At Aussiecon 4 I attended three panels specifically targeted at writers of young adult fiction.
Border Crossing: YA Authors Writing for Adults.Panelists: Cory Doctorow (Canadian sci-fi novelist), Alison Goodman (Australian fantasy novelist) Marianne De Pierres (Australian sci-fi novelist) and Bec Kavanagh as moderator
It seems that whether a book is classified as YA or adult is very much up to the publisher with Cory having the same novel rejected by a YA bookseller in one country and published as adult, but published as YA in another country.
They said you have to write at a different level of assumed knowledge for the YA reader, but Cory wrote with google in mind: if a teenager wanted to know more about
something he could just look it up.
Cory makes his young people in the novels sound intelligent as the readership is aspirational and wanting to be intelligent. He reckons kids are a lot older now than we remember them being, more critical and articulate.
The panel talked about the differences between writing YA fiction and adult fiction. Three areas of contention came up: sex, violence and swearing.
Alison said she tried not to be to coy about sex in her YA novels, writing more about the emotional aspects of sex rather than the physical act.
Cory felt that graphic violence was okay in YA because it is outside the reader's normal experience, it is fantasy to the reader. Alison thought violence should be appropriate to the emotional context of the story.
Cory, American book clubs won't choose books with the word fuck in them.
Cory said that in the US young adults are 20% of the market but read 80% of the books - perhaps due to their high discretionary time and money.
Alison said that young adult book sales could be increasing because adults are reading more young of it.
Cory felt that it was a self perpetuating myth that boys don't read, ie, publishers don't publish books for boys, no books to read, boys don't read.
Wrought From the Very Living Rock: World Building in YA Fiction.DM Cornish (Aust fantasy novelist), Lara Morgan (Aust fantasy and Sci-fi novelist) Juliet Mariller (Aust/NZ historical fantasy novelist) and Bec Kavanagh as moderator
They began by discussing where their inspiration for the worlds they built came from. DM said Mervyn Peake, the Illiad and LOTR. He only used technology up to the time of the Battle of Waterloo in his worlds.
Lara: Greek and Roman history, her jungles were inspired by Borneo's which she visited. Her sci-fi novel was influenced by climate change and Star Wars. Juliet: the forest in New Zealand where she grew up. She said that Dunedin in NZ is very Scottish.
They each had different ways of building their worlds. Juliet did a lot of research before she started writing, Lara created the world as she wrote, whereas DM invented a world with no intention of writing and only started writing about that world after being persuaded by a publisher.
Juliet warned that uncanny elements in novels must be believable.
Juliet's characters spoke in a very neutral way, no ancient dialogue. Lara made up some words, she felt you have to use them sparingly. David tried to be consistent, no dragons in his world so no dragonflies, he called them emperorflies instead.
Lara tried to include remembrance of some sense moment as a trigger point during her novels. She also used a consistent pattern to name characters.
Nuts and Bolts: Editing YA FictionSarah Hazelton, Zoe Walton (both editors at Random House Aust) Amanda Pillar (editor Morrigan Books) Rani Graff (Israeli editor and publisher).
Angels are the new vampires, in case you were wondering. Dystopias are also very popular.
They liked novels with the potential for a series, as teenagers were passionate readers of them.
Sarah took particular note of the level of assumed knowledge in the novel.
They said it was hard to market a book with 1st or 2nd year university students as the main characters because 16-18 year olds were more likely to be reading books with adult characters in them.
Hard sci-fi very hare to sell as YA in Australia.
When asked if YA novels should be fast paced they mentioned that Stephanie Meyer's books are very slow paced.
They also confirmed what I already felt, that some of the most cutting edge science fiction is published in YA.
So I am off to write a slow paced YA trilogy where Angels cause an apocalypse of violence, stopped only when there second in command falls for an intelligent sixteen year old female.