April 30, 2012

Not-So-Young Adult Readers

I got an interesting message on my Facebook page today, referencing the YA "target audience." This reader was thrilled to find others like herself who are out of that age range, but love to read stories about young adults. She's discovering what I've known for a while now: a large portion - possibly even the majority of YA readers - are technically adults. What baffles me is why this surprises anyone.

For a little while, I read historical romance novels almost exclusively. Almost all of the heroines were single and 17-23, dealing with social constructs I'd never experienced (arranged marriage, inability to work outside the home, no say in personal finances), while I was a 20-something married woman with small children. But no one could have paid me to read a novel that mirrored my actual life - I read for escape. (Wait. WHAT? Did she just say she read for escape??)

When I write, I write with my "target age group" in mind, first and foremost. (As previously blogged, I consider my novels YA-Mature, which roughly corresponds to ages 17-23.) But novels are stories, and a story can be about anyone of any age - and anyone of any age may read it, if it interests them. My love of young adult literature began when my oldest kid wanted edgier stuff to read, and I started hanging out in the YA section of the Barnes & Noble, making sure what he chose was appropriate for a thirteen-year-old. Once I discovered Sarah Dessen, I was hooked.

People didn't read Oliver Twist, Tom Sawyer or Lord of the Flies and feel guilty that they weren't preadolescent boys, did they? Austen, the Bront√ęs, Eliot and Wharton wrote heroines who were teens-early 20s. None of these novels were written "for" readers the age of the protagonists. They were offered up, and found readers of ALL ages. Historically, reading categories were simple: "for children" and "the rest." I don't know when that changed and everything began dividing into specific age groups, and I don't particularly care. The point, now, is that many people are ignoring those categories, and maybe it's about damned time.

The popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight made it obvious once again that novels can defy their categories. In my family, the Harry Potter series was read voraciously by all three children (the oldest two as it was being written, and the youngest as it wrapped up), myself, and my seventy-something father-in-law (a master's degree-holding, historical-biography-reading, retired Lt. Col. in the USAF). The entire Twilight series was read by all but one of my family of five, beginning with my 17-year-old daughter.

We all look for connections when we read, no matter what we read - and what speaks to us will vary by age, gender, expectations... a million different factors. This is brought home to me when I read the same books my kids read - or my husband - and take away a completely different experience. If you're a thirty-five year old mother of two, perhaps I didn't have you in mind, exactly, when I created Reid and Graham, Emma and  Dori. But please - don't let a category or genre label tell you what to enjoy when you read. I certainly don't.

April 24, 2012

Teaser Library (and Teaser #5)

If you didn't get a chance, please check out author Colleen Hoover's post for a way to help a family in need and get a chance at an amazing prize: over fifty signed paperbacks. This library of books will go to one super lucky reader in a drawing, and all you have to do to enter is donate $10. (And yes, all three Between the Lines books will be included. As I stated yesterday, if you're a blog follower or a liker on my Facebook fanpage - either one - and you win, I'll include Easy - as soon as it's available in paperback.)

Tuesday Teaser  #5 (from Easy):

Minutes before the end of class, I turned and reached into my backpack as an excuse to sneak a look at the guy on the back row. He was staring at me, a black pencil loose between his fingers, tapping the notebook in front of him. He slouched into his seat, one elbow over the back of it, one booted foot casually propped on the support under his desk. As our eyes held, his expression changed subtly from unreadable to the barest of smiles, though guarded. He didn’t look away, even when I glanced into my bag and then back at him.

I snapped forward, my face warming.

April 23, 2012

Win a LIBRARY

Friend and author Colleen Hoover (Slammed) has a couple of friends with a new baby and a big problem. In brainstorming what she could do to help, she turned to her author friends and asked for donations - of books.

A bunch of us - including E.L. James, Jamie McGuire, Tracey Garvis-Graves, Elizabeth Reyes, Jessica Park, Tina Reber... (too many to name!) are donating signed paperbacks to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter is donate $10 to this very worthy cause.

Yes, that means ONE person will win a library of over fifty signed-by-the-author novels. (And yes, my three will be included. If you're the lucky winner and you're a follower on my blog or a liker of my Facebook fanpage, I'll add a signed copy of Easy, too, once it's out.)

Go to Colleen's website to find out the specifics, and good luck! (WARNING: Back up before you click, because you will salivate on your keyboard when you see this.)

