It’s a Reading thing, not a Girl or Boy thing.

During my normal rounds this AM of the interweb I discovered this post, by author  D.S. Cahr, about publishers marketing YA books largely to girls. This is not new news, but I thought I’d add my (brief) two-cents. Make sure to check out the link above, and learn more about the author’s book The Secret Root. (I am an admitted book whore, but this one sounds pretty dad-gum awesome.)

So, my thoughts, in a possibly random order. Books do not have gender. They are not Boy or Girl. (I believe Libba Bray said that, and she is a brilliant example of not writing for gender.) Some will inherently appeal more to one gender, but that shouldn’t stop the other from reading it.

As the author states, Divergent and The Hunger Games, both featuring female protagonists, have been universally loved by boy readers. Why? Katniss and Tris are both pretty kick ass. They are more plot driven (which is YA in general, not just YA for boys), and they do not shy away from violence and/or action. The romance is solid, but not the focus of the story.

Other books, with similar components, are being marketed as Girl books, even if boys would probably dig them. (I think any book written by Maggie Stiefvater will appeal to boys. Her boys rock.)

I am writing a YA book that is told in first person POV by a seventeen year old girl.  It is plot-driven. It has violence and action. The romance is important to the plot, but not the only thing in the plot. The Boy has an arc with super-high stakes and tons of drama, making him a very strong, conflicted masculine counterpart.

My book will likely be marketed to girls.

This irritates me. Girls are already more likely to read a book featuring a male protagonist than boys will for a female. The pressure to be masculine is greater than the pressure to be feminine. Girls who dress in baseball caps and cut-offs, or like sports and the outdoors, are considered cool and cute. Boys who pay attention to their clothes, like art or aren’t into sports, are considered pansies.

This may not be true everywhere. I remember in New York, one of my mom-friends said she got her son a make-up kit and let him play dress up in princess gear. Sam has never been inclined to wear make-up (although, he has quite literally painted his face), and dress up is reserved for superhero costumes, but if he were, I’d let him. Self-expression is important in developing identity. New York City is not the norm, and in many parts of the country, this double-standard is still an issue.

To say a romantic book cannot be for boys, or a violent book cannot target girls, is bullshit. Boys can like romance. They can be hopeless romantics as much as girls. I have a brother who fits into the category wholeheartedly. However, he is not a reader. Why? Because early on he wasn’t connecting with the books he was being told he should connect with.

I guess, what I’m trying to say (not so elegantly) is publishers shouldn’t decide a book is Boy or Girl, but should market it as a book. Teens are smart. They can decide if they like something without you telling them to like it. To pander to the lowest common denominator is just selling your audience short. Teens do not like to be talked down to.

Publishers are about making the most money. This is fact because books are also a business. Wouldn’t they make more money if girls and boys could feel comfortable reading whatever book they want?

Processes

Lady Writer

I’m doing this workshop with author Nova Ren Suma. If you don’t know her books yet, or haven’t found her blog, you can follow my links below. She is brilliant, as a writer, and supremely cool as a person.

Nova stuff:

Blog

Goodreads for her books Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone 

Twitter handle @novaren

Someone in the workshop, which is also full of talented budding writers, requested we share our specific writing process. I was formulating my response, and decided it would make a great blog post. Or, a decent one anyway.

The writing process is as subjective as reading can be. There is no ONE RIGHT WAY, just as there is no ONE RIGHT OPINION. By necessity, not desire, I am a very flexible writer. Which is why my process must be discussed in two parts.

New York:

We lived in Brooklyn for close to two years. I began writing my novel sometime in October of 2011. At that point I was writing during my son’s naps. I made my goal 1500 words a day. I usually achieved that, and if I didn’t, I tried to make up for it. (FYI this may have contributed to by first draft’s utter shittiness.) But I completed the first draft at 72,000 words in April of 2012. Then the revisions began, or the rewrites, or the slashings. Over the summer I got a college student friend of a very reliable friend to come keep my son five hours a day, three days a week. Then my son would nap, so I could write more.

That writing took place at a cafe. I wrote, tried to decipher the wonder of Twitter, and blogged, in the bustle. I have learned to tune everything out when writing. (Like, right now, my son is jumping up and down beside me on the couch. I DONT CARE.) Unfortunately, people in my life seem annoyed by my single-mindedness. I have a sibling who now thinks my only response to life-altering news is, “Umm-hmm, that’s interesting.” Followed by the tapping of keys.

We traveled a lot during our time in NYC. I wrote on airplanes, library’s, the obgyn. This meant that I also had to write through my exhaustion, or boredom, or desire to have some fun.

Texas:

(Current writing process, most of the time. Only been this way four weeks.)

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday my son attends Montessori school. I write pretty much the entire time he is there. Sometimes, I make my dear husband go get him from school to eek out a few more minutes. I have a dedicated workspace that may be my favorite place in the world. I have written about it before on my blog here. It’s up a ladder on the thrid floor of our house which overlooks an exspanse of oak trees budding out for spring.

