess what? Some readers will go nuts over your book and tell the world. Some readers will think it’s absolute crap and will post snarky, mean-spirited reviews.

Who cares if they do? Just write your book and try to get it published. If it’s brilliant and enough people love it, maybe you’ll have a bestseller. Or maybe you’ll just earn out your advance.

Just write. Okay? Forget about trends and Goodreads or social media drama. Write what you love for the love of what you write.

Now go have a fabulous 2013, won’t you? Finish that book!!!

Share

Merry Christmas!

Standard


It’s about five in the morning on Christmas Eve – it’s about – 24 Celsius outside my window and we’ve got record snowfall in the tiny metropolis of Saskatoon. The houses on my street are fairly lit up with rainbow of festive colors and the sky is clear and cold. I hate winter and aspire to spend Christmas in the future where palm trees grow and where I can drink something tropical out of a coconut shell. In the meantime, I’ll struggle through another frigid Saskatchewan winter and count my blessings while I’m at it.

This has been a fantastic year for me. It started with news that my agent had landed me a two book deal with Strange Chemistry Books. It led to my developing a wonderful working relationship with the talented, awesome and irreplaceable Amanda Rutter. It got me making a bit of money at writing for the first time. I was able to visit London to launch POLTERGEEKS. There I met my agent Jenny Savill for the first time. I also met her former assistant and now full-blown agent Ella Kahn. I had a fabulous lunch with my better half, Ella, Jenny and Amanda. I met the incredible Keren David whose books you should read if you haven’t. I got to tour around an amazing city. I met book bloggers whose enthusiasm for POLTERGEEKS really was very touching and now at Christmas, I’m counting my blessings.

So Merry Christmas to my agent who makes me want to become a better writer.

Merry Christmas to my editor who gets my writing better than anyone, I think.

Merry Christmas to new friends I met in London (Hello Liz and hubby! Hello Kim Curran! Hello Sarah Mussi)

Merry Christmas to everyone at Waterstone’s Bluewater!

Merry Christmas to all the wonderful bloggers who came to my launch.

Merry Christmas to everyone who has read POLTERGEEKS and loved the book – there’s more to come in STUDENT BODIES. It’s darker, grittier and presents a new side to Julie and Marcus.

Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan! (I had to say it – It’s a Wonderful Life – best Christmas movie ever!)

Merry Christmas to my fellow Strange Chemistry Books authors.

Merry Christmas to all – now go forth and be festive. Count your own little blessings whichever they may be and let’s hope for a safe and peaceful 2013.

Cheers!

Share

Revision complete – sending THIS off to my agent!

Standard

If you’re wondering what I’ve been on about (besides Tweeting about Saskatoon’s apparent inability to plow the streets amid record snowfall) – you’ll know that I had a title problem for my revision. I’d originally planned to call this project THE NORTH but my agent suggested I give it a new title. After finishing my revision (which I’ll be sending off to her this week) I’ve decided to call my “teen militia zombie apocalypse survivalist nut jobs everywhere book”, AFTER THE SIEGE.

Want to know what it’s about? Well look no further.

 

“We left because there was nothing left. The odds are against us making it to Sanctuary Base because there are more of them (the dead) than the living (read: the nearly dead). We stopped trying to figure out what caused day zero after about two weeks because by then we’d already lost forty people and there wasn’t any point in trying to make sense of what the human mind was never hard-wired to comprehend.

I now firmly believe that humanity is devolving. Laws don’t apply when the sky itself seems to be burning – who knows, maybe it is. We want to live, but our greatest enemy isn’t the monsters that will tear us apart with their bare hands; it’s the fact that we weren’t born into this world.”

Sixteen-year-old David Simmons is on a mission to save his eight year old sister and perhaps himself. In a broken world infested with walking cadavers, the tiny handful of survivors from Simmons militia unit are going hatches down in their armored personnel carriers, but what happens when their fuel runs dry? There’s a weak UHF signal from a place called Sanctuary Base and it’s supposed to be zombie-free, but there’s more than a thousand miles of frozen wasteland, a biting, unforgiving cold, and someone called SUNRAY.

