Jodi Picoult On Her New Book, Writing YA, and Feuding With Jonathan Franzen

24 May 2015

From Bustle:

With 23 books by Jodi Picoult in print, fans of the author have a pretty good idea of what to expect from her novels: a dark subject — say cancer or domestic abuse; plenty of shocking twists and turns; and a conclusion that, while satisfying, may not be the happy ending of readers’ dreams. Picoult can write a gripping thriller or an emotional drama for sure, but as for a sweet, happy story with a fairytale ending? No way.

Yet in 2012, the author decided to do just that, writing the YA, fantasy-based Between the Lines alongside her daughter, Samantha van Leer.

. . . .

Turns out that taking a break from her usual dark dramas works well for Picoult. Both Between the Lines and Off the Page are charming stories bound to please teen readers. It wouldn’t be surprising if the duo continued their work together and made YA a career focus — yet according to the author, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“Part of the real joy of writing YA is doing it with Sammy. I have a blast working with her,” Picoult says. “But I don’t know that I would’ve [written YA] without her.”

. . . .

“All times that I’ve been working with Sammy, I’ve always been in the middle of an adult book as well. When I wrote Between the Lines, I was switching back and forth between writing a fairytale and writing about the Holocaust — I don’t think you can get more diametric.”

Link to the rest at Bustle and thanks to HN for the tip.

Her Stinging Critiques Propel Young Adult Best Sellers

13 April 2015

From The New York Times:

John Green still vividly recalls the opening line of a stinging critique that his editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, delivered after reading an early draft of his novel “The Fault in Our Stars.”

“The first sentence was, ‘I really enjoyed reading the first draft of this promising and ambitious novel,’ and the rest was 20 pages of her tearing it apart,” Mr. Green said. “Her editorial letters are famous for their ability to make you cry and feel anxious. They’re very long, very detailed and very intimidating.”

One of her more memorable barbs described an overwrought climactic scene as reading “like bad John Green fan fiction,” Mr. Green recalled. He changed the ending.

Mr. Green didn’t suffer an ego bashing in vain, at least. In its revised and polished final form, “The Fault in Our Stars,” a novel about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love, became a monster hit.

. . . .

In the cosseted world of children’s book publishing, getting an editorial letter from Ms. Strauss-Gabel, the publisher of Dutton Children’s Books, is the literary equivalent of winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It virtually guarantees critical or commercial success, and often brings both.

She doesn’t hand out many of them. “I am naturally exceedingly picky,” she said. “If I’m not in love with someone’s writing at the sentence level, then I’m not going to sign up the book.”

Her knack for spotting and developing talent is apparent on this week’s New York Times young adult best-seller list, where novels that she edited hold five of the top 10 spots. She has edited 22 New York Times best sellers.

. . . .

Over the last decade or so, as publishers have been battered by sagging print sales, shrinking retail space and e-book pricing wars, children’s books have become one of the industry’s last bastions of sustained growth. Eight of the top 10 best-selling print books were children’s and young adult titles, with Bill O’Reilly and Gillian Flynn standing out as the anomalous authors of adult books. In 2014, revenue from young adult and children’s books rose by 21 percent over the previous year, while adult fiction and nonfiction fell by 1.4 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Ms. Strauss-Gabel’s unconventional taste and eye for idiosyncratic literary voices have helped her identify and build up some of young adult fiction’s biggest breakout stars.

In addition to Mr. Green’s books, which have more than 30 million copies in print worldwide, she’s shepherded best sellers like Ally Condie’s “Matched” series, which has 3.3 million copies in print in North America. She has shaped the careers of emerging stars like Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins and Andrew Smith, whose surreal novel, “Grasshopper Jungle,” won comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut.

. . . .

 In its latest financial earnings report, Penguin Random House, which operates nearly 250 imprints globally, cited “The Fault in Our Stars” as the company’s biggest hit last year, and said that “major best sellers, especially in the field of children’s books” had helped produce a 25 percent increase in revenue in 2014.

Link to the rest at The New York Times 

The Very Best of #VeryRealisticYA

5 April 2015

From BookRiot:

This past weekend, at a little after 5 P.M. on Saturday night, John Hansen started musing about realistic YA characters. Frustrated with homework, he was wondering how YA characters out saving the world manage to even find the time. After suggesting his followers start tweeting out their own #VeryRealisticYA characters and stories, things quickly took off.

