Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Announcing Our Newest Interviewee--John Green

If I were fifty and fat, I would have had a heart attack upon hearing that John Green agreed to do an interview for YAYA.

As it was, I...okay. I had a heart attack.

But I SWEAR I'm not fifty and fat. I'm just head-over-heels-in-love with John Green.

Now, I realize that there is a Mrs. John Green, and that I am only sixteen and any kind of REAL love would be all kinds of squeamy (plus, I have to save most of that love for Ned Vizzini...who got engaged when I wasn't looking. Damn, right?) But. Seriously. We all love John Green, but I got to write this post because I love him to an insane amount.

My older sister and I have this tradition. Bear with me for a moment, ok?

She likes to play video games. I like to watch her play video games. This works out really really well. And, while she plays and I watch, I read to her.

Sometimes I read her the manuscript I'm working on. Sometimes, I read her a book.

I've probably read her like twenty books this way. A few: Flipped, Where the Kissing Never Stops, Blindsighted, Be More Chill (oh Ned).

When I think of Looking for Alaska, I think of how ridiculously fun it was to read to my sister.

Reading John Green's dialogue out loud is like eating an ice cream sandwich. You can't do it without smiiling. You can try. But you CAN'T.

(And if you can, I'm going to need video proof. Put in on youtube.)

There is something totally fantastic about Looking for Alaska.

I've read it seven times.

I don't want to sound like I don't love An Abundance of Katherines. It's totally sweet. But. If you haven't read Looking for Alaska, then I'm not sure you know what it's like to find a book like Looking for Alaska.

It's like eating an ice cream sandwich.

It's like video games with your sister.

It's enough to make you stop looking.

I am honored to announce that our next interview will be with bestselling, Prinz Award winning, asskicking John Green.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Patry Francis--The Liar's Diary

So, I know this blog is called Yapping about YA and you would probably assume it's going to be about young adult lit, but today's a special occasion. All over the internet, writers are uniting to promote the super amazing Patry Francis. Her book, The Liar's Diary, is out today.

Here's the thing, though--Ms. Francis, after selling her book, was diagnosed with cancer, and doesn't have the energy to do the promotion.

So hundreds of writers are banding together to make sure The Liar's Diary gets the promotion it deserves.

Here's a bit of the synopsis, from her site (

What would you do if your best friend was murdered—and your teenaged son was accused of the crime? How far would you go to protect him? How many lies would you tell? Would you dare to admit the darkest truths—even to yourself?

And here's the link to The Liar's Diary on Amazon:

Here's to you, Patry!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Suicide Hill

This, ladies and gents, is the view from the top of looming mountain of death known as Suicide Hill.

Don’t be fooled by the picture. It goes down four stories in about twenty feet. Once at the bottom, the victim—sledder—has a few options. Bail and hope for the best? Ram the Music Building? Farthing Auditorium? Or attempt to steer into the 6 foot wide safety zone, where even then you have to stop quickly to avoid sailing off the loading dock?

It has claimed many broken legs and arms. A piano player broke her back and was unable to play again. A friend of mine will walk with a limp for the rest of his life, thanks to a complicated break. And once, long before we got here, a student cracked her skull, taking her life.

So clearly, this is a greatly desired location any time it snows. Idiotic frat boys and mildly-intoxicated music majors alike flock to the top of the hill, waiting their turn for the thirty-second RUSH.

My freshman year, a friend and I were walking out of the music building across the top of the hill. The crowd there was pretty amazing, and we stood to watch them for awhile.

People are IDIOTS.

Not only were they going down this gigantic mountain, they were piling as many people on a sled as possible, going down backwards, going down on lunch trays from the cafeteria. My friend and I laughed at their stupidity, then continued on about our way.

A little later, I came back. The huge crowd had dissipated, still leaving a few people around. Most of the people left were friends of mine. They cajoled, whined, complained, reasoned. Because they know me.

I’m the responsible one. I had been at college for a semester and never been to a single party. I always studied and practiced and never missed class or rehearsals. I didn’t take stupid risks, I knew better than to screw up.

In spite of my sanity, they finally talked me into it. So I grabbed the most durable looking sled around. My friends coached me: “Now, as you’re going down, use your hands to steer! Make sure you stay away from the music building, the hill kinda curves so you want to go towards it. Aim more for the auditorium, but if it looks like you’ll get too close, bail!”

A quick shove, and I was off. Trust me, with a hill that steep, you pick up speed quickly. Before I know it or I’ve even had time to enjoy myself, the music building grew WAY larger than I had anticipated.

“BAIL! BAIL!” the top-of-the-hill-spectators screamed.

So I did. But the thing is, I was still going about forty miles and hour. When I rolled off the sled, my only awareness was of was pain and snow and white. And finally, I stopped.

I just lay there for a second, hearing the laughter and applause of those watching. “That was the best bail ever!” my friend yelled.

Finally I pulled myself up. “I am NOT going to f***ing do that again!” I yelled. Everyone laughed. I stayed outside long enough to watch a few more people go down, then bid everyone farewell and went back inside to lick my wounds.

Result? I broke my collarbone.

Now, why does any of this matter? Because that was completely out of character for me. I have never been a big risk taker, and never really do stupid things like that. Yet totally out of the blue, (and NOT just because of peer pressure, let me be very clear in that—I had kind of been wanting to anyway,) I did something so incredibly dumb.

In real life, people, do this sort of thing. You can think you have someone pegged as rational, then they go down Suicide Hill. But what about fiction?

We have all been discussing (myself as well!) how important characterization is, and making sure all actions are rational for the characters, but now I’m starting to wonder. My characters always follow their own rules, but is that really realistic? Sometimes people do some things that don’t fit their character at all. Should our characters always do things that are predictable for them? Or is a completely bizarre, out-of-character action sometimes acceptable?

Note: I’m not pushing any idea; I’m opening up an honest question for discussion.

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction – Good Thing We’re Not Writing That!

As fiction writers, it’s not our job to tell the truth. In fact, our job is to lie and not get caught. It’s something I learned when I was forced to write something in the genre of ‘realistic fiction,’ which is quite the oxymoron. I guess this post is more of a clarification of those comments that didn’t really make any sense on my post about ‘hope’, concerning ‘hyperrealism.’

Mostly, I just have a bone to pick with ‘realism’ in fiction. If I may, Bethany claimed that one of the selling points to reluctant readers for edgy YA is realism, in that it has “situations and a world that is closer to what they experience every day, so they don’t have to work so hard to suspend disbelief.” That’s not realism. Though it may have the face of things that happen every day, any story is a very closed world, one that is trimmed of the fat of everyday existence and unimportant details, unlike real life. A story has a focus, and more importantly, a plot. So many things happen in day to day life that are completely unrelated, but in literature everything has something to do with something – if it was pointless, it would have been cut out during edits.

It’s the same with realistic dialogue. Dialogue that uses swears and current slang isn’t realistic; actual human dialogue is choppy, full of incomplete sentences and inanity, and so much of it sounds more like repetitive, animal-like emission rather than something that you’d find in a book. People speaking are people communicating information to each other, while in a book, that’s rarely the reason. Dialogue is for advancement of plot, themes, character development, et cetera, and let’s face it, nobody would want to hear actual, unscripted human dialogue and thought. That’s why we edit.

