Today’s guest is Lorin Oberweger. Lorin has been an independent editor and story development coach for almost twenty years, and her company Free Expressions also offers some of the country’s most highly regarded writing workshops. Lorin and New York Times Bestselling Author Veronica Rossi—writing together as Noelle August—are launching their new adult trilogy this month, beginning with the novel Boomerang. Says Lorin, “Noelle August is an anagram for Veronica Rossi and Lorin Oberweger. Just kidding, it’s a pen name!”[pullquote]I’m interested in the topic of genre inclusion and in pushing beyond the limitations supposedly prescribed by the marketplace.”[/pullquote]
About her post today, Lorin says, “Though I don’t pretend to be an expert on the genre, I haven’t read much about it (the new adult genre) on Writer Unboxed, and I felt moved to explore it a bit for the WU readership. In addition, I’m interested in the topic of genre inclusion and in pushing beyond the limitations supposedly prescribed by the marketplace.”
O, Brave New (Adult) World!
As a longtime publishing professional and a basic journeywoman writer, I’ve long held the mindset that any writing work is good work, that getting paid to do what I love, in any form, puts me at the tippy-top of the heap in terms of good fortune and career satisfaction.
So, I was over-the-top giddy when my friend, New York Times Bestselling Author Veronica Rossi and I sold a series of three books to Harper/William Morrow on the basis of a proposal, something that felt like the equivalent of sinking a basketball into a net one-hundred yards away.
And then came the comments:
“New Adult? Isn’t that just smutty YA?”
“Oh, it will come out in trade paperback? I’d never want to publish something that didn’t debut in hardcover.”
“But that’s not your genre. Why would you want to do this?”
Those remarks felt deflating, of course, but also curiously familiar.
In the olden days—1995—when I began my career as an independent editor, it was not uncommon for me to meet writers who, when they found out what I did, would basically sling bulbs of garlic at me and back away while making the sign of the cross.
Back then, far fewer reputable independent editors plied their trade than do now. Someone else controlled the conversation about the value of such professionals. That conversation has most definitely changed, and two decades later, I’m sought after and respected for the skills I’ve acquired and the work I do. But it took a climb to get here.
I get it. We writers live in a state that feels a little like building a house on quicksand. The ground is always shifting. Someone is always coming around to wring his or her hands and cry doom. It comforts us to feel like we understand our little patch of solid earth. We get the parameters and can tell each other how many paces it is to that shadowy part of the map where “there be monsters.”
And then suddenly, some new genre emerges. Out of nowhere. And it seems, at first glance, really preoccupied with s-e-x. Do we need that? Is it valid? Do we have to make room for it when publishing real estate is already at such a premium?[pullquote]And then suddenly, some new genre emerges. Out of nowhere. And it seems, at first glance, really preoccupied with s-e-x. Do we need that? Is it valid? Do we have to make room for it when publishing real estate is already at such a premium?[/pullquote]
I think we do.
First a quick definition. New Adult is a term coined about five years ago by editors at St. Martin’s Press to describe books that fall into crossover territory between young adult and adult fiction. The books are generally contemporary and usually feature a strong romantic element, with protagonists aged 18-25. They concern themselves with adult “firsts”—first experiences living apart from family; first real romantic loves (yes, sex, included); first forays into meaningful careers; and first deep heartaches.
They’re written, I think, for those readers who wanted to follow the romantic progression of relationships beyond the “fade to black” modesty of a lot of young adult fiction and who want to keep recognizing themselves in the struggles of the main characters. And they’re written for adults of all ages, who still see themselves reflected in the lives and loves of these characters, who remember the anxieties and the headiness of truly launching into adult life.
But if—as has been covered beautifully on Writer Unboxed—women’s fiction and romance get little respect, is it any wonder that romantic fiction about younger people has such an uphill battle? If we have to struggle for women’s experiences to be honored, we have to double-time it for the experiences of younger people.
Every other day, there seems to be an op-ed about whether adults should be ashamed to read young adult fiction, whether women’s fiction deserves awards, whether little Billy should still be going to bed with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or should have moved onto, say, Captain Underpants by now.
But as writers, do we need to add to that conversation? Doesn’t it help us, really, if a new genre emerges that helps us to identify a reading audience in need? Aren’t there benefits in a publishing landscape that still does shift on its plates from time-to-time, rather than being so fixed and impenetrable that we’re all expected to color in the lines—always?
Just as with any genre, it’s dangerous to paint new adult with one sweeping stroke. Some can be dramatic, swoony, and dark. Other stories, like Boomerang—which I like to say is a cross between The Hangover and a romantic comedy—are lighter, even (if I do say so) funny. Sometimes the sex is front and center, and sometimes, as in our book, it’s treated pretty subtly. While the two protagonists are most definitely hot for each other, they’re equally hot for their dream job—a situation that creates conflict between them. And they’re involved in their communities, in their families, in their friendships.
Just like any genre, we’re allowed more than one note, and we embrace the entire symphony. As others come aboard, the genre will continue to flourish as an offshoot of the desires of its readership. To me, that’s so exciting! Not just for authors working in this genre but for all authors, who may yet find themselves on the cusp of a brave new era of publishing.
The next genre may be a new type of thriller or a new form of literary novel. Whatever it is, I’m going to welcome it for providing new challenges and new opportunities. It may not be a genre that speaks to me, but somewhere a writer will kick out the sides of the box and create something new. And in that new space will be room for more writers and more successes—always, in my mind, the best of all possible worlds.
Do you (or have you thought about) writing new adult fiction? How about another new genre? What genres do you see as emerging in today’s changing publishing landscape?