April 17, 2012

Critique Partners and Deadlines (and Teasers #4)

I've spoken about my mysterious or not-so-mysterious critique partners before, and have strongly suggested to any serious would-be author to get one (or two) of his/her own. In writing, like most jobs, there are times when a coworker is needed for either sympathy, advice or just the unadorned truth, and that's exactly what a CP does for you. My CPs have been invaluable to me in both the craft of writing, and the job of being an author.

What a critique partner is: a writing peer who is working towards publication on a project which you critique in exchange for their critique of your work. What a critique partner isn't: your neighbor, your sister, your biggest fan, etc. who agrees to read your raw or unfinished manuscript and give you feedback. That is a beta-reader. Betas can provide all kinds of help to a writer, and I value the people who agree to beta-read for me highly, but they aren't coworkers.

The fact that Easy was being anything but easy last week had me so stressed out that I was frozen. I knew there were parts that needed to be written, revised, tweaked, or cut altogether, but for the life of me, I couldn't see it clearly. Universal problem: There is little worse than having something that Must Be Done Immediately, and having no idea of how or where to begin. For me, a story comes together like turning a dial - everything clicks into place at once. One minute - chaotic patterns. The next - clear path. This is especially true in the wrap-up.

I went crying to my CPs, fully expecting kick-in-the-pants, "Just sit down and just write it out," advice. What I got instead was, "So extend the deadline, which you should have never given." (And then they promised to actually kick me if I break that rule again.) I was so relieved that I relaxed. And when I relaxed, I wrote a little bit. And then I walked away from my laptop and I read. And then I wrote a little more. And the next thing I knew - click, click, click.

And if that wasn't helpful enough, my CPs have agreed to begin a partial critique now - while they're working on projects of their own - so I have longer to finish up before it's due to the copy editor. How cool are they?? Thank you Elizabeth Reyes, Abbi Glines, and as always, Carrie Sullivan (who writes under sexy pen names), and a special cheerleading thank you to Jody Sparks. :)

Tuesday Teaser #4:

“Your ID?” he asked when we reached the door.

My hands shook as I unsnapped the front flap on my bag and withdrew the card. When he took it from my fingers, I noted the blood on his knuckles and gasped. “Oh, my God. You’re bleeding.”

He glanced at his hand and shook his head, once. “Nah. Mostly his blood.”

April 10, 2012

Bad News / Good News (and Teaser #3)

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?

Okay, let's go with bad. Stick with me, because there might be a quiz at the end.

I'm having a rough time with this WIP. I don't believe in writer's block... then again I didn't believe in morning sickness, either, because I didn't have it the first pregnancy. And then I spent the second one throwing up pretty much every day for three months and losing weight the first trimester, at which point I thought, "Huh. Maybe there is something to this morning sickness thing..."

So. Really Bad News: My initial May 25th self-deadline might be pushing it. I don't demand perfection, but I do demand the best that I can do. And if I see that isn't going to happen by that date, I'll adjust accordingly. This isn't just some story I'm telling - this is my career, and it's important that I do it to the best of my ability. For me, that means time to let the manuscript sit, and time to revise. I did this with my first three (two of which took a year plus to write), so if you like what I've written so far - well, that's my process.

Good News: The BTL paperbacks are almost done. I swear.

Better News: There's not a quiz below, and there is a teaser exerpt from Easy. I usually do Tuesday Teasers on my facebook page - but this one is too long to post there. So I'm mixing it up a bit and posting it here:

Tuesday Teaser #3:

I’d barely let anyone else touch me at all tonight, adamantly refusing all slow dances. Dizzy from weak but plentiful margaritas, I closed my eyes and let him lead, telling myself that the difference was the alcohol in my blood, nothing more. A minute later, he released my fingers and spread his palms across my lower back, and my hands moved to his biceps. Solid, as I knew they would be. Tracking a path, my palms encountered equally hard shoulders. Finally, I hooked my fingers behind his neck and opened my eyes.

His gaze was penetrating, not wavering for a moment, and my pulse hammered under the close scrutiny. I stretched up toward his ear, and he leaned down to accommodate my question.

“S-so what’s your major?” I breathed.

From the corner of my eye, I watched his mouth pull up on one side. “Do you really want to talk about that?” He maintained the closeness, our torsos pressed together chest to thigh, ostensibly waiting for my answer. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so full of pure, unqualified desire.

I swallowed. “As opposed to talking about what?”

He chuckled, and I felt the vibrations of his chest against mine. “As opposed to not talking.” His hands at my waist gripped a little tighter, thumbs pressing into my ribcage, fingers still at my lower back.

I blinked, one moment not understanding what his words implied, and the next knowing unreservedly.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I lied.

He leaned closer still, his smooth cheek whispering against mine as he murmured, “Yes, you do.”