It’s all a matter of being stylized. It’s less important to be realistic than it is to not jar the reader out of the tone that’s been established for the story. If the tone of a story is gritty, it’s not right to put in some happy fluffy bunnies, though everyone knows that just as life is bad, life can be good. Compare a fictional diary to an actual one – they’re usually completely different. Though an actual person’s life will have ups and downs, typically fiction has the basic structure of tolerable > worse > bad > horrible > good, or just cuts off at ‘horrible’ if the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Real life doesn’t have denountement or such closure that a story typically has, and if a story doesn’t have these things, it’s usually considered to be dissatisfying and leave the readers pining for them and being otherwise frustrated.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction is unrealistic because, unlike the truth, fiction has to make sense. The only time when being unrealistic is a problem is when you shatter your suspension of disbelief. So, rather than tell the truth, lie like a dog – just be sure not to get caught.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Can Has Edge?

I'm not an edgy writer. I like happy things, which is probably why I'm writing about gophers and talking trees. This topic was a little difficult to blog about, so I decided to put a little twist on things.

One of the major debates I had with myself while editing WIP#1 was whether or not to make the drug abuse more explicit. Drug abuse, you say? How can that be un-edgy? Well, it's not a drug... it's fairy dust, which just happens to have some properties of cocaine. The similarities are intentional. I spent a good portion of last summer researching cocaine and its effects on the brain (Using the internet, people - the internet! God, I can hear Hannah snickering from twenty miles away...) in order to make the character's addiction believable.

And then I ran into a snag.

I've never read a cocaine-snorting scene before in my life. I have no desire to. I find the whole concept of drugs icky. Who wants to stick things up their nose? Seriously... what is up with that!? Now I have to write about snorting fairy dust without ever reading this kind of scene. I am in a pickle.

I tried to reason with myself. Maybe the book didn't need explicit scenes. I substituted the actual snorting with flashes of light, fade-to-blacks, and other gimicks in the hope that no one would notice a gaping hole in the story. After five drafts and multiple incarnations of the snorting-of-the-dust scenes, I can say with utmost confidence that I have to make these scenes as explicit as they are meant to be.

Sophie, who has no edge to speak of, is quite distressed.

And so I'm turning my dilemma into a discussion topic. How do you deal with writing those explicit scenes? When do you fade to black? And why?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Make 'Em Persistent And Give Me Hope

Hello. I’m writing this post at a point when I should be doing homework, but because this post is for my own mental health, I have a feeling it’s more important.

This is Haphazard again. I’m a teenager who doesn’t like YA, and that’s about all you need to know about me for now. Well, except that I also don’t like realism, which is something I’ve noticed is getting a lot of praise as we discuss edgy YA. So, I figure it’s about time to bear my soul to everybody, because I need to get a point across.

Underneath this writerly persona, I’m still in many ways a typical teenager. Because of this, it’s not so surprising that there are a lot of people I don’t like, and that many of these people are close to me, whether they be peers or loved ones. The reason why I don’t like these people is because they give up so easily; myself included. Characters that give up, or have given up already, is often a part of trying to put the gritty into gritty realism, because so many people do this in real life. So many people just scrape by, because living is hard enough as it is without reaching for improvement.

And this is one thing that I really, really hate reading about; giving up. I hate the hopelessness evident in so much edgy fiction. Instead, I want to see somebody try their absolute hardest at whatever they try when I read. Now, there can be doubt, and I do admire somebody who knows when to fold their hand, but I want to see them move on from there and throw themselves at something else. Persistence is something that really grabs me in a story, and it makes me cry that much harder when the main character fails, or cheer that much harder when they win.

I know life is hard on people, but I don’t need to be reminded of this whenever I read. Instead, I want to be reminded that, against all odds, people will try their damnedest at whatever they believe must be done. I may be in an existential quandary, full of loathing and self-doubt, and wracked with the pain and isolation of my pitiful, meaningless existence, but I want to be able to take a small bit of comfort in knowing that the characters I read about aren’t stuck there, too.

And yes, that was a “Weird Al” Yankovic reference.

Edgy Fiction and the Reluctant Reader

Not only Getting them to Read, but Keeping them Reading the YA

Part I the Reluctant Reader

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Before I start my first post, let me introduce myself. I’m Bethany Griffin, and my first YA, Handcuffs, will be released by Delacorte this December. It’s the story of an Ice Princess, the boy who wants to thaw her, and everything that happens after they get caught with a pair of handcuffs. Is it edgy? I don’t know anymore. Is it realistic? I hope so. Some of the questionable things the characters do, they do because it seemed like the realistic thing for that character to do, not because it was what I was planning, because I wrote this book without any particular outline or plan. Some of the themes of the book (um, I think J) include being completely consumed by a relationship, and whether you accept being consumed or fight against it, body bartering, self esteem issues, money issues, and of course sex- though in this case the sex is related to all of the above, but it’s also always an issue in itself, isn’t it?

But my subject here, believe it or not, isn’t me. It’s edgy YA literature, and keeping the kiddos reading. Unlike other fiction categories, YA is really an age group, and we’ve always got them unless folks stop reproducing, but we have to get them to read. So my first subject is edgy fiction and the reluctant YA reader, I will continue this discussion later with a discussion of edgy YA and the advanced reader.

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A reluctant reader is by definition a person who does not want to read. Who looks at books and feels that they have nothing to offer, who reads and doesn’t connect, who reads and doesn’t remember or care about what happened and therefore cannot discuss it with you. Reluctant readers have often been marginalized by their reading experiences. Maybe in kindergarten everyone else was in the blue birds or the eagles, and they were in the dumb-pigeons-who-can’t-sound-out-words group. Maybe they have trouble focusing, and their 7th grade teacher slapped down a copy of Huckleberry Finn, and they couldn’t get into it because they were wondering if their parents were getting divorced, if they were going to make it home from school in one piece, or you know they were going to get terribly humiliated by having to read out loud. So they took on an attitude of disdain for reading.

These are the kids who it means the most to find a good book for. The right book, which is why we need so many books, because some of us read non stop, and some others are looking for the perfect fit. For some of them it’s Harry Potter and the whole world of fantasy. I love fantasy and I think J K Rowling has done amazing things for all of kid lit. She’s given us a generation of readers, which is an amazing accomplishment. But for many of these kids, suspension of disbelief is difficult, and when they see a fantasy title they say, that’s dumb.

We know what good readers do (and struggling readers do not)

They predict what will happen next
They put themselves into the story
They empathize

There’s a part in Flowers for Algernon where Charlie is reading Robinson Crusoe and he says that he feels sorry for Robinson because he is lonely. He also suspects that there is someone else on the island because there are footprints on the cover that Robinson is looking at. Predicting and empathizing.

Now every reluctant reader is different, just as every person is different. So if I seem to be generalizing, please understand that the best way to make sense of non-readers for an English teacher is to find the commonalities. And then you work with each student on an individual basis and get to know them.

So, what does edgy YA offer to reluctant readers.

Realism. Situations and a world that is closer to what they experience every day, so they don’t have to work so hard to suspend disbelief.

Awesome dialogue, that sounds real, that includes words that they say and hear regularly. And yes this includes the basest profanity you can imagine. Have you heard kids talking? I don’t mean glorify it, but I do reflect reality. It’s crazy, but sometimes some interesting “bad words” are enough to convince a kid that a book is “different” and keep them reading.

