Friday, March 30, 2012

Dystopian Chatter

I'm part of Young-to-Publishing Group, a group of publishing young'uns who haven't been in the biz for too long (no longer than seven years) and who get together every so often to hang and network.   On Wednesday, the children's group contingent hosted a Dystopian Panel at HarperCollins (led by lovely assistant editor Sara Sargent).

The panel consisted of Greg Ferguson (Editor at Egmont USA who acquired Ilsa Bick's Ashes), Rosemary Brosnan (fellow Cornellian--woo hoo!--and Executive Editor at HarperTeen who edits Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy), Stephanie O'Cain (publicist at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers--you know home of Twilight) and Galaxy Craze (author of the upcoming The Last Princess).  

I haven't read The Last Princess yet, but it's a dystopia set in London, so I plan to put that on top of my stack.
The panelists shared their excitement about the genre and their thoughts on where the YA market is heading.  What I found especially interesting is how little author Galaxy Craze knows about the market.  She wrote The Last Princess in conjunction with a book packager in shaping the idea, so obviously they know the market.  Galaxy Craze, not so much.  It was oddly refreshing.

If you're an aspiring writing in a particular genre, you absolutely should read within it, no question.  Galaxy Craze is just one of those unique individuals who had unwittingly read what she liked and wrote something which coincided with a trend, which is fine.  Stephenie Meyer had never even read much vampire fiction and she wrote Twilight, so my rule isn't a hard and fast one (then again Twilight doesn't feel traditionally vampirey for a vamp book). 

There are always exceptions.  Still, for you aspiring writers out there, I recommend doing your research.  Paying the bills by writing means writing the book of your heart, but understanding the market.  And no, if there's a trend that you're not familiar with and have no interest in writing, please don't hop on the bandwagon just because.  You can do better than that.  Passion + Market are significant, but Passion alone will do it in a pinch. 

Why?  One, if you don't care for the genre, you're not likely to write a decent one.  And two, editors are already acquiring for 2014 books, so your trend hopping self will have already missed the boat by the time your book comes out (if an agent or editor even gives your manuscript the time of day in this competitive market).

The panelists all mentioned their favorite dystopian books, like Lois Lowry's The Giver (optioned by Jeff Bridge's production company, so maybe it'll come to the big screen), Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Veronica Roth's Divergent, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, of course.  To add to the list, I loved Moira Young's Blood Red Road, Lauren DeStefano's Wither, Scott Westerfeld's The Uglies, Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, and Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth series (my FAVE).

The panelists talked about the irregularities of censorship, with Greg joking, "Yeah, parents don't seem to mind children killing each other or like in my book Ashes, kids eating each other.  Just don't mention sex or bad words."

[Side note:  Greg Ferguson is a sweetheart and a kick ass editor.  You have to read Ashes!  See below for cool cover.]

The takeaway from the panel is, as always, a wait and see response.  We won't be seeing the last of dystopian, only variations of it, like the sci fi dystopian trend that already occurring.  Another trend?  Fairytale retellings, which I never tire of, so keep 'em coming.  Paranormals are still pretty strong, though I don't recommend pitching vampires unless there's a twist.  Vampires are dead, no pun intended. 

Wishlist?  As a Walking Dead fan, I would like to see more zombies.  I'd also like to see more fairies (dark like Melissa Marr's) and mermaids!  Mermaids haven't caught on quite yet, but if done right, could be big.  Rosemary Brosnan would like to see more historicals, along the vein of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy (agreed!).

Anything you'd like to see more of?  Less of?  I gotta admit, I may have liked the episode or two of Gossip Girl, but I can't stand to read the books.  The rich prep school stories don't do it for me.  And please, I like paranormals, but no more protagonist-goes-off-to-boarding school-and-falls-in-love-with-hot-brooding-angel/vampire/fairy.  Can't.  Take.  It.  Much.  Longer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I started reading an ARC which made me unreasonable angry.  Was it offensive?  No.  Was it bad writing?  No.

It's because it was far too close to Roswell, a TV show I absolutely loved in the late 90s.  (Which in itself is based on Melinda Metz's book series, but I digress).

I'm such a fan girl about it that as soon as I started reading and saw how the relationship between the protagonists were set up exactly the same way and a side character had the same name and similar role as a Roswell character, I wanted to throw the book to the floor and stomp it dead.  Again, not exactly a reasonable response for someone who can tolerate just about anything in her books.  Seriously, I'm very liberal.  You write it, I'll read it (Case in point:  Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden, a YA novel featuring incest, I happened to like, thank you very much.  Do I like incest?  No.  Do I like an engaging story?  Yes!).

