New and/or Improved

The title of my next book is She Rose High. Set in the early 20th century, a multiethnic orphan girl is hired to work for a couple with a riotous marriage and a gifted son. The girl is eighteen, about to leave England for the first time. The ship she sails on is also on its maiden voyage.

This next venture is in New Adult territory. It’s a weird market, because the main characters are in their late teens or early 20’s. How is the most exhilarating time of your life so overlooked in the world of books? I have to get to the bottom of that because a lot of my stories focus on people this age – physically grown up, but new to making their own decisions. The college years. The real college years, not a hyper-reality where Ryan Reynolds is ‘the ugly guy’.

In the real world, new adults don’t endlessly lock horns with idiot parents. They don’t have meaningless sex with everything under the sun and come home without regrets, babies or a disease. They have boring jobs and amazing conversations. The epic and the mundane collide as never before, battles between dreams and the mind-numbingly tedious details required to make those dreams come true. ‘Do I really wanna be an astronaut? Like, they have to pee in their spacesuit, man.’

Given the abundance of raw material, I can’t help but champion the New Adult genre. Sometimes it’s easier to idealize your early years in Juvenile or Young Adult. Also easier to write Contemporary Adult, since it’s pretty much whatever you’re doing right now. I’m hardly knocking those genres, since I’ve written books for those shelves and will do it again. But it’s good to wobble on that limb, to sway between ‘I can eat all the candy I want’ and ‘I will go to jail for this.’

You don't want smelly pits when you're freezing to death, do you?
You don’t want smelly pits when you’re freezing to death, do you?

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