My productivity is shocking in this environment. My husband has recently asked me, (to my standard self-absorbed response) if make-up and showering had gone out the window in the light grand inspiration.

I can honestly say, though, that I consider each incarnation of my writing process to be worthwhile. Being able to write no matter where you are and what is going on is really important. Certain kinds of writing are better in certain places. Certain foods and drink can encourage certain words and emotions, just like music can. I drank moonshine once for character development. (Not reccommended.) But all forms, all processes, are valid.

I don’t plot. I spend a lot of time revising and mulling because of this. At this stage in revision I do plan scenes and subsequent scenes when a rewrite is in order. I do a lot of jotting, and going, “Yeah, that’s better. I don’t want to punch that scene in the groin anymore.”

To each his own.

So, what’s your process? If you care to share.

Road Trip Wednesday #175: Kickstart

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic: The Veronica Mars Kickstarter success makes us wonder, what YA book would you raise $2 million to see a movie version of?

This is kind of a hard topic. It feels a bit like picking favorites. A couple of my favorites are already optioned and in the works, in varying degrees. Now, in Hollywood, things move at a weird pace. Until a project is filming, which usually means funding has been secured, the project can exist in a state of indefinite limbo. Even after production has wrapped, financing distribution can prevent the film from being seen by mass audiences.

Hollywood is a mess, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about choosing favorites. No…it’s about a book I can see as a movie and would get behind.

Which is why I’m choosing Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Here’s the Goodreads:

unspokenKami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

I could see Tim Burton really making this book come to life with moody brilliance, but he’s expensive. I don’t know if a $2 million kickstarter goal would be enough. Our goal would have to be a bit more lofty, and we’d have to do it in conjunction with an online campaign aimed to hook Tim. He can secure his own funding, I imagine. I doubt he’s read the book. Maybe that should be out tack. Harass Tim Burton. As a rule, I think harassment of any celebrity is bad form, but if it’s for a good cause…

Happy Wednesday!

Top Five YA Crushes

card

I’m borrowing this idea from another YA writers blog earlier this week. You can check out her post here.

We all read YA for different reasons. For me, a big draw to this genre is the feels. I love how romance plays into the plots of YA novels. I largely read fantasy and paranormal (and all off shoots of that, though I do occasionally throw in a Contemporary or Suspense for variety and intrigue), which means the romance is integral but not always focal to the story. That’s what I like.

Plus, boys. Boy, boys, boys.

Here are my boys I will never get enough of:

5. Connor Lassiter 

Connor fan art by just-one-more-freak.deviantart.com

Connor fan art by just-one-more-freak.deviantart.com

The evolution of Connor’s character from UnWind through UnWholly is remarkable, but what I love about Connor is how unwavering he is in the pursuit to bring an end to unwinding. He’s a character that never wanted to be a leader, but was actually born to be one, and when he’s forced to, he handles himself admirably.  I love how tender he is with Risa, especially after her injury, even if all she wants him to do is take her by force. Plus, he’s kind of a loose canon, which I find very appealing in concept, if not in execution.

4. The Darkling

The Darkling, Deviantart

The Darkling, Deviantart

If you haven’t read Shadow and Bone, then shame on you, and I hope I don’t spoil anything here. The Darkling is alluring in the way a den of lions or chasing a storm is alluring. His danger is not a mystery, it’s clear from the beginning, and yet pulling away from him is impossible. For me and Alina. I have a case of the I can fix hims with the Darkling, as well as the, But do I really want to’s. He’s the kind of guy that you would loose yourself in, forget friends, and goals, and follow behind hoping to be touched. I am not advocating this behavior in females, in fact, I strongly disagree with it. That doesn’t mean we don’t all have a guy in our past, or our imaginations, that we wouldn’t do that for.

3. Four (Tobias Eaton)

Four by cassandrajp

Four by cassandrajp

Four is the guy we all really should be with. He’s intelligent and strong, but he doesn’t take anything from you by being the full version of himself. He knows who he is, and what he believes, and because of that, you figure yourself out so you’re not a drain on him. Plus, the guy is hot. He’s powerful and vulnerable at the same time, without making you feel inadequate for not always having your shit together. He’s a good kisser with a bit of darkness in his past. What I love about Four is the way he encourages Tris to be her, not someone else, even if Tris doesn’t realize he’s doing that. That’s her problem. (In case you can’t tell, Tris is not my favorite chick. I tolerate her because of Four.)

2. Richard “Gansey” Campbell Gansey, III

Gansey, and the whole gang, fan art by tea-cigarette-go.tumblr.com

Gansey, and the whole gang, fan art by tea-cigarette-go.tumblr.com

Right off the bat, I loved Gansey. Maybe it’s because I know he’s gonna die. Maybe it’s because Maggie Stiefvater can write guys almost better than any other female author out there. I don’t know, but from the beginning, I was into Gansey. Hell, all the boys in The Raven Boys have something to offer, but Gansey is the leader.

