Thursday, September 4, 2014

Guest Blog by Suzy Vitele author of The Empress Chronicles on Who is the Audience of Young Adult Books?

Thanks for inviting me to guest post on your blog!
Today’s topic is Young Adult versus Adult and the challenges and benefits of writing in multiple genres.
Let’s talk about audience first. Books are sold and marketed to specific audiences, and it’s commonly thought of as best practices to “target” a book visually, and with the right hook, to get it into the hands of its most appropriate readers.
Like my debut, THE MOMENT BEFORE, THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES is a bit of a crossover book. While I see teens as the main audience for EMPRESS, the subject matter and the historical/social/political context (fingers crossed!) will appeal to an older audience as well. This idea is certainly not new. Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND is a great example of a book that covers multiple genres and invites a spectrum of ages into its fantastical account of a girl’s journey.
If you ask most writers who their audience is, hopefully they’ll say themselves! Write the book you wish was written – to appeal to you as a reader. My “target” audience might be thought of as a set of qualities rather than an age. Daydreamers, loners, people who often feel out of step with popular culture. Artists, quiet types, bookish thinkers. Also, romantics, poets, people who enjoy suspending disbelief. For The Empress Chronicles, a fascination with European royalty would help, too. Generally, I like to think my characters offer a nod to those teens/adults who might be thought of as “stubborn” or “difficult.”
As far as process, in my experience, it helps to find a setting and a character whose voice you can’t get out of your head and go from there. As the story unfolds (I dabble in plot boards to establish a structure, but usually morph the plot points along the way), the audience becomes clearer. I made a conscious decision to avoid swear words in Empress because I think there are some 12-year-old precocious readers who would like the book, and I didn’t want parents to have an easy excuse for its exclusion in their home libraries.
The “difficult” subject matter in Empress includes mental illness, divorce, the pressure to party and have sex in high school – but, on the page, I try really hard to stay in the mindset of a “late bloomer” type 15-year old. I’ve raised three children (my youngest is 15), and I know that teens are bombarded with pressures all day long. For me, the journey of a young adult narrator should reflect the authenticity of today’s pressures.

As far as “genre,” Empress could be equally slotted in historical, contemporary, fantasy, issue, or teen romance. The cover alone gives the reader a hint that they’ll be journeying to at least a couple of places. In the most optimistic sense, we might think of the book as a genre mash. Or even, dare I say it, a literary smorgasbord! 

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