Authors like Scott Westerfield, The Bloggess, Zoraida Córdova, Saladin Ahmed,Kody Keplinger, Michelle Krys, and even our own Andrew Shaffer joined in the fun, while John left his trending hashtag to go work on an English paper. Which, as he said,was the truest example of #VeryRealisticYA.

Here are some of the best of the best from that hashtag. Enjoy!

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Top 10 twins in children’s books

29 March 2015

From The Guardian:

In the post-apocalyptic world of my novel The Fire Sermon, all humans are born as twins. However, the twins share a fatal bond: when one twin dies, so does the other.

Literature has long been fascinated by twins, whose uncanny appeal lies in the fact that they’re simultaneously alike and different. Older readers can look forward to the nuanced (and sometimes twisted) take on twins in Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and Ian McEwan’s Atonement, among others. But for the younger reader, here are 10 of the best twins to enjoy.

1. Sam and Eric, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

The twins in Golding’s classic can’t be told apart – not even by Piggy, the only boy who really tries. They’re so identical that the joint nickname that Jack gives them, “Samneric”, sticks. These twins have none of the heroism of Ralph or Piggy, or the charismatic evil of Jack or Roger – instead, they’re the ordinary, well-intentioned bystanders who become complicit in awful crimes. By the end, the question is not whether we can tell Sam and Eric apart, but whether we can distinguish Samneric from ourselves.

. . . .

7. Fred and George Weasley, in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series

If being identical twins didn’t already present enough mischief-making potential, being identical twins in a school of magic takes the chaos to another level. Fred and George, partners in mischief, make the most of it all, with identity swaps and magical pranks. Their inseparable nature only makes (spoiler ahead!) their ultimate separation more poignant.

8. Claude and Eustace Wooster, in PG Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves

Claude and Eustace are the literary precursors of Rowling’s Weasley twins. They create chaos at every turn, and inevitably drag with them their hapless cousin, Bertie Wooster. Even when Claude and Eustace are supposed to be studying in the countryside, they do a sideline in taking bets on the sermon times of the local clergy. Usually partners in crime, their mistake is to compete for the love of the same woman, a division that Bertie’s brilliant butler, Jeeves, is able to exploit in order to outwit them once and for all.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Janet for the tip.

‘Insurgent’ And Why Young Adult Novels Make Box Office Hits

28 March 2015

From Forbes:

The second installment of Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, grabbed $52.3 million in its opening weekend at the U.S. boxoffice, just shy of Divergent’s $54.6 million debut last year. Clocking $47 million worldwide, Insurgent brings the teen action franchise’s total earnings to a plump $388 million so far, with two movies still to come.

Roth, who earned an estimated $17 million last year selling some 7 million books, is but one of many ink spillers whose literary successes have translated into box office hits. Nearly a quarter of the 200 top-grossing films worldwide tallied by Box Office Mojo have been directly adapted from books, excluding children’s tales, comic book or picture book translations.  Of those 48 titles, 16 started as Young Adult novels and earned a collective $13.4 billion at the box office.

Young Adult (YA) fiction – a genre usually designed for readers 12 and up – has become a global powerhouse that reaps dollars from page turners and popcorn crunchers alike.

“These books already have great source material and a die-hard fan base,” said Jodi Reamer, a senior book agent at Writers House who worked with Twilight‘s Stephenie Meyer and The Fault in Our Stars‘ John Green. She says a novel’s built-in audience means YA adaptations are a shoo-in for studios – and profit makers for publishers.

“At most, a publisher is going to spend a million [dollars] on marketing and promotion, but a studio at the very least will spend a million, so there will be a huge audience discovering the books and driving sales,” Reamer explained.

She would know: Twilight‘s vampire love saga notched a total of $3.34 billion at the global box office from its five installments, propelling Meyer to shift over 116 million copies of the series.

Link to the rest at Forbes

A haunting YouTube series is about to become the hottest new YA book

25 March 2015

From The Daily Dot:

You move to a new town, to a spooky new house. You hear noises and see unexplainable things, but your mom, your only ally, doesn’t believe you and starts acting strange herself. What do you do?

That’s the premise of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One, a new paranormal YA novel that has YouTube roots. It all began as a shared idea between then-16-year-old Paige McKenzie; her mother, Mercedes Rose; and their business partner Nick Hagen, who had done some YouTube research to find the best topic to cover.

. . . .