Characters that readers can connect with. Real people with real feelings who respond like real teenagers. These are the elements that make you have to turn the page to see what will happen next. Voice is part of this category, I think. Authentic voice.

Plot lines that don’t flinch. Is happily ever after believable? Not usually. Does everybody always survive everything and learn an important lesson? No. Do bullies relent and repent when you stand up to them? Try it a few times and see.

Brevity. I love Lord of the Flies, I think it’s an awesome book and I love the story. But that opening, omg. It’s rich with description, but it loses the reluctant reader. They don’t care about the waves crashing on the beach, they want to read about the death and destruction, the inherent violence in school boys who are fighting for their lives. But not if it takes too long to get into it. So even for a short book, this one loses brevity points in my book. Contemporary YA is often short and to the point.

The high concept hook – I know, this is for selling the book. But you know what? I sell books all the time, standing in front of the library shelf. “Is there anything good here, do you have anything I can read?” This is a beautifully well written and provocative book, does little for my audience. The short description, the cool sounding hook does my work for me every time. And before me it sold the book to the librarian and the bookseller and the editor and the agent and I guess you get the picture.

And so, as we move onward into the information age, an age where auto mechanics and factory workers need a higher level of literacy than ever before, when reading accurately and quickly becomes more and more important and the internet pervades our lives, every library in this country needs a shiny bright glossy selection of edgy YA books.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stirring the Stew....WITH A KNIFE!

Okay, but, seriously, Suzanne totally has a point. It's hard to divide books into those that push the boundaries of acceptable plot/theme/language in an honest way and ones that totally go over the top. I've read parts of Sexkittens, and I know that it's fantastic, but...let's pretend, for a second, that it really was just about cheerleaders running around having sex. Is that okay?

Unlike Sexkittens, you couldn't really predict my more risque bits of subject matter from the titles. These Humans All Suck? Immaculate conception...and all the blasphemy that implies. If it Ain't Broke? Psych wards. Pumpkin Patch Kids? Abortion.

But I don't find any of it gratuitous...probably because none of it falls under your typical sex/drugs/rock and roll headings of teenage edgydom. Because I do feel like those three are overdone...and I do feel like they're grossly exaggerated. That they're not accurate reflections of the modern teenage experience.

I appreciate YAs where the characters drink sometimes. Or smoke pot sometimes. Or have sex sometimes.

I'm fine with anything in YA as long as it rings true. And, truth is, a lot of the ultra-edgy stuff doesn't ring true to me. It's not that I'm a prude (anyone who knows me is probably laughing at that suggestion) I just know that life isn't edgy a large percentage of the time.

It's about the mix.

(now I'm wondering if I'm allowed to post that....)

What I want is realism.

Ain't that the truth....

<3 hannah


Edgy. I hear it a lot and yet, there is no clear line between what constitutes an edgy story or a mainstream one. Is it sex? Violence? An attitude?

Sometimes it’s a title. I once posted a query for a book titled, SEXKITTENS. Oops. Apparently, that is not an acceptable title for YA. Apparently, people felt that I was trying to corrupt the minds of teens with my tale of various sexcapades. They gathered this just from the title.

In actuality, the title referred to the nickname of the Wildcat’s cheerleading squad. And rival teams used the nickname as an insult. Only my MC embraced the name because it took away the power to humiliate them. (She saw it on Oprah) But this is beside the point.

What I’d like to ask: Where is your edge? We all have different opinions about what is appropriate in a YA novel. Is it okay to have sex in a YA book? What if the MC doesn’t like it, does that make it more acceptable? Is it the attitude in which the more mature topics are approached that can make it edgy?

I know this topic tends to spur on debate, so have it.

Where is your edge?

-Suzanne Young

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Housekeeping Notes from the Blogmistress General

Hi everyone! Before the blog gets filled with an insane amount of new posts, I have a few things to take care of...

First of all, YAYA is not currently accepting applications to join. I'm sorry! There are way too many people already and my head cannot deal with much more organization. Maybe when things settle down on our end. :)

Second, if you're going to link YAYA to your blog, please, please, please, please email me at yappingaboutya (at) so I can reciprocate! If you've linked already and your link doesn't appear on the right side within the next couple of days, email me right away.

Third, some lovely person on livejournal has set up a syndicated feed for us. It's here and going up on the right side shortly. Thank you, anonymous benefactor!

Our lovely team of bloggers has a bunch of awesome stuff planned for the coming month, so don't go anywhere. Check the Future Attractions for more information. I promise to update it... soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Interview with the Fabulous Melissa Marr

We here at YAYA are thrilled to introduce our interview with the amazing, New York Times bestselling author MELISSA MARR!

Our interview format is a little different--we all submit one or two questions to create a fun, quirky, different interview.

Let's get started:

Bethany: Obviously, your gorgeous covers couldn't be improved upon, but if you could commission any artist from any time in history, to paint a scene from one of your books, what scene would it be, and what artist would paint it?

I have three big weaknesses--the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Renoir, & Dali. Which scene would be dependant on which artist. With Dali, I'd go with the Faire in WL or the initial scene with Irial & Bananach in Ink. I'd want something with faeries so his unusual vision could run free. For Renoir, I'd go with a scene in the park across from Keenan's loft (Ink) or a scene outside Donia's cottage, something nature-y. For a PRB artist . . . Mmm. Anything really, an individual, a sequence, anything . . . I actually reference them in a museum scene in Ink Exchange. I'm a hopeless art fan, so seeing my world through artists eyes is amazing to me. In truth, that's one of the fun parts of this--I get to see artists' take on the world via covers, fan art, & the manga.

Haphazard: Do you feel that there's a negative stigma attached to fantasy/sci-fi novels? What do you think of it?

I suppose it depends on the reader. I read SpecFic, Romance, Mystery, Chick-Lit, Classic Lit . . . and I have met people who scoff at every one of those groups. I, personally, think it's asinine to suggest that any genre is IT or that any genre is inherently awful. I like words. I like stories. Some days, I want high fantasy with a band of mismatched heroes; some days, I want utterly sweet historical romance; and some days, want Faulknerian narratives. If a reader doesn't "get" one sort of text, they can read something else. Variety is a beautiful thing.

Suzanne: Have you ever found yourself falling in love with a character from your book? (editorial note: Keenan or Seth, especially?)

With my pov characters, I can't write them if I don't love them :) Some get my heart a bit more, but it's fluid. I'm writing the third novel these days, and my heart is definitely with one character more so than it was elsewhere. . . but a few months ago, I was smitten with Irial. It's just part of the writing process. Fortunately, I like falling in love so it works out well.

Hannah: Do you have a process for coming up with character names?

I keep name lists, & I research. I search Social Security lists of popular usage for the mortals. I collect names (I ask to keep some post-its readers names are on at signings). I'm a total geek on names. Almost every name is chosen for what it means, but also how it "feels" on the character. I do a control-F and substitute different names until I find the one that fits the character as well as has the right etymology. Names have power. I take time picking mine.

Sophie: What’s the most important thing a budding writer should keep in mind?

