Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Confessions of a YA Fantasy Junkie

I’m stoked to get to participate in the Knight Agency blog. I feel a little like a transfer student, though I’m going to pretend I’m one of those coolly suave ones who comes to the small town from The Big City, and not the Catholic School refugee who transfers in as a senior with no friends and no fashion sense because she’s been wearing a uniform for three years. Um, not that I’d know anything about that or anything.

So, I’m here to talk about writing young adult books and… I have a confession. I never intended to become a YA writer.

I know. Awkward. I do admit that I love indulging my inner teenager (which isn’t that inner, actually), but the fact is, high school was 99.9% hellish for me, and the only reason I would revisit those years would be if I could magically revise things to make them less excruciating. Which implies that I consider demonic carnage at the prom to be an actual improvement on my own experience, which… Yeah. My statement holds true.

Anyway. I write books that I want to read. (I think it always shows if the author isn’t pleasing herself first off. Otherwise the book goes down like medicine, and you have to read enough of those in school.) If you go to my keeper shelf, you’ll see… well, everything and the kitchen sink, actually. But two kinds of books more than others: YA books, and Fantasy novels. This is totally not a coincidence, any more than I think it’s random that you see so much speculative fiction on the “teen” shelves of the bookstore or library.

There’s an archetype in fantasy literature that resonates strongly with readers who are figuring out their place in the world. It’s the Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Harper Menoly (from Pern), Will Stanton (from The Dark Is Rising), Lyra Belacqua (from His Dark Materials)… and of course the character that started it all for me: Meg Murry from A Wrinkle In Time.

It’s about discovering that you are special, and that you are going to have to step up and save the world/universe/galaxy. That is WAY more epic (and tons less boring) than “coming of age” a la Holden Caulfield. (Sorry Mrs. Smith, English Teacher. I hated that book. Oh, and Lord of the Flies, too. Love, Rosemary.)

No surprise, I guess, the popularity of fantasy elements in YA books. Sure there’s a kind of wish fulfillment--who doesn’t want to be so special that the only you can save the world? The thing that elevates characters out of Mary Sue, too-good-to-be-true, perfection is that second part: They have to step up and do something with that super-specialness. To paraphrase Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility. (And great whining, to judge by the movies.)

What’s kind of funny is that when I was a teen, there was this (erroneous) perception that only adolescent boys like science fiction and fantasy. Adults who read them were considered “nerds.” And girls… well, girls didn’t read fantasy unless it had unicorns or telepathic dragons or magic white horses.

Now, when you go to the “teen” shelf in the library, you see high schools populated by werewolves and vampires, witches and superspies on the cheerleading squad, girls juggling ghost-busting/vampire-staking/demon-hunting with dating, finals, and formal dances. Maybe sparkly vampires are the new unicorn.

Which is awesome, by the way. Because the other thing on my keeper shelf: romances. No book is complete with some kind of relationship story. It’s what makes us human. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic love but… Okay, who am I kidding.

So how could I write anything BUT YA fantasy, really? I like some sparkly unicorn love with my butt-kicking, step-up-and-save-the-world-with-your-superpowers story. To quote Douglas Adams (before the storm knocks me offline--again!): “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Maggie Quinn doesn’t meet any unicorns (or vampires) in Prom Dates From Hell, but she does get to fight demons with the help of her BFF D&D Lisa, and one good-looking paladin of a college student. Then in August, Maggie (and I) get the hell out of high school with Hell Week, where Maggie takes on sorcerous sorority girls. Fun and games, for girls and boys of all ages!

Check out my webpage at www.rosemaryclementmoore.com for more info, excerpts and links to my blog.

Rosemary Clement-Moore


Anonymous Lucienne said...

Awesome blog, Rosemary. And Madeleine L'Engle is the bomb!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 5:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kendallf@yahoo.com said...

After reading Prom Dates from H. . . . . I was suspicious there was a high schooler just looking for the chance to get even. Looks like I was right! Can't wait to see how Maggie fares against the big, bad sorority bi . . . er, excuse me, sorority g i r l s.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 5:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Wendy said...

Woohoo, Susan Cooper! And woohoo, Rosemary!

BTW, my niece LOVED Prom Dates from Hell. I'm the coolest aunt ever thanks to that particular X-mas gift.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 5:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Rosemary, what a witty and insightful post. I'd never thought precisely about the difference in the classic coming of age novels--which are, in essence, self-centered, belly button gazing books vs. the epic, "must save world" archetypes. I'm with you, I find the latter far more interesting.

