Last night at the monthly meeting of our California Writers Club, writer Jody Gehrman spoke to us about her transition from adult to Y/A fiction. Last year, she told us, sales of Y/A hard-cover fiction were up 25%, while adult hardcover fiction fell 17%. A lot of great literary fiction writers, such as Sherman Alexie, have turned to young adult writing.
When asked why she preferred Y/A, Gehrman admitted she had no teenagers of her own, but liked writing about that passionate time of life, when everything is opening up, and feelings are so strong. She enjoys the communication she shares with young readers, who enjoy escaping into a world that’s a little better [or worse] than their own. She feels Y/A books are edited more thoroughly, that a lot of extraneous, gratuitous writing that might get by in literary fiction is weeded out.
In her own work, Gehrman said, plotting is her challenge. To relieve some of the burden, she sometimes borrows plots: one of her books is based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing; another was suggested by her editor.
Tips for Y/A writers: Gehrman says fantasy is still big, so big it has divided into sub-genres. She thinks the next big thing in the Y/A market will be historical fiction, and “what if” historical fiction–what if Hitler had won? What if Elvis got elected president? She thinks there’s a lot of hope in publishing for crossovers from Y/A to the adult market. She recommends a site called Urban Dictionary, which gives you a new teenage slang term every day–words suggested by readers and voted on by readers–a consensus-based language. The site Goodreads has a strong teen component, and there is an active online community of young women blogging about Y/A books. Some of them have become so influential, they are sent books by publishers, and blurbed on book covers.