Oh, dear. "Most"? I'm never good at these questions. No one answer fits all people. Maybe that's the answer :) The path, the process, the advice--it's all guesses. What worked for me wasn't worked for writers I've since met. For me, the most important thing was reading. I read voraciously in all sorts of genres, & then I analyze why a book did or didn't work for me. Getting a degree in lit (& teaching university lit) was how I became a writer. I didn't take creative writing courses or how-to. I don't do the BiC ("butt in chair") thing. Other writers I know have word goals, took courses, do BiC, read only one or two genres. . . Some do crit groups; some don't. Some revise as they go; some don't. Some write start-to-finish. Some write outlines. It's all so very individual, so I guess that's my bit of "wisdom"--there's not a Right Way to do this.

Sophie: What do you prefer to write: characters, plot, or prose?

They're all tangled up. The plot is what happens when the characters' agendas conflict. The words . . . they're what I need to try to capture the experience of a thing, a moment, a feeling. Inevitably, none of it is really as good as I want it to be (shades of Platonic Ideals, yanno?), but there are a few moments here or there when the plot, characters, setting, prose, narrative, lore all tangle to get a little closer to what I want. That's what I like: those rare moments when I think I might be easing a little bit closer to my objectives.

Amanda: Did you take the title Wicked Lovely from the passage in the text, or did you start with the title and build the story from there?

That title was a nightmare. We were almost at ARCs before we had a title. Between us (two editors, agent, and me), we had a list of at least 300 titles. Then, one afternoon, my agent & I were on the phone. I was ranting (again). She suggested "Lovely Wicked"; I was elated. My US editor inverted the words. Both houses liked it. We had a title. OTOH, Ink Exchange had a title from page 1; I knew the title. I knew the plot. I knew the resolution. The two were very different.

Meg: How extensively do you plan your books?

Plan? Umm, like an outline? Ahh . . . I have a series of thread I poke at with different characters. What do they want? How does that impact others? The world? The story is what happens when I shake a few characters up in a box. I have a general sense of the "big picture," but the getting there is not planned out. It's like road trips/driving tours: I have places highlighting. I know we'll stop at F, W, & Q. The stuff that happens along the way? If I plan too tightly, I get bored. Then I will wonder off to do something else. I hate being bored, so I'm not so much on minute planning. With the first two books, I knew the general ending from fairly early on. I had a sense of a few key events, but the minutia comes as I write. Then I re-structure the whole to flow with the consequences of that minutia.

Meg: What’s the best possible comment a reader could give your book, besides the generic, “I love your book?”

I'm kinda basic here. I just like knowing what people thought, & I've been lucky to have so so many amazing letters from readers already. I get extra smiles sometimes over the odd ones, but the fact is that I'm just touched that a person a) took time to read my text and b) took time to share their thoughts.

We all want to know:

Are the characters from Wicked Lovely going to play a big part in Ink Exchange? Or will they simply be mentioned in passing?

I have a no plot spoiler rule. What I'll say is that a couple of the WL characters are definitely players; some aren't there at all. Obviously, Leslie & Niall were characters in WL, & they're the MCs in Ink . . . which means that some WL characters are inevitably in Ink as they as tied to the lives of these MCs.

How is Ink Exchange different from Wicked Lovely? Is it darker?

Darker? Yes, but not in any gratuitous ways. It's also, I believe, hopeful.
The Dark Court was instrumental in binding Keenan (as noted in WL), so they move to the center stage in Ink.

How is it different?

In some ways, Leslie (the mortal) is the opposite of Ash. Where Ash had a stable family, a friend/love she could trust, and the Sight, Leslie has none of that. She has no anchors, no Sight, & no defenses. The other two MCs--Irial and Niall--have agendas, but she is oblivious. That was a challenge to set up, and it was a factor in the overall darkness. Another difference is in how much stronger I think Leslie is. She falls pretty far, but falling doesn't mean she gives up. I've known a lot of people like her.
Structurally, there are similarities--three narrative threads & POV limiting veracity; there are thematic similarities--volition concerns & moral relativity. It's a different sort of story, but I hear that it's a viable companion to WL. We'll see what readers think.

Is your publisher planning on a book tour for Ink Exchange?

My US publisher is. I believe I go out in May. In 07, they ended up sending me on two US tours: a pre-release tour (where I met a lot of booksellers & some readers) and a post-release tour where I met readers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, & interviewers. 2007 was unbelievably busy on that front. I've turned down far more than I did, and I still did a lot of events. 2008 looks busy, but there's only one tour this time--and I don't believe there are any overseas events. Last year, I did a few things in London. My Italian publisher (Fazi Editore) has offered to bring me over to do events in Italy, and my German publisher (Carslen) has expressed interest in my coming there as well, but I don't think that's in 2008. We'll see. I chat with my editors in these places, and they're all so wonderful. It makes it very hard to tell them no. I want to go see them; I want to do whatever I can to support their efforts . . . and I'm also a total travel fan. I'm trying to be reasonable though, so I'm really trying to not agree to too many things.

Do you have any random thoughts, ideas, advice, or comments to share with us?

Just a good luck wish to the pre-published & soon to be published among you. Thanks for asking fun questions.

Thank you, Melissa!

Wicked Lovely is Charming Fun

I picked up WICKED LOVELY as a result of one thing—the title. It is, in my opinion, one of the best titles I’ve ever seen, right up there with A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and WILDWOOD DANCING. It puts it in the elite collection of books I plucked off the shelf with absolutely no thought of plot or characters or genre.

Fortunately, the rest of the book did not disappoint. Marr creates a believable world full of vivid creatures, re-exploring the fey in an entirely fresh way. Her characters are highly engaging, particularly Aislinn, Seth, and Keenan. Aislinn and Seth both live in a world far outside the high school norm and neither are clinging desperately at the fringes of society—they’re happy to be different, which is a refreshing change from clique books. (Although, to be fair, Aislinn does seem to resent her Faery Sight.)

WICKED LOVELY is sure to charm readers—I know I’ll be looking forward to INK EXCHANGE!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wicked Lovely rocked my face

Wicked Lovely made me start a new rule for myself: I will not start books just before I go to bed. I planned on reading a couple chapters and going to sleep, but it became “Marathon reading session until I finished the book at three in the morning.” In spite of my best attempts at willpower, I couldn’t stop myself from turning the page.

Reading this book forced me to suspend all the adorable notions of fairies I had from childhood stories and step into a much darker concept of a fairy world, lying alongside and wrecking havoc in our world. The very first scene threw me off balance, in a way that made me want to know more. Getting sucked into the story is easy, thanks to a realistic “real world” portrayal and amazing characters. I found myself sympathizing with Aislinn while being unbelievably intrigued (and disgusted) by Kennan. And Aislinn’s friend-but-maybe-more Seth…well, if Seth is real, I hope he lives in my town.

Knowing very little about the actual folklore of fairies (except what Sophie has written on this blog) I wasn’t able to compare the courts of the novel with traditional fairy lore. Even without all this background, there was a strong feeling of history in the reading. I really felt like I was watching a battle that had gone on for centuries.

So if you only like lovely stories of mischievous but still cute little sprites, I would not recommend Wicked Lovely. But if you have any sort of love of non-traditional fantasy with wonderful characters and a plot that gets thicker and better with each page, go grab a copy. Just don’t start it at nine PM.

Wicked Lovely is Wicked Awesome

It wasn’t long after Wicked Lovely was released in June 2007 that I started hearing news about it. It was displayed in the front of most bookstores, and websites had it featured on their front pages. I didn’t know anyone who’d read it, but it seemed like the rest of the world had. So, recently, I decided to check it out myself. And I’m glad I did.

