Tuesday, February 04, 2014

kate scott on contemporary ya

Hey there folks, I wrangled a guest post out of the amazing Kate Scott! Her new contemporary young adult book, Counting to D, will be available NEXT WEEK, and she's all over the interweb this week with smart posts and such.  

After reading Counting to D, I asked Kate if she would elaborate a bit on the contemporary young adult genre and this whole idea of the "issue book," which is a buzz term for ya books that explore social issues many teens face. (Or at least that's the way Amazon pigeon-holes it.) Kate has lots to say about genre in general. (Yay!) And offers her stance on creating complicated characters that embrace the realism of, well, real life!

Also, all you Portland (or near Portland) folk, Kate and I will be reading together at Annie Bloom's on February 18th, and in one of those, are you kidding? moments, we discovered that not only are both of our narrators high school students of slightly fictionalized versions of the same West Portland high school, they share THE SAME LAST NAME. Really!!

I hope you'll come to the reading, and I hope you'll buy Kate's book. It's really, really good!

Welcome to Let's Talk About Writing, Kate!

Real People are Complicated – Characters Should Be, Too
Guest post by Kate Scott

Counting to D is a contemporary young adult novel. There is an element of romance, but it’s not really a “romance novel.” The main character is dyslexic, but it’s not entirely about dyslexia. She also has an alcoholic parent, but that’s nothing more than a small subplot. Counting to D is a contemporary novel, but it’s hard to classify beyond that.

The larger genre of contemporary YA is normally divided into two sub-groups: “issues books” and “teen romance.” Counting to D is neither, and it is both. It’s a book about a fifteen-year-old girl. She has hormones—she is fifteen, after all. She also has feelings, and emotions, and a lot of issue-worthy stuff going on in her life.

I enjoy reading “genre fiction.” Or at least, I enjoy reading fiction, and publishers and readers alike tend to classify most fiction into genres. I read sci-fi, historical, urban fantasy, and romance. But my favorite books are the ones that are the hardest to label.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a super cute YA romance, set in the 80’s, about a child abuse victim. What genre is that? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is an even more amazing book, about two teens with cancer who meet and fall in love during their cancer kids support group. It’s the sweetest romance ever, but boy, do those characters have issues.

There are a lot of things that I love about YA, but the ability to bend genres is easily one of my favorites, both as a writer and as a reader. Just last month, I read a YA romance that was also an urban fantasy, set in the 18th century. YA authors bend genres all the time, and YA readers jump genres, too. There may be some adults who read nothing but horror, period, and appreciate genre distinctions. But at least for now, young readers are still able find books about sparkly vampires sitting on the same shelves as the ones about bad-ass dystopian heroines.

This means that YA writers like Libba Bray can dive into entirely new genres with every book and still live in one section of the bookstore. I totally want to be Libba Bray when I grow up, just saying. But she already wrote Going Bovine (funniest book ever), so I guess I’ll have to stick with being Kate Scott.

Come to Annie Bloom's Feb 18th!
At this point, I’ve only written one book, or at least, I’ve only published one book. I have a few super crappy practice books stuffed in proverbial drawers, but trust me, nobody wants to see those. Counting to D is definitely YA—that much is obvious, but defining it beyond that becomes a little bit harder.

The novel is set in the present and completely devoid of sparkly vampires, so I feel confident calling it “contemporary.” There is a cute boy or two, so if you wanted, you could try to call it a “romance.” Except, there are a few issues that come along and knock the romance out of the forefront from time to time.

Some writers are great at writing interesting, compelling stories that clearly live in only one genre. But most great books, even the great books that people hold as genre-defining icons, are more than that. Because great books always star great characters, and characters, like people, are complicated.

In real life, I have a wonderful husband who I love very much. But he’s certainly not the sole focus of my life. All of my romantically involved friends have other issues to deal with beyond their love lives, too. Crazy overactive hormones are a huge part of adolescence and the reason why romance is a significant part of most young adult fiction. But real life is about more than just cute boys, and I’ve never met any teenagers who didn’t have at least a few issues capable of distracting them from their romantic interests now and again.

As a writer, I try not to think about genres. Readers, book promoters, and retailors think about that sort of thing. But me, Kate Scott the author, I only think about characters. My goal as an author has never been to perfectly follow every genre convention. It’s been to invent interesting and compelling characters that readers can relate to. Counting to D’s main character, Samantha Wilson, is a fifteen-year-old girl. She has issues, and hormones, and complicated messed-up emotions—because she’s human.

Right now, at least, that’s all she has to be because she lives in the YA section of the bookstore. I love that the YA market is growing in popularity, but I hope it never grows so big that YA books have to be defined as more than “just” YA. Because Counting to D is not the only book that’s hard to define. I love to read. I love to read YA. And all of my favorite books are hard to define. Funny, all of my favorite books are also about interesting, complex characters.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:39 AM

    Great post, Kate, and I completely agree. It's all about the characters, no matter the story or conventions of genre.


Thanks for commenting. If you have trouble posting a comment, let me know! suzyvitello@gmail.com