Sunday, October 4, 2015

How I wound up with a "new adult" novel

Okay, true confessions time: I kind of wrote a “new adult” novel by accident and realized it after the fact.  An emerging genre, new adult novels typically feature a protagonist between the ages of 18 and 25.  Often they are going off to college or starting their career.  The main character is dealing with many of the coming of age issues common in young adult literature but in a more adult fashion. The facing of first loves, insecurities, new friends, and new challenges might be similar, but with fewer of the constraints of a high school student's life.  Some people consider new adult to be young adult lit with more sex and language, which is, I think, a bit of an oversimplification.  

So, how did I wind up with a new adult novel?

I was writing a novel with vampires, so I wanted my female protagonist to be at least 18.  Why?  For one thing, a centuries old dude hitting on 16 year old girl is gross; I don't care if he's a virgin (cough, Edward Cullen, cough). The girl being eighteen isn't a whole lot better, but that is where we draw the line of adulthood at the moment.  So, yeah, I'm anti-statutory rape.  I guess that makes me "Team Jacob."

I also think eighteen is an interesting age. You are technically free from parental control but you haven't really learned how to be an adult.  You have the promise of new adventure and independence, with a healthy side of fear and crippling inexperience.  And I think inside of everyone there is a part of us that is always 18.  When we start doing something truly new to us (like, maybe, writing our first novel . . .), we recapture a bit of that feeling of exhilarated uncertainty.  I think that is part of why we all enjoy coming of age stories so much.

A lot of our favorite pieces of pop culture could easily fall into this "new adult" category.  Star Wars is largely about Luke's journey to adulthood and Jedihood.  I guess Degobah isn't exactly college, but close enough.  The Star Trek reboot features officers just out of school.  Agents of Shield focuses on Skye/Daisy, a girl in her early twenties trying to figure out who she is and what she is meant to do with her life and her emerging power.  How to Get away with Murder is peopled by a bunch of law school students. And that is just off the top of my head.

Of course, works of fiction tend to fall into several categories at once. She Dies at the End is also a paranormal fantasy and a vampire story, occasionally even a romance. But, overall, it's about November coming to terms with her gifts and her own agency in her life, which is something we all go through, even without vampires and fairies and werewolves along for the ride.

This time in our lives, the period of early adulthood, obviously retains an emotional pull.  I guess its gravity pulled me in, and a new adult novel is where I wound up.  Now I’ll just pretend I did it on purpose.  Shh!  Don’t tell anybody.

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