Honestly, I don’t usually read about fairies, so I was a little skeptical at first. Most fairy books I’d heard of focused on little happy creatures with wings who played with butterflies or rode on ladybugs. Nice, sure, and great for some people, but they just weren’t my thing. Even the “dark” fairies just tended to be pixies, who would knock over the sugar jar or something like that. Minor things that, to me, just weren’t any cause for alarm or worry. But as soon as I started Wicked Lovely, I knew it wasn’t going to be one of those Disney-esque fairytales.

The mood was set right from the start with an amazing prologue that was enticing and delightfully perplexing and made me have to read on, just to find out what’s going to happen on the next page. And not once was I disappointed as I turned each page and read the story of Aislinn, Keenan, Seth, and the Winter and Summer Courts.

Melissa Marr did an amazing job of making traditional fairies her own while keeping with many folkloric customs and showing that not all fairies live in sunflowers and smile all day. At times I almost felt as if I was there, with Aislinn and the others, learning more and trying to decide what was right and wrong and good and bad and if those terms could even be applied to the new world I’d been thrown into.

The fey in Wicked Lovely are not the personality-lite happy-go-lucky sort that many would remember from their childhoods. They have motives, and secrets, and pasts, and futures. They’re almost human, save for the magic and immortality of course. It was refreshing, and eerie, to read of fairies portrayed in a fashion that could very well be plausible, making this one of few fairy-stories where I’ve felt it could truly be real.

I haven’t gone into much detail about the actual story here—this is more an introduction of Melissa Marr’s work then a full review of the text itself—but my fellow YAYAs will follow with their own thoughts and feelings on this novel that, to me, has to be one of the best fairytales around and one of the best YA books of 2007.

If I were actually certified to give some kind of ranking on books, Wicked Lovely would get five out of five stars (or maybe sunbursts), without question.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nonhuman Viewpoint Characters

Hello, this is Haphazard, Haph or Hap for short. Of course, that’s not my real name, but I’m not giving out any name until I’m published either under my real name or a pseudonym.

I feel that I haven’t properly introduced myself. I live in the nostalgic city of St. Louis, Missouri, where I also go to school and write and read and generally do other functions that are necessary to live. I usually write fantasy and humor, preferably mixed together, but here’s a shocker – I don’t typically read YA. I’m a part of this blog to represent a specific group of people; those young adults that don’t read young adult fiction.

But today, that’s not the point of discussion. The point of this entry is the use of nonhuman viewpoint characters.

When writing speculative fiction, you have the opportunity to do something that not a lot of other writers get to do; you have the chance to write from the point of view of nonhuman, yet still sapient, viewpoint characters. Of course, in a lot of children’s literature there are personified animals, but they tend to be personified as more or less human anyway. An intelligent nonhuman character in speculative fiction can be as different from a human as the writer wants, whether the character be faerie or ghost or alien or AI. And this is wonderful! It gives a bunch of potential viewpoints you can’t use anywhere else. So, why don’t people use them that often?

It’s quite sad, really. There’s a stigma about nonhuman viewpoint characters, that these characters can never be related to from a human point of view, which we (foolishly?) assume all our readers have. Under this assumption, these nonhuman characters are tossed aside to play second fiddle to the humans because many writers are convinced that their point of view isn’t sympathetic enough, or, worse, they are used and their alien characteristics are toned down to make them more ‘human’ and therefore fit for human consumption.

Now, one could take this as somewhat xenophobic. If we assume certain things about our readers, we start making, well, an ass out of you and me. Lots of books have been published in the United States about characters with drastically different point of views from the average person living in the U.S., and even in the States there are thousands of ways to live. Why shouldn’t we reach out a sympathetic hand to a character just because they don’t have a proper human genome? It seems silly to me.

And either way, humans have a tendency to personify things to be human. Dolls become human in the arms of little girls instead of a lump of plastic covered in cloth, a computer becomes stupid instead of out of RAM, and, all of the sudden, because your car won’t start, it hates you instead of simply having a dead battery. It’s not like nonhuman things having feelings and generally being relatable is a completely alien concept to the average reader.

One of the reasons writers may stray away from this concept is because, according to so much fiction, readers like reading about characters that are outcasts but are still similar to themselves. The unpopular teenager appears to be a very popular character. Main characters are often characters that are branded as ‘different’ and ‘strange’ even though they have no significant personality flaw to brand them that way. With a nonhuman character in their natural environment, it’s the exact opposite. We have these characters that by our standards have every reason to be labeled ‘strange’ but aren’t because their society functions in a way that supports them. In a setting populated by humans, where these characters typically are, though, are they not a fish out of water? Everybody can sympathize with culture shock, at least to some extent.

Even if these nonhuman characters aren’t sympathetic enough, that doesn’t automatically send the story to shambles. A good story can support itself on other things than sympathetic characters, such as the narrative style itself, plot, or, if it’s a comedy, the humor involved. A nonhuman character’s point of view can easily become symbolic, giving the story a theme in a way a human character never could.

Finally, writing is as much about exploring new concepts as it is trying to convey a message. As Elie Wiesel once said, “I write to understand as much as to be understood.” So, no matter what the critics say, let’s boldly go where no human point of view has gone before!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Portals: Cliche or Connection?

Of course, before I post any blog, it would probably make sense to introduce myself to those who don’t know me. I’m Amanda Thrasher, a junior at Appalachian State for music education. I write (obviously) YA, but have been known to write the random theological essay or two. I have written for as long as I can remember. My first “masterpiece” was Boo the Dog, about a stray that got into various scrapes and so on. I remember very little about it, except that I was in kindergarten and my teacher believed it a work of genius. She’s the one who really made me think I could actually write and be successful, so I’ve already decided that if I ever (when, Amanda, when!) get a book published, I’m dedicating it to her.

Now, on to a real blog…I was recently reading the archives of an agent’s blog that very specifically talked about how much she hated the idea of “portals” leading the MCs into another world. Her reasoning was that characters should be able to start in the world the story is in, and not have to have some connection to this world.

Although I can see her point that it might be cliché, I don’t think the notion of “portals” is wholly bad. Whenever I read, I liked reading books I could put myself into. I could fantasize about getting my letter from Hogwarts, finding a wardrobe into Narnia, or getting incredible technological powers from an alien. It was a little harder when I read about a character who was born and bred into the world to put myself there. As a reader, I always wanted to figure out some way to work myself into the story. When I couldn’t, it lost a little magic for me.

I want to give my readers I world they can find their way into. I want to give someone else the experiences that I got, the hours of fantasy and (shudder) fanfiction, (we all have that skeleton in the closet, don’t we?) just from one book.

So what are your thoughts? What do you need to really put yourself into a story? Or was world connection never a problem for you?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mythology Is Important

One of the first things any aspiring writer hears is "READ!!"

Well, okay. Read what? Read crap, and learn from it? Read the bestseller list? What Oprah recommends?

I say read the classics. And start with the oldest you can find--Classical mythology, the Bible, all that good ancient stuff. Like it or not, that is the foundation of Western literature (sorry, Easterners...I don't know squat about your mythology). They are the source of much of the symbolism and allusion in novels even now, even thousands of years later. When you're solid on the ancient classics, move up, chronologically. Get to work on Shakespeare and Beowulf and then check out the Romantics and then onward.