“On YouTube, the number-two-searched thing was ‘ghost.’ ‘Lil Wayne’ was number one. All the ghost channels at the time were all 30-year-old men, or 40-year-old men. [Nick had] worked with my mom previously on another paranormal-type project. We kind of got together and hashed out a general process.”

They came up with the idea of telling the story of a teen girl experiencing hauntings, helmed by McKenzie as the face and voice behind Sunshine.

“It was weird,” McKenzie explained. “We put up three or four videos, and then went ‘OK, let’s see what happens.’ Our first 5 million views were totally organic.

. . . .

McKenzie was a total YouTube newbie when the channel launched in 2010, but she quickly adapted and learned what it takes to be a digital video success.

“Between the three of us, we had eight or nine hours of watching YouTube,” she laughed. “I don’t know what we were thinking, but it worked! I kind of want to do a little bit of everything. Sunshine has been an eye-opener if nothing else. It’s really great to see I can do other stuff. I can act, but also I do all the camera work. I do the editing; I’m a director. It’s fun to put on different hats. Now with the author business, I have a lot of things I have the potential to do someday if I wanted to.”

That’s right, 20-year-old McKenzie is also the voice behind the Sunshine Girlbooks, with the help of a coauthor. For her, collaboration seems natural. What doesn’t is the fact that with the written word, she can’t immediately get feedback from her tens of thousands of digital fans.

“The main difference is you could just film something and put [finished videos] up on YouTube and get immediate response,” she said. “With a book, I know the editor says she liked this, but it’s not immediate response. That’s been weird.”

. . . .

Sunshine Girl does hit a spot that falls outside the current trends of young adult literature. It’s not postapocalyptic, and it’s not complete realism either. It’s somewhere in between. Yes, there’s some romance in the story, but without giving too much away, even the romantic elements play into the paranormal worry that pervades the book. The mystery is far more important that a girl wondering about her first kiss.

Link to the rest at The Daily Dot and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Here’s a link to The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One

JRR Tolkien falls off children’s most popular books list

4 March 2015

From The Guardian:

JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels have been elbowed out of the annual lineup of the most popular books for schoolchildren by a deluge of dark dystopias and urban fantasies.

The seventh What Kids Are Reading report, which analyses the reading habits of over half a million children in over 2,700 UK schools, revealed today that Tolkien’s books have dropped out of the overall most popular list for the first time since the report began six years ago. In previous years, Tolkien’s titles have featured within the chart’s top 10 places, mostly among secondary-school children.

Instead, this year in secondary schools the most popular title was John Green’s tale of a heartbreaking teenage romance, The Fault in Our Stars, followed by two dystopian stories: Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, from the Hunger Games series, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, set in a world where people are classified according to their personality traits.

. . . .

The report found that UK pupils’ most popular reads fell into two “distinct” categories – either dystopian fantasies by the likes of Collins, Clare and Roth, or what it described as “irreverent, larger than life anti-hero comedies” such as Kinney’s Wimpy Kid stories, Dahl’s The Twits or Walliams’ Gangsta Granny. “While the primary chart top 20 is split down the middle, featuring equal amounts of comedy and fantasy, by secondary school the ‘most popular’ charts almost exclusively feature darker conflicts from an epic fantasy genre,” it said.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

A Year of Experiments

21 February 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

This week, I did something I hadn’t done in nearly five years: I wrote a book proposal. Yep, I hit upon a project that I think would be better off produced through a traditional publishing company. If the proposal does its job, and the project sells, I’ll be more forthcoming about what the project is and why I went this way.

Suffice to say, these days all writers have options—and as I weighed my options on this particular project, I realized that the best way to handle it was to license it to some place traditional.

. . . .

At the same time, I’ve finished the first novel in a series I’ve wanted to do for almost ten years. The Fates series, which I’ve written under the name Kristine Grayson, introduced three teenage girls who were acting as the Interim Fates. I had written Tiffany’s story and had trouble selling it eight years ago. When I reread it, I realized that the book was just fine. Then I mentally reviewed the rejections I’d received on the project back then, and realized what the problem had really been.

The rejections had all focused on the “dialect” and the unacceptability of the point-of-view character. The young adult editors who saw the book said the point of view was unacceptable for the market, and no YA reader wanted to read about characters like this.

At the time I was truly confused. I’d sold books about those kinds of characters—magical characters negotiating our world—before. I couldn’t figure out what these editors were talking about. When I asked my then-agent, he said that the editors were just clueless. Comforting, sure, but not helpful.

