I've just been to a chat event on Figment in which the topic was the emerging New Adult genre. The event featured New Adult authors Lisa Desrochers and Molly McAdams, as well as editors Tessa Woodward and Amanda Bergeron (who bought their books). I'd like to discuss my thoughts on New Adult and what we talked about in the chat!
Anyway, once upon a time, a few years back, I was querying a lovely little "problem child" manuscript called Finding Mulligan. I hit agent after agent with my sort-of-fantasy story about a fractured college student whose two personalities are in love with different guys in different worlds. (Is that cheating? I'm still not sure.) And you know what these agents kept saying?
"No. Nobody's buying YA set in college. No way, no how. (Okay there are exceptions but you're probably not it.)"
And the thing is, my story was very much a young-adult-flavor story. The main character is seventeen, and her story is much more about her quest for self than it is about her romance. Coming-of-age type stories always seemed to be primarily the realm of YA, but I didn't think the only way you could write a coming-of-age story would be to deal directly with high school and puberty. This story is about finding yourself. Clawing your way into the adult world and figuring out who you are. Establishing the tone of your personality for the rest of your life, and exploring what that means. (You know, along with a few hot guys to make it interesting.)
|Yeah, these two are pretty cute.|
Enter New Adult.
aromantic asexual woman who does not experience romantic attraction, I kiiiiiinda disagree with that, and I don't like the common assumption that everyone's maturing process features romantic relationships. That said, it absolutely is true that coming of age requires an examination of how we pursue intimacy, what relationships we want, and how we establish those relationships in our lives. It just doesn't always have to be sexual or romantic to be mature.
And I guess since my book does feature romance front and center it's moot in my case anyway. Feh.
I was unable to sell a literary agent on my YA-in-college book and I ended up pursuing representation for something more traditional. My fantasy trilogy is now agented and on submission to publishers, but my fiction agent did ask me what else I've got. We had a conversation about Finding Mulligan. I explained my difficulties to my agent and told her the college setting was apparently a problem. She told me she'd be willing to look at it, and said "I'll be honest with you if I think I wouldn't be able to sell it." I have yet to show it to her because I'd like to focus on getting my fantasy trilogy sold, but in the meantime I am of course looking forward to what's next. I plan to be doing this whole writing books thing for life, yo. (There's a science fiction romance from a male perspective sitting on my back burner too. Alas.) And I'm thinking New Adult may just be my salvation here.
New Adult will let my protagonist struggle out on her own, free for the first time of her parents' restrictions . . . and pinwheeling a bit without their support. New Adult will let her flounder around trying to grasp where she'll be in four years, and it'll let her be alone with an older guy in her room, make some terrible decisions, and sneak into a club with no shoes on. It'll let her do the "who am I?" thing as the two different versions of her try to figure out who they love and who is doing the loving, and it'll let her pretend to disapprove as her best friend makes it with her TA. It'll let her dig up all kinds of really frightening aspects of her childhood that are influencing who she becomes as a grown-up, and it'll let her finally take possession of the talents she's buried for years and make them her own in a constructive way. She'll discover love, discover ambition, discover self. And she'll do all these things without being repainted as a high school kid just because the publishing industry thought it'd be a safer bet.
Let's go, you crazy kids. There's a genre for y'all after all.
Thank you to the authors and editors who weighed in on the chat. Check out Molly McAdams's books Stealing Harper, Taking Chances, and From Ashes, and look for Lisa Desrochers's upcoming New Adult title A Little Too Far as well as the already-available Personal Demons series.