Don't stop reading contemporary writing, of course. Just make sure you're getting a healthy dose of Old Stuff all the time. It will affect you subtly, believe me.

Now, you can dismiss this, probably, since it comes from the girl who writes fairy tales and myths. But because I've spent so much time studying mythology, I can see how deeply these archetypal tales pervade our modern storytelling. Yes, many of them come with a moral: the gods are ruthless manipulators and we are just their puppets, like the Iliad and the Odyssey tell us. But these moralistic stories are, as I said before, archetypes. They provide a framework upon which to build.

See, these myths and early dramas tell us something very basic about ourselves. Take Euripedes' Medea. Guy cheats on his wife, so she flips out and...kills everybody. Basically, it's an illustration of the quote, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." (Shakespeare stole this from William Congreve, by the way. And they stole it from Euripides.) Or take the story of Prometheus--guy steals fire from the gods and ends up getting his liver torn out every day, forever. What does that show us? We're curious creatures even when the consequences are potentially drastic.

These stories are often pretty basic in their original forms--we as the reader must supply some of the color for the ancient play or epic to read like a modern novel. The fact is, literature 2000 years ago wasn't as fully realized or studied as it is today, and literature now isn't as fully realized as it will be in 2000 years. Take ancient myths as what they are: foundations.

I think that's my attraction to retellings. I like to take ancient stories and read between the lines, find the parts of the stories that compel us to tell them over and over, for generations. And I like to enhance that. Sooner or later, I'll branch out into fully original stories, but my strong base in mythology will shape everything I write.

The mythology we study is centuries old, but for writers, it's as relevant now as it was when it was first being formed, thousands of years ago. So please. Respect your cultural ancestors and read. Their. Stories. All your fiction will be the stronger for it--whether it is traditional "speculative fiction" or not.

Planning Required?

In honor of the upcoming Melissa Marr interview, we've been keeping these posts mostly on the subject of fantasy.
As I’ve said earlier, I am not a fantasy writer. I write about first love, friendship, and self discovery, which could easily be in fantasy stories, but I place them in the (sometimes fantastical) world of high school.

But maybe that’s what makes me qualified to write about this topic. For the most part, I am a fantasy outsider.

When I was younger, I used to write fantasy stories all the time, but I’d never finish my work. This could be attributed to the inexperience and impatience that sometimes comes with age, but it could also be attributed to writing myself into corners because of lack of outlining or world building.

I eventually changed genres, but I didn’t change my methods. I’ll normally know my beginning, my ending, and a vague middle, but I don’t know in detail how to get from point to point. Luckily, this works for most of my novels.

This did not work for my first NaNoWriMo novel, a YA Urban Fantasy with mind readers, psychics, vampires, witches, and warlocks. For this, I had no idea where I was going, just a concept in mind with no ending in sight. As I started reading through the draft, I decided it needed too much work and trunked it. Maybe it was something else, or maybe it was because when I write fantasy and don’t plan, things can quickly get convoluted. I just know that the NaNo motto "No plot? No problem!" is not too accurate when it comes to me and fantasy; it's more like "No plot? Big problem!"

So…the smart thing for me would be to not write fantasy, right?

Except that, just a while ago, I came up with a fantasy idea that I love. In a day I was able to work out the majority of the plot, but still, I’m hesitant to actually write it. I know how I am with fantasy. An extensive outline, world building, medieval research…it would probably all be required for me to write it and write it well, and even then…

I guess time will tell if I have the guts to go out of my comfort zone and the strength to go through and do something I don’t like doing, planning.

Readers, do you think that the fantasy genre requires more planning than other genres? Why or why not? If you think it does, how do you--or would you, if you don't write fantasy--handle all the planning?

Why Speculative Fiction?

All right, intros first. I’m Jordan, and I write things that are sometimes YA, sometimes SF, sometimes mostly totally insane. Usually all three, to a certain degree. Right now I’m working on a monstrosity about triplets and comic books and what happens when they try to take over the world, and I’ll be delivering the SF primer this evening.

Hopefully I’m qualified enough....let me give you my credentials. Been writing ever since I learned spaces separated words and not little squiggly marks, in sticker-covered notebooks about monsters and aliens and creatures with heads too big for their bodies. We called it The Notebook Club, you might call it horrendous, but here we are, talking about fantasy and science fiction and other insanities of the like. Not that much of a departure, although I’d like to think I’ve advanced a little in fourteen years!

Okay, enough of that, now onto the topic of this post....Why Speculative Fiction?

That’s a good question. You could very well ask that of any fiction, and get an array of answers. For fun, to get away from it all, to learn something or pass the time, to connect, to understand....

Speculative Fiction, in this context, is a large category of fiction that encompasses many different genres: fantasy, science fiction, horror, supernatural, alternate histories, to name a few. Speculative Fiction has been said to be that “what if?” factor, the “what if a giant shark started eating all these people outside some seaside resort town?”

BANG! Suddenly you got Jaws.

“What if we could somehow clone dinosaurs and put them into this giant theme park on an island and sit back to see what happened?”

Jurassic Park.

“What if vampires and werewolves lived among us, in secret, and we just didn’t realize it?”

“Wait wait wait,” you say, interrupting my well-crafted definition. “But none of that is really real. Those things don’t really happen, or can’t, or aren’t likely. So what does it matter to me, to my life in the modern world full of computers and copy machines and microwave breakfast burritos?”

Ah, but you can rightly ask that question about any kind of fiction. Fiction, by its definition, is something imaginary, made up. Totally fake. There is someone out there who has never tasted the delights of microwave breakfast burritos, and could very well wonder the same about your magnificent modern world.

Really, then, it’s not about something being possible or not, or likely, or logical. Most everybody would agree that “truth is stranger than fiction,” anyway. Things in life just don’t happen the way they do in books, all wrapped up tightly with a bow, with properly balanced rise and fall of tension, clearly established goals and identified antagonists, subplots that wrap themselves up neatly right before the climax...

“In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find--if it’s a good novel--that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we have never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we are changed. The artist deals with what cannot be said in words....All fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor.”

So said Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novelist Ursula K. Le Guin in the introduction to her classic science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness, perhaps to answer the question, why the hell did you write a book about androgynous creatures on some ice planet far, far into the future?

Because, she says. It’s a metaphor.

“A metaphor for what?”

She answers: “If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel.”

What it comes down to is fiction addresses things that are difficult to say succinctly, in just a few words: what it’s like to lose someone in death, how one goes about getting a girlfriend, what issues are raised when that girlfriend happens to be green and you and all your friends are red....

No one is really red or green, not without considerable effort. But some people are white, or black, some even yellow, and a lot of people have made a big deal over those varied shades of flesh throughout history.

It’s easy to dismiss something with magic and fairies and spaceships and alternate universes as inconsequential and pointless, since everyone knows those things aren’t real, never were and never will, and if they are it won’t be for a long long time.

But if you’re going to think of it that way you might as well dismiss everything labeled “fiction,” because everyone knows that fiction isn’t “real.”

That doesn’t make it any less relevant to us now, in our modern lives with our microwave breakfast burritos. What if the meat in that burrito wasn’t really meat, or worse, was still alive, and only lying dormant waiting for its chance to take over the world....

Don’t worry, it’s not real. Or is it..?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Another Intro Post...