(I am noticing a bit of a trend in the guys I pick. Apparently, I am attracted to power. Hmm…)

Gansey is a character I believe. He’s a guy I could really know, and spend a long time getting to know, and that’s what makes him so appealing to me. He’s the long-game. On the surface he’s clean-cut, classically handsome, and a little preppy. He’s wealthy, like old-money, oil tycoon type wealthy, which doesn’t usually attract me, but on Gansey I like it. But underneath, Gansey has a passion that’s unerring, and if turned on you, would probably take your breath away. Or your life, depending on what else is going on, because Gansey gets himself into some scrapes. I like this description of Gansey, from The Raven Boys:

There were two Gansey’s: the one who lived inside his skin, and the one Gansey put on in the morning when he slid his wallet into the back pocket of his chinos. The former was troubled and passionate, with no discernible accent to Adam’s ears, and the latter bristled with latent power as he greeted people with the slippery, handsome accent of old Virginia money. It was a mystery to Adam how he could not seem to see both versions of Gansey at the same time.

1. Jace Lightwood

It should be said that I think the casting of Jace is spot on.

It should be said that I think the casting of Jace is spot on.

The first description of Jace in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, made my knees feel like jello. Something about his beauty and roughness, the scars all over his body, the sharpness in his cheekbones, his cunning, golden eyes made me fiercely interested in learning more about him. As the story progressed, and things happen that are seriously messed up, it only got worse for me. And Clary. Clary was really struggling there for a while.

Jace is powerful, he’s imposing, he takes up the whole room when he enters. Everything he does in purposeful, and everything he does is a little reckless. He’s not a saint, in fact, I got the distinct impression Jace had gotten around. Somehow, that doesn’t matter. Because when he falls in love with Clary, she’s like air to him, and the world had better get out of his way so he can be with her. Jace is flawed in ways that make him nearly fall apart, and that sort of brokenness is always sexy because it’s real and vulnerable.

Jace is also really witty and sly, with a devilish, mischievous side that makes him like a prowling cat. He’d be hard to keep up with, but then, that’s also what’s so appealing about him. His endurance. (That could be taken really, way wrong, sorry.) But, beyond all those features, the reason Jace is my number one has to do with his choices. He was abused, taught about darkness not light, and yet the choices he makes fall on the side of goodness. He strives to stay in the light, and that makes it possible for him to be saved.

Thank heaven, for boys in YA!

Road Trip Wednesday #174: Fictional Meanderings

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Week’s Topic: If you could visit any country with a fictional character as your guide, who would you pick and where would you go?

Hey, I’ve been absent for a few weeks from the Road Trippin’, so I thought I’d join in this week. If that’s OK? I love this weeks topic, even if I find it challenging and limiting. I have to pick just ONE character to take my jaunt with?!?! And what criteria do I use? Should they be someone already well traveled, with a broad knowledge of cultures, customs, etc.? Should it be someone I think will show me a good time? Someone wealthy, with good connections and manners?

So…since this is impossible…I’m going to pick one for each requirement.

Well traveled:

10th_doctor

The Doctor. I feel this is a no brainer. He has literally been everywhere, in every time. He’s dashing and wise, but he has a brilliant sense of humor and adventure. Now, since I could go anywhere with the Doctor, the where is harder here. Do we go to a distant galaxy in a far away time? NO. I have real, screaming nightmares about floating in the abyss of space or being sucked into a black hole. Not that I don’t trust the Doctor, but…NO.

We would do an excursion through time on Earth, beginning with the dawn and then meeting back up in my present. I wouldn’t want to see the future. I don’t need to know how bleak things will turn or not turn. To me, the mystery is much more exciting. Egypt, Jerusalem, Paris, the Americas — a smattering of it all.

Good time pal:

ron_weasley

This is kind of a creeper shot on Ron.

Ron Weasley. We would go to the Quidditch World Cup, drink too much pumpkin ale, probably get into a bar brawl in defense of the Chudley Cannons, and then meet Hermione back at the tent — which would be fully magicked out (that’s decked out in wizard speak) — where she would likely ruin all our fun and put us promptly to bed.

Wealthy, well-mannered, well-connected: 

lizziedarcy

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. As a couple, they would be immaculate hosts. We would do a tour of the Lake Country, staying in the finest houses and attending the most decadent balls. Darcy wouldn’t dance, but Lizzie and I would have a smashing time. I suppose, for this trip, I would bring my husband. He and Mr. Darcy could commiserate and brood about the simpering stupidity of high society England. Lizzie and I could be unaccomplished (at art and music) together. We would end in London. Somewhere in there I’d like to throw in a dip in those baths they were so crazy about at that time.

An honorable mention should go to Francie Nolan, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She and I would have a lot of fun at the New York Public Library and climbing trees in Prospect Park. Two pastimes I miss since leaving New York.