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Young Adult...Not Just for Teens

Book genres and age categories can be helpful for readers... but can be downright frustrating for an author. We just want to write our stories without thinking about categories and tropes, okay?

Just kidding. We know we have to listen to genre conventions and read widely in our niche. But when a story tugs at you and demands to be written, you write it. Even if it's out of the cozy comfort zone you've painstakingly built. But that leaves one with the unenviable task of defining your author brand. And let me tell you, trying to bridge two worlds can be less than ideal. Pen name? Maybe. Separate social? No. I draw the line at more social media time. So, I write both and will continue to do so.

Let me explain.

Everyone's favorite question when they find out I write historical fiction is "What era do you write in?" I have to stop myself from retorting, "Any that I want."

Because for me, it isn't about the era. It's about the flesh of the story. The heart. Every book I write is about young women, found family, and first love. All my protagonists are the heroines of their own worlds. They are fierce fighters who won't let anyone break them.

So what makes one of my stories adult and another young adult (YA)? By pure definition, the audience for a young adult book is 14-19 years old (a little younger for "teen" books at 13-19). If you don't read YA, you might be surprised to find out that it is wildly popular among adults. Daughter of the King, the first book in my Defying the Crown series, centers on a nineteen-year-old. My young adult historical focuses on a nearly eighteen-year-old. It isn't just about the age. It's about two things: theme and voice.

In my young adult historical Chasing Eleanor, my main character Magnolia fights to keep her family together and her only hope (she believes) is Eleanor Roosevelt. This is an emotional story from the Great Depression with adventure and loss and anger and love. Magnolia struggles to forgive her past and accept herself. This is a common theme in young adult novels because it's so particular and important as one is coming of age. My Defying the Crown series centers on survival and fight in an unjust society, which is much more of an adult struggle.

So why does it matter? Mostly, marketing. Everything in the book world is about identifying your ideal reader. Identifying your genre is a great way to do that. For YA, authors must also ensure there isn't anything inappropriate for young readers. All my protagonists are in the 17-19 year-old range and depending on the book, that can fall in either category.

So in the end, we write what's important to us and what story we want to tell. Sometimes that crosses different boundaries and blurs the lines of genres. And that's okay! Categories and genres help the right readers find the right books.

I've gravitated toward young adult historical for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I want to tell more stories of how history affected young women. We don't hear much about this, as the vast majority of historical fiction is from the adult perspective. I read many memoirs while researching Chasing Eleanor, and it struck me how many people in their later years still struggled with their experiences from childhood, especially from the Great Depression.

We can all learn more about life, and I think it starts with examining our past.

~Sip Coffee, Savor Books




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