So so so.

I'm another teenage contributor, in my senior year of high school, and I write quite a bit. I call it literary, because I define literary as "character-driven" and commercial as "plot-driven", and besides that I pay a lot of attention to every single word.

Revisionist mythology and fairy tales are my topics of choice. Right now, the Little Mermaid and Euripides' Medea are my focus, but I've spent a lot of time studying other myths, like the Greek harpies, the abduction of Persephone, and the tale of Snow White. Greek mythology is my specialty, but I want to learn more about the Celtic and Norse myths.

I like present tense and I like to write from perspectives that are very difficult for me to Medea's, or a harpy's. I don't necessarily look to make a character sympathetic, only to make it fascinating, so...probably that's a post in and of itself.

Reading...I like thoughtful stuff. Virginia Woolf is my absolute idol. I love the way her characters actually think, and I love the way she uses words. You can just feel the music of it...that's another post, too. Ha.

I'm not quite ready for querying, but I plan to be by this summer. And then, of course, it's only a matter of time before I take the world by storm.

St. Francis Receiving the Stigma

If I had a motto, it would be, "Okay, but, seriously."

So. Okay. But. Seriously.

Sophie and I are the same age, live in the same county, and are both halfies of some kind. And we're both basically beasts. But that's mostly where the similarities end.

While Sophie's writing about faeries, I'm writing about eating disorders. While she's writing about fairy-dust-drugs, I'm writing about actual drugs. When she's writing about explosions, I'm writing about the families of the people who are killed in those explosions, trying to put their lives back together.

I'm not trying to qualify myself over Soph's. Just the freakin opposite. But that's the stigma.

There's this stigma that it's easier to write fantasy, sci fi, chick lit, than it is to write anything edgy. As someone who's always fallen more to the realistic-edgy side, I've definitely seen my literary brethren sticking up their noses at any manuscripts that don't include mental trauma, car crashes, and child abuse.

I'm exaggerating, obviously, but bear with me for a second.

Okay. But. Seriously.

I've had agents tell me my prose is too dark. I've had beta readers tell me my prose is too dark. Hell, I'm surprised my cats aren't telling me my prose is too dark. It's not a problem with every manuscript, and it's not a problem with every agent, but it's a problem that's there.

And the truth is, being dark is easy.

I'm a teenager. Let's be honest, here. Life isn't a bowl of cherries.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is lighten up.

And there's a stigma. There's the idea that people like Sophie, who write fantasy, and people like Madeleine and Megan, who write chick-lit YA (is that offensive? Hope not) aren't real writers. That they don't work as hard, or appreciate the craft as much, as someone who writes straight-up literary. Straight-up real life.

And I sort of have to question when real life became better than fantasy. When real life became better than anything.

I'm not immune to it, though. I've got one manuscript I couldn't finish because it was science fiction, and I couldn't reconcile my literary side with the part of me that wanted to write this manuscript. I couldn't bring myself to write science fiction. And I've got one manuscript that has a maybe-angel in it, and even querying it as Suburban Fantasy (made that up...cute, eh?) was difficult for me. I'll admit to magical realism every once in a while, but I practically got hives when I wrote my introductory post and admitted my stuff has fantasy elements.

But it does. And if I didn't feel that pressure...the pressure that if it's light, it's not important, and if it's fantasy, it's not real, keeps me from writing certain things, and keeps me from querying manuscripts in a way that would be most productive for them. Because even though I know it's real writing...I don't feel it.

So I guess Sophie and I have more in common than I thought. We both live in the same town. We're both sixteen. We're both halfies. And we both write fan...

Nope. Can't say it.

<3 hannah

Fickle Fae and How to Write Them

In honor of Melissa Marr, who very graciously agreed to our interview, YAYA is putting on a Paranormal Fiction Festival (or something like that) involving many posts about writing and reading paranormal fiction.

Today I'm going to talk about writing about fairies.

But first I feel like I should introduce myself. My name is Sophie and I'm a sixteen year-old writer and our resident fantasy buff. I usually write about talking animals and explosions. One of my current works in progress, titled Little Cities, has fairies in it. I love fantasy and science fiction, but fantasy will always be closest to my heart. I live in the Washington DC area, quite near Hannah, actually, and I am mostly sane.

Back to the fairies (some of which, I'm sure, sound more sane than me).

Traditionally, fairies hate iron, have wings, and offer you food you should never, never eat. They live in Fairyland, or in toadstools, or in an alternate dimension. They can be human-sized or pixie-sized or both, and they're either very beautiful or very ugly. They also have sex. Lots of sex, often with everybody all at once. And they switch valuable things - like children - with things that aren't so valuable. Although, I wonder why they're running around switching children with changelings when they're having so much sex. I mean, conception has to happen sometime.

All in all, fairies are fun to write about. They have endless possibilities. There are, however, things you absolutely must keep in mind while writing about them - and these are true for all speculative fiction species, even humans.

How did they get here?

Now this may seem simple, but it isn't. Since fairies are not human, we don't automatically assume that they belong in any world. If you're in downtown Manhattan and there are fairies, I want to know why. If you're in a fantasy setting like the magical kingdom of Boodwah, I still want to know why there are fairies. Developing a convincing backstory for each of your species is so important, I can't stress it enough. As long as your backstory is convincing, your fairies will be convincing, too. Did they flee their former country? Is this a religious pilgrimmage? Are they the indigenous peoples, having evolved from tadpoles millenia ago? Tell me. I want to know.

Traditional or not?

As I said before, fairies have a multitude of traditionally expected traits. What about your fairies? Are you going allude to folktales, or are you going to take the species in a new and exciting direction?

Either way, you have advantages and disadvantages. Traditional fairy lore is instantly familiar, so you won't have to do a whole lot of worldbuilding. On the other hand, you might be docked points for originality. In my own writing, and in what I read, I prefer a mixture of originality and traditional lore.

One of the best fairy stories I've ever read is Herbie Brennan's Faerie Wars series. While Brennan addresses some traditional characteristics, like pixie-size, he presents them in a unique world. The effect is fun. Here I am reading the book, very contented with life, and suddenly I'm pointing dramatically at the sky and yelling, "Ah-ha! That explains such-and-such a piece of fairy lore!"

You want that kind of reaction from your audience. An enthusiastic one, I mean.

How do other people feel about them?

We all know about werewolves vs. vampires and elves vs. dwarfs, but what about fairies vs. zombies? Or fairies vs. humans? Fairies vs. unicorns?

Trust me, they're not going to get along with everybody.

Alternate dimension or corporeal country?

This seems like it should go under the "traditional" header, but I think it warrants a section on its own. Almost every fairy novel I read has the fairies coming from an alternate dimension. This is peachy, but like portals to a new world, it gets boring after a while. So when I started revising Little Cities, I changed Fairyland from an alternate dimension to a northern country bordering the ocean. It was refreshing and fun.

I mentioned portals, and I'd like to address that here, too. If these fairies are in another dimension, how is Presumably-Human Protagonist going to reach them? Are they going to step through a portal? If so, are you prepared to hear your reader shriek in pain from the fetal position? If your protagonist is a fairy in an alternate dimension, you may ignore this question and claim bragging rights.

How much sex are they going to have?

...okay, I think I'm getting a little carried away, here. It's time to digress.