They’re out numbered, out-gunned and out of time.

Share

My Picks for Best TV shows of 2012

Standard

There have been some mighty entertaining shows this year – and some duds that just aren’t doing it for me. (Hello Revolution, 666 Park Avenue.) And some that shouldn’t even be on television. (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and basically everything on TLC.)

In no particular order, here’s my top shows.

I love this show though I’m not crazy about the weak attempts at throwing some comedic writing into the mix. (Like Harold’s relationship with the dog.) You get a tight story with each episode, a sprinkling of sub plots ranging from dirty cops to dirty politicians. John Reese kicks the crap out of bad guys each week and shoots at least one person in the knee cap while he’s at it, and of course, there’s that bad girl who kidnapped Harold – she’s still out there somewhere and you just know she’ll be back. Great show, nice action and solid characters. If you haven’t seen it, watch it!

 

Fringe winds up its five year run on January 18th and what a ride it’s been. What started off as a show where Fringe Division was investigating bizarre and freakish “fringe events” leading to an alternate universe leading to the main characters being encased in amber to head off in the future and fight off earth’s takeover by observers; this show has gone where no other show dared dream of and it was anyone’s guess as to how so many sub-plots linked up somehow. I will miss this show terribly even if in this final season, Olivia Dunham has kicked zero ass to speak of. Peter’s character has taken a dark turn and perhaps the greatest single factor that has made this show a win since day one is Walter, played brilliantly by John Noble. Walter has gone from timid mad scientist in season one to a stoic and laser focused hero who hold’s the key to mankind’s salvation in season five. This is a series you buy when it comes out on DVD – it’s just that good.

Justified  made my list last year and it’s made the list again. Hand’s down, Justified is the very best show on television today. The most recent season saw Raylan Givens clash with Robert Quarles attempts to take over the criminal underworld in Harlan County. The BEST character on the show happens to be Boyd Crowder played by the brilliant Walton Goggins: from his frequent clashes that border on a warped kind of bromance with Raylan to Crowder’s own very meticulous work at becoming the criminal kingpin of the county, he’s a character not to be missed. Ever.

 

Oh. My. God. What an INSANE season this has been for Sons of Anarchy. You have bikers, betrayal, every character lying to each other about everything, Gemma’s meltdown, Otto going berzerk in prison, Clay at his lowest point, the brutal prison murder of one of the most conflicted characters on the show … oh dear lord, it’s a train wreck. Sheer and utter personal as well as collective carnage for everyone associated with SAMCRO. This season by far has been the most entertaining and bloody as the club now led by Jax finds itself coming apart at the seams. Watch this show!

 

Game of Thrones is so complex, so bloody well acted and so completely entertaining that I can’t even begin where to begin. Think of what HBO has done with this program: it’s epic fantasy avec sword play, dragons and no shortage of decapitations and it absolutely OWNS the Sunday evening slot during its twelve episode season. For a fantasy nut like me, Game of Thrones is validation that the genre has broad cultural appeal. Game of Thrones is less of a program and more of an event. When it airs, Twitter is abuzz with second by second updates. Very simply, it’s what you do on Sunday evenings.

 

Honorable Mention:

The Walking Dead: Finally we have the governor. Finally we have the prison. Finally we have Michonne (who so far is the most annoying character on the program because all she ever does is scowl and not be a team player.) Lori is dead. T-Dogg is dead. A baby is born and the mid-season finale last week was a strong setup for the remainder of the season. Great show … but not blowing me away.

Doctor Who: It’s still wildly entertaining but they should have said goodbye to Amy and Rory at the end of last year’s Christmas special. My sense is the program has milked the imminent departure of the pair as the primary reason to watch the show in 2012. With a little luck, there will be new epic adventures with a new companion and hopefully the writers will stop reincarnating Daleks, Weeping Angels and Cybermen. More River Song please. Oh, and more Oods. Love an Ood.

Share

Here is my problem with this season’s The Walking Dead

Standard

She’s also not a team player and she has bad listening skills.

Share