Now I realize he didn’t want to tell me what the editors really meant.

So I didn’t know what I had done “wrong” until this year (nearly a decade later). It was a problem I had seen before; I just hadn’t recognized it.

Tiffany is African-American. Her race shows up in the very first paragraph. There is no dialect—there isn’t even slang in that opening. Just a rather sassy voice of a confused young woman who has entered our world for the very first time.

I never thought of the book as anything but a Fates book, so when I got horrid (and I truly mean horrid) rejections—mostly based on that first chapter saying that no one would read a book like this let alone publish it, I thought I had done something wrong in the writing.

I hadn’t done anything wrong. Unless you consider a non-white protagonist to be something wrong. I hadn’t. I still don’t.

But now I don’t have to deal with the perceptions of what is or is not acceptable to the YA market. I can just finish the trilogy-plus that I’ve been trying to write for years now.

The book is now in production, and I finished the next book, dealing with Tiffany’s half-sister, Crystal. In March, after I finish the seven (seven!) short stories I’d promised that are all due right now, I’ll write Brittany’s story, and then the final wrap-up novel.

Those novels will be published, one a month, later in the year.

I could never have done this in traditional publishing. Obviously, right?, since I couldn’t sell the first one because of Tiff’s race. But I’m not really referring to that: I’m referring to the one-per-month pace.

As most of you know, I’m publishing one novel per month right now, and whoa doggies, did that turn out to be a good idea.

Not just from a sales standpoint—which is sooooo much better than expected (thank you, Retrieval Artist fans!)—but from a creative standpoint.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Dorothy for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books

Critics of ‘vulgar’ book for young adults want Governor General’s award rescinded

23 January 2015

From the Ottawa Citizen:

A Kanata children’s author has joined a protest over the awarding of a Governor General’s Literary Award to what critics are calling a “vulgar” and “gratuitous” book for young adults about gender identity issues in high school.

Kathy Clark says she is among 1,500 people across Canada petitioning the Canada Council to revoke the 2014 award because of graphic content in Raziel Reid’s debut novel When Everything Feels like the Movies.

The novel is inspired by the true story of an openly gay 15-year-old California boy who was shot to death in 2008 by a classmate he’d asked to be his Valentine.

. . . .

Clark, author of two children’s books, says Reid’s use of language is inappropriate for a book recognized in the young adult classification (12 to 18) within the children’s literature category.

“I know it’s difficult to write about difficult and sensitive issues,” says Clark. “But it’s very possible to write about them in an appropriate way without resorting to vulgar language.”

. . . .

In a statement to the Citizen, the 25-year-old author said he set out to reflect what young people talk about, and how they talk about it.

“I’m not promoting a culture, I’m depicting one — and I’m doing it with the graphic language that culture uses, and with the themes that culture is consumed with: fame, drugs, sex, and selfies,” Reid said.

“For my generation, a (Facebook) Like has replaced physical warmth and affection. This has created a nihilistic society obsessed with ‘instafame’ and instant gratification. As a result, youth are facing a deeper isolation than ever before. I wrote this story so that readers can understand lost teenagers like my narrator Jude Rothesay.”

Link to the rest at Ottawa Citizen

What Nielsen Knows

20 January 2015

From Digital Book World:

Nielsen . . . gave the audience a couple of its biggest jawdroppers of the day in terms of statistical analysis.

Chief among them:

Eighty percent of YA books sold in the US today, per Nielsen’s findings, are being bought by adults for themselves.

This being good news to those who sell YA, of course, no one in the room gasped, “What’s wrong with those adult readers?”

And, of course, nothing’s wrong with them, although in some circles it would not be out of line to ask what drives more mature readers to return so heavily to these stories with their generally strong emphasis on romance and youth.

But the unanswered question — one that resonates in the UK market’s slide-by of adult trade by children’s as well, as our Tom Tivnan is reporting — hung over the whole day at #LaunchKids.

It may have made some in the room wish that instead of a parade of “we do this” and “we’re having great success with that,” we might have heard, “we believe we’re seeing this trend because it answers this need.”

In other words, much of what [Nielsen] brought us set us up with pressing quandaries about a comparatively booming market that we only partly understand. There are cultural revelations underlying what’s going on here. Their exploration could be good both for business and for booksellers’ sanity.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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