Monday, April 28, 2014

The Author-Mom Chronicles #4 - The New Adult Genre

THE FOLLOWING IS NOT A RANT! LOL! I am merely bringing up a topic and sharing my thoughts. Please don't read a condescending tone into this post - it is positively NOT intended that way.

My debut novel, IN TOO DEEP, takes place on the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. My characters are 21 and 22 and were dealing with the subject of dating abuse. Gracie, my main character, was tested in many ways throughout the novel. Her resolve, self-esteem, convictions, self-worth were all part of the theme which is typical of an early twenties co-ed.

After my first round of edits, my publisher said, "We need the sex to be a little grittier. Leave less to the imagination. Give us more details." I wasn't completely comfortable with that for many reasons, the first being that my teenage kids would want to read my very first book...and I didn't want them INSIDE Gracie's sex life. But, because I was writing in the NA genre, I knew readers were older and more mature and my own kids would just have to wait a couple years to read Mom's book.

Well, once you start a series with gritty sex, your readers will look for that in the subsequent, I wrote in plenty of steamy scenes. I've gotten many compliments on those scenes, too. :)

But as I was laying out my first stand-alone novel I found myself trying to figure out where I would fit sex into a story that was about SO FREAKING MUCH MORE the sex. I just kept thinking, if I plop sex in here it will seem contrived and I don't want that.

So, I talked to some of my blogger and author friends who agreed, the current trend in NA is hot sex. But why is that? I worry we don't give our readers credit for being the intelligent, deep, and passionate (in non-sexual ways) women they are.

Disclaimer #2:
I am not saying that the sexual content determines a shallow plot. NOT AT ALL! You don't have to read too many NA novels to see the twisted webs we weave!

Let's dive into the details of this five-year old genre we've come to know as New Adult....

New Adult is a genre that, in the beginning, was defined by an age bracket, not subject matter.

Having been a "new adult" I can guarantee you for most of us, that age between 18-24 was hardly all about my sex life or lack thereof. It was more about the excitement of living on my own, striving for personal growth and navigating my way through life's hurdles, tensions and conundrums that sharpened my problem-solving skills. All of which opens up millions of scenarios for fiction writers, even those who write romance, without diving into bed with the protagonist.

Now, obviously sex is one of those hurdles, tensions and conundrums of the age group but I feel we owe it to our readers to feel a part of the main character finding her way in life not finding her panties after a one night stand. How many of us look back over our lives and say "if it weren't for my sordid sex life in college, I'd never be where I am today." Are we insulting our readers by assuming that's all they want?

Karen Grove is the editorial director for Embrace, Entangled Publishing's New Adult imprint and had this to say on the subject of what New Adult is:

“The mindset is different in New Adult,” Grove says. “There’s a focus on success and survival versus [high school themes of] popularity and acceptance. The new adult brings their young adult experiences and discoveries to a new level, and they get to choose the adult they want to become.”

I'm not AT ALL trashing a hot sex scene, I swear! There are more than a handful of those in all three books of my IN TOO DEEP series.

But, the personal growth between the ages of 18 and 24 is fascinating, challenging and the biggest puzzle piece of who we become when we enter the real world. And sometimes it's just as exciting and satisfying as a good romp in the hay.

Suzie Townsend, Cora Carmack's agent from New Leaf Literary & Media supports the notion that sexual content is only a small facet of the New Adult genre...

“A few of the New Adult books I’ve read could have arguably been called angsty, sexually explicit YA, but I would say that’s the minority,” Townsend says. “To me, New Adult is a more specific name for what we would have called adult novels with strong crossover. They’re targeted for those adult readers who really enjoy YA, and for 20-somethings that haven’t always been able to find a lot of novels taking place during the college years.”

Sara Megibow, an agent with the Nelson Literary Agency had this to say and I see a lot of truth in her statement...

"The assertion that New Adult is just sexually explicit YA feels confrontational to me—as if the person doing
the asserting were dismissing the sexual content as a hook or a marketing scam to get more people to buy a book,” Megibow says. “The good New Adult submissions I’ve seen tend to focus on the conflicts of early adulthood—somewhat like the first Bridget Jones book—dating, jobs, first apartments, money, identity, self-sufficiency, etc.”

Tell me your thoughts.


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