Fairies are one of my favorite fantasy creatures ever. Whether they cast magic or form voting blocs, I will always hold them dear to my heart. They're fun, and they're a relatively new phenomenon in fiction. They've been gaining ground and seem to be the next big thing. Will they become the new vampires? Maybe. Hopefully. I like fairies better, anyway. Fairies are cuddlier.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Coming Soon--Interview with Melissa Marr, Author of Wicked Lovely

We are thrilled to announce that our very first interview will be with the New York Times bestselling author, Melissa Marr.

Reviews of WICKED LOVELY are also coming soon--and be sure to watch for INK EXCHANGE, coming out April 29, 2008!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Slim Shady

Hey! I'm so excited to be part of this blog. I'm hannah...otherwise known as Shady Lane.

I guess I should tell you a little about myself before I start talking at you. I'm sixteen, and I live in Washington D.C. I'm currently agent shopping and churning out manuscripts as fast as I can (I'm shopping two different manuscripts right now...soon to be three, and four pretty soon after that.) I have this novella called The Sublime out with an independent publisher, Cantarabooks. I wrote it when I was fourteen. It's existentialist before I knew what existentialism was. So it's innocent. If you're interested, you can check it out on ebook here: The paperback's coming soon.

I write some mix of literary/commercial YA. I usually have male main characters, 1st person, present tense, high concepts, and the occasional touches of urban fantasy or magical realism. It's a niche, but it's one I still manage to have fun with.

Now that I've finished the introductions and shameless self promotion....

I love writing emails to agents. Actually love it.

And I love when they write back. I love the unsure requests. I love the excited requests. I love the "this is good, buts," (and trust me, I get a lot of those.) I even love those damn forms.

The only thing I don't like is when they don't write back.

I don't do snail mail query letters. I'm sixteen--I don't have the part of my brain that lets me wait that long. I even groan a bit when an agent asks me to send material hard copy. I'm an internet junkie--that's why I answer to the Shady Lane pseudonym as eagerly as if it's really mine.

So since it's all email, I understand that emails occasionally get lost. It makes sense. But the amount that could statistically get lost is so disproportionate to the amount of emails I send that remain unanswered.

I understand a lot about how agents work. I understand why they don't want phone calls, and why they send form letters, and why they leave us hanging for so long when we just. want. an answer. But I honestly don't understand agents who only answer if they're interested. How long until you're supposed to give up? How are you supposed to remember, looking at your records, that this is one of the agents who's rejected you, silently, and not one of the ones who could still be mulling over your query?

It's a stupid rant, but it's what's on my mind today.

Anyway, I hope you'll stick around and check out what everyone has to say...there are some really talented writers here, not to mention some awesome people, and I have really high hopes for this blog. Super high hopes, as Shady Lane would say...

<3 hannah

An Introduction and Devices

Before I get to the topic of my post—devices—, I’m figuring I should introduce myself. My name is Megan, or shall I say my blog name, Meggy. I’m fifteen, write young adult novels, and recently snagged an awesome agent. My taste in books, as well as my writing style, lean toward lighthearted and humorous YA romances.

Now that I’ve finished talking about me and you all know that I’m not some random person spewing out opinions on things she knows nothing about (sheesh, I am a random person spewing out opinions on things she knows a little bit about), I guess I can continue.

Yesterday I finished reading The Boy Book by E. Lockhart, the sequel to The Boyfriend List. I highly recommend both, by the way. Each of them uses, what for the purpose of this blog, I’m labeling as devices. The two books use footnotes. The Boyfriend List uses, obviously, a list. It contains of all the guys the main character, Ruby, has been involved with, and the story unfolds coinciding with the list; each chapter has a different guy. The Boy Book uses excerpts of a book Ruby and her friends (well, some ex-friends, just read the book peoples!) wrote about the fascinating subject of boys to open up a chapter. In my humble opinion, these devices, on top of the main character’s hilarious voice, made the book unique.

Books with these type of devices have seem to become more and more common. E-mails, IMs, notes, blog entries, and lists are being incorporated into texts. Heck, some books are being entirely told through what would normally be devices strewn throughout a novel.

My work-in-progress is one such book. It’s told through not only email exchanges between a boy and a girl (who may or may not be a romantic item), but by a book the main male character writes about his real life romantic experience and sends to the girl. This device-filled glory is interrupted on occasion by a third person point of view from the girl as she remembers her own side of the story and bristles when the guy’s use of similes gets out of hand; he compares her butt to jello, for goodness sake!

This is a project that I’m rewriting. It was told before in first person from the girl’s point of view, no devices, no emails, just straightforward storytelling, but it lacked something. Then I came up with the idea above, and now I feel like the story—though there’s still that tremendous need for polishing still, oh, and finishing, oh, and adding the second point of view, you get the picture—actually has some spark.

So yay for devices! Yay for all the books that they give spark too!

Do you guys read any books that incorporate, or are told entirely in, such devices, and did you like the way they were used? Tell me in the comments section!

Haph Post #1

Hello, this is Haph, first post in the new Blog.

Testing 1-2-3, testing 1-2-3.

Got it? Good. Anyway. To blogging.

My current WIP is called Save Our Story! Adventures in Metafiction. And it's... adventures in metafiction. Exactly what the title says. Simple enough.

The goal is to reach completion of the rough draft by March 1, 2008. It's not really a New Year's resolution so much as a time limit, and considering I estimate the rough draft to be about 40,000 words, it's not very impossible -- I've written much more in much less time, so how could it be? Although, this is handwritten, so it may be a little tougher. I plan to get a lot of writing done this weekend (at least finishing chapter 6, if not more), and I do have a 4 day weekend this week, so I plan to do a lot of writing then. Oh yes, and school is good for writing during, too. It's not like my classes merit my attention most of the time, anyway.

As for not writing, I'm trying to learn how to play the bass (electric, that is), and I learned that a friend of mine plays the drums. The idea is that if we can find some guitarists and people who can sing, we'll have something else to occupy our time with. She says she can sing, but I kind of have a feeling that it's a bad idea for a drummer to be the singer... Ba-bang-ba-bang right into the mic, or something like that. In other musical pirsuits, I've neglected the viola all winter break, and I have solo and ensemble, so that really needs my attentions this weekend and hopefully today.

For some reason I've found that I have about $30 in iTunes money. If anybody has any recommendations for music, I'm open to them.

So, everybody, good luck in all your writing/musical/artistic/creative endeavors. Lord knows we all need it.


It Started with a Musing...

On August 24th, 2007, at 7:53 PM Eastern Time, Megan had an Idea. An idea that was worthy of a capital letter - or in this case, a thread on the Absolute Write Water Cooler.

In less than a year, "Random musings about your writing" had exploded, with over 750 pages, 19,000 posts, and more authors than I care to count. We took the world of publishing by storm (kind of), triumphed over all, heard the lamentations of the women and generally had a great time.

And then there was another Idea. This idea was Bethany's: Why not have a random musings blog?

Of course, such genius cannot be ignored.

Yapping About YA consists of the ladies and gentlemen of the Random Musings thread, writing slightly more coherent posts about things that are still pretty random. We have:

- Agented authors
- Published authors
- Aspiring authors
- Authors stuck in query/writing/revision/editing hell
- Underage authors
- Authors with extra limbs

... okay, so not the last one. But we're still ridiculously diverse. And we yap. A lot. About YA.