I paused in my reading and tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt, telling myself it was just a coincidence.  She might not even be familiar with the show.  After looking at her blog, though, I saw that she was indeed a fan (sigh). 

I did try to consider this ARC from a publisher's perspective, despite my visceral reaction (Max and Liz forever!).  Practically every novel in the market is a derivation of another, so was it really fair to be so harsh?  In my biased opinion, I would have changed the set up some, so as not to be so gosh darn close, but still.  The author does have the right to do what she's done here, which is re-imagine.  I was peeved for about a week, but I calmed myself with the realization.  I also laughed at myself for not being as impartial as I'm wont to be.  It had been awhile since I'd read something not as a publishing insider, but as a plain old reader.

My sister told me to stop reading it, but I wanted to give the author a chance.  Would she go off in a new direction, at least?  I'm glad to say that, yes, she has (phew!).  I haven't finished it yet, but it is good.  It's getting rave responses on Goodreads and is clearly introducing more teens to an area of sci-fi (and new potential Roswell devotees) I happen to love.

The debut will be published this April, so have a read.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Surrounded by Talent

Working in book publishing, I'm surrounded by talent--and it's not just on the author side.  I'm talking about my colleagues who also moonlight as writers.  I can't say I'm surprised that so many publishing folks write on the side.  We all love books so much that a lot of us can't resist the siren call of creating them ourselves, and if we're really lucky, getting them published.

How do they do it?   I suspect there's a lot of sacrificed sleep time, but if you ask me, it's all worth it.  Two recent cover reveals belong to people I work with, so kudos to them!

First up is Alexandra Bracken, whose fantasy Young Adult novel Brightly Woven, was pubbed by Egmont in 2010 (highly recommended).  Alex's latest project, The Darkest Minds, is part of a new paranormal series coming out in Summer 2012 (Disney Hyperion).  I totally swiped the description below from her website.

In the six years since being plucked from her old life and placed in a government-run “rehabilitation camp,” the only color that has entered sixteen-year-old Ruby’s world is gray of the electric fence surrounding it. The mysterious “Kid-Killer” affliction has left most American children dead, but Ruby is not one of them—she’s one of the dangerous ones, the ones who lived.
The ones who developed frightening powers of the mind.
When the opportunity to escape her camp comes, Ruby soon finds herself on the run and joining forces with a small band of other escapees: Zu, a mute girl who can telekinetically control electronics, Chubs, a skinny genius who doesn’t want another kid along to deplete their meager supplies, and Liam, the kind and good-hearted leader of their ragtag group who can move objects twice his size with the wave of a hand. They seem to be on a mission but won’t confide in Ruby, who only wants to learn to control her extraordinary ability which makes her a danger to anyone she gets close to.
The gang soon learns that there are other forces at work, organizations that want to use Ruby in their fight against the tyranny of the political regime. But they also learn there may be someone who can help them all reunite with their families after all: The Slip Kid, a leader who offers shelter to young people in danger and who possesses the secret to controlling one’s powers. As she finds herself drawn to Liam, Ruby becomes more and more desperate for the knowledge she has always craved. But the Slip Kid is not all that he seems, and Ruby soon finds herself unsure of who to trust…and who to love.

Next up is Ellie Rollins, whose Middle Grade debut Zip is coming out later this year from Razorbill.  Isn't it the most whimsical cover?  It puts me in mind of Disney/Pixar's Up, for some reason.

Description pulled from Amazon: 

A girl discovers adventure at every highway turn in this effervescent debut that's Savvy meets Little Miss Sunshine

After Lyssa's mother dies, her kind but clueless new stepfather moves with her to the suburbs of Seattle in the hopes of making a fresh start. But Lyssa feels lost and adrift in the rainy Northwest without her mom. And when she finds out that her old house in Texas is about to be bulldozed, something snaps inside her. Fiercely determined, Lyssa climbs onto her scooter and sets off cross-country to save her home.

Beautifully written and sparkling with magic, 
Zip is a modern-day successor to Alice in Wonderland. It's a joyful Odyssey-esque journey that's perfect for the readers of Savvy.

Interestingly enough, Amazon connects Zip to Ingrid Law's Savvy, a *Writers House book, and Alexandra Bracken is a Writers House author, so everything seems to point to my former place of employ, which I love!

*Writers House is a literary agency, representing the likes of Stephenie Meyer, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Melissa Marr, and Christopher Paolini, among so many others.