I write romance. I have a few romance books that are published, and a few more coming out next year. I write contemporary romance, usually with suspense thrown in, because as a reader, I like a little extra something in the stories I read. I also write paranormal romance because, well, who doesn’t love the idea of magic?
True confession here: I have also dabbled in YA, although I haven’t published anything (yet). Nor have I even mentioned to very many people that I’ve written the rough draft of a YA series. While I personally like what I wrote, I am still nervous about attempting to share it with the world.
Why is a writer with more than ten published books under her belt afraid to share something with the world? Valid question. Let me give you a little background.
A few years ago, back when I had only one self-published book and a million unfinished manuscripts to my name, a friend of mine read the entire Resort series (which is now a five-book series available through most major e-book distributors). Based on her feedback, I actually added more relationship drama to book three, because, according to this friend, it was becoming boring. Since I had already written two additional books before wrapping up the series, I certainly needed to avoid reader boredom by book three!
This occurred during the pre-movies Hunger Games craze. When adults were gobbling up those books as fast as or, more likely, faster than the young readers they were meant for. After reading my manuscripts, my friend devoured the Hunger Games trilogy, passed the books on to me and said, “You have to read these. They’re fantastic.” To which I replied in the same vein as a fair number of parents-with-kids, “I cannot fathom reading a book in which children die as part of a game for adults’ entertainment.”
She continued to harass me, insisting it wasn’t that at all – well, okay, yes it was, but really, there was so much more to the books and they’re so deep and so well written and oh for God’s sake, Tami, just read the damn books.
So I devoured them, just like she did. And we spent endlessly unproductive hours at work discussing them, for weeks. Until one day, my friend said to me, “You should write YA. You’re a good writer. If you write YA maybe you’ll finally get your break.”
I baulked. YA? Angsty teenagers? Granted, I had once been a full-fledged angsty teenager, but that was a lo-o-o-o-ng time ago. Could I write to that audience, at this stage in my life? Could I?
My initial reaction was a resounding no, and another true confession here: the reason was because I wasn’t sure I could write a book without sex. Because if I wrote YA, it would be some sort of romance and would eventually have a happy ending. Because that’s what I write. But I could not imagine writing YA with sex. (Call me old fashioned – or call me a mother.)
And the problem is, in my books, sex is a huge part of the romance and the happy ending. Half my books end with the hero and heroine having sex. Probably more than half. Hell, some of them start with the hero and heroine having sex. The sex helps lead them to love. Often it is during sex that they realize they are in love with one another after all.
How was I supposed to write romance without sex?
“You can do this,” my friend said, all typical friend-of-a-writer encouragingly.
“I’m dubious,” I said out loud.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Probably because the most recent books I had read were YA (Hunger Games). First person. Present tense. The heroine’s perspective.
The Bartender, my very first published book, and The Resort series, my next few published books, are all written in first person, from the heroine’s perspective. But then I entered The Resort in a contest, won third place and received an email from the judge (a publisher) that said, “I love this book, I love your style, but we don’t publish first person.” I haven’t written first person since.
And I’ve never written in present tense. Not that it was completely necessary to write a YA novel, but the small amount of research I’d done showed me it was certainly a regular occurrence.
Maybe this was a challenge? Maybe… maybe my friend was right. Maybe, if I could do this, it would be my big break.
I let the idea percolate for a few more weeks, and as it did, ideas began to form. For whatever reason, I had already decided that IF I was going to try this, it was certainly going to be paranormal. And then I decided I wanted the characters to be faeries, because I love faeries and a writer can pretty much make their magic do whatever she wants it to do, to work with her story.
But not all the characters. Nope. We need a few humans in the mix. And they can’t know that the faeries are different. Allows for some foreshadowing opportunities, since of course the main character is going to be human and she’s going to eventually discover that faeries really do exist.
Okay, by this point, I had a vague but growing clearer by the moment idea in my head, and I admit, I was pretty darn close to parking myself in front of the computer and typing, “Chapter One…”
But I still kept going back to the sex. How was I supposed to do this without sex? Because in my little world, I could not possibly write a seventeen year old girl having sex. I know it is happening more and more frequently in books today, but I can’t do it. Probably because I have a young daughter and the idea of her having sex at seventeen causes me a new form of angst. Adult angst. Parent angst. Parent-I’m-not-ready-to-be-a-grandparent angst.
So I created my heroine’s personality and life around my own issues with writing this thing. She was, in fact, sixteen, at the beginning of the series. But she was a naive sixteen year old, a late bloomer. I dropped her in a small town, ensured she was raised by a single mother who was barely scraping by and as a result was still bitter over her divorce.
My heroine was an introvert. She had one friend. A best friend – a guy best friend, and as of yet, she had not remotely looked at him as anything other than her best friend. And just because I thought it was funny, she sucked at English and hated writing, so her BFF had to tutor her to ensure she passed her English classes.
Maybe I could write this after all.
So I did. Three novel-length works in progress. Three very long WIP’s, actually. All sitting on my computer in fairly rough format, all these years later. Every now and then I go back to them, get caught up in the story I wove, start editing, and think, I wonder if anyone would like to read these?
Last year, I entered the first chapter of the first one in a writing contest. It didn’t place, and the feedback was mixed. One judge loved it, one ripped it to shreds but said it had promise, and the third had some very valid feedback – most of which revolved around the fact that this was very clearly my first attempt at YA – and some of which I have already incorporated.
So far, that’s all I’ve done with these three YA works-in-progress. In fact, this is probably the first time the wenches are even hearing that I’ve attempted this genre, and they are some of my besties. I guess even after you’ve been published you still feel angsty about trying something new.
Maybe I should channel that angst into these books and clean them up and offer them to the world.