And, doll, if you are a transfer student, then you are exactly the type I'd have wanted to be getting fashion tips from and would nominate for... Most Likely to Save the World. :)

SO SO glad that you are now part of our TKA family! Deidre

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 5:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger nelsonwriting said...

Hey Rosemary (big wave),

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all time favs. Thanks for the recommendation on The Blue Sword -- now on my fantasy fav list. I found a copy of Dragonriders of Pern for .25 at the thrift store, and I can't wait to read it again. Have you read Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer series? Very cool.

Looking forward to Maggie's new adventure. Maggie rocks!

Gina Lee Nelson

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 6:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Rosemary, I haven't read much YA but you're giving me the yearning too. There is a tortured teenager left inside me that could use some nourishing. If I could go back to the prom...I wouldn't wear that awful wig :D Who gave me that advice anyway? I have to go back and find her.

Hugs, Nancy

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 6:28:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Tracy said...

What a terrific post! I've been putting together a list of titles to pick up for my family for summer reading, and Prom Dates just made the list for my daughter. Heck, probably me too!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 6:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Liane Gentry Skye said...

Rosemary, what fresh, fun concepts. WHat's not to love about prom night demonic cargage? :D

I wanted to be a YA writer and ended up pubbing in sensual romance.

Go figure LOL. Going to check your books out for my dd's birthday. (Yeah, yeah, I'll read them, too. :D)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 6:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Merri said...

Great blog! You are so write. I loved science fiction and fantasy as a kid. Unfortunately, most of what I had access to during my YA years often had women in weak, passive and gratuitous roles. Fortunately that is not the case today. Even though I am an adult, I have a desire to read some of the newer YA books and capture what missed when I was a YA! Thanks for a great blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 7:03:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous chris k said...

Apparently I'm a way cool mom for buying my daughter an autographed copy of Prom Dates -

My daughter and her friends can hardly wait for August and Hell Week.

Though I'm pretty sure after heading the junior prom committee this year, my daughter's convinced you don't need demons to make prom week hell!! lol.

Knock 'em dead.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 8:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

I LOVED Prom Dates From Hell. Cannot wait for the sequel :o)

And I have to say, your description of high school sounded a lot like the way I describe it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 8:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger cindy said...

i'm with you. i was always a big fantasy fan and set out to write an asian fantasy (which just sold last week, hurrah!) BUT when i began querying, agents said to me, are you sure this isn't YA?

uh, what??!

so i began querying YA agents and the book sold as a YA asian fantasy. who knew?

i definitely am drawn to the anything is possible realm of fantasy combined with the heady feelings of being a teen. everything mattered so much more back then. thanks for a great post! checking out your website now--your book covers are awesome!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 11:25:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Nancy Kay Bowden said...

"Maybe sparkly vampires are the new unicorn."

Rosemary, you are just so quotable!
Even your blogging sings! Great post!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 9:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Susan Adrian said...

Good God, you mentioned Douglas Adams, Susan Cooper, and Madeleine L'Engle in one post. I think you are my long-lost secret mind-twin.

Oh, and I write YA fantasy too. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 10:51:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rosemary Clement-Moore said...

Well, I'm new to Blogger, and I tried to add a comment yesterday, so lets see if this works better!

I just wanted to say thanks! For all the comments and welcome and all. I can tell I'm among kindred spirits* around here. Thanks everyone!

*Another YA allusion, though not fantasy. For some reason, I have also always been fond of red-headed, over-dramatic Anne Shirley, too. (Long live over-dramatic redheads.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 12:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Trish said...

Ha! Maybe ‘demonic carnage’ would be an improvement for some of us, Rosemary. In my forties, I think I’m still figuring out my place in the world, or perhaps I just like to travel to new “places” in YA books, maybe both. On occasion, I still like the telepathic dragons, too – can’t wait for Paolini’s third book coming out in a few months.  Thanks for giving us some fun new summer reads! Oh, and I think you got it right: vampires seem to be the new unicorn. Fine by me!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 1:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Cara King said...

I love almost all the same authors as you, Rosemary, except that (for some bizarre reason) I could never warm up to A Wrinkle in Time.

I know. Heresy. But there it is.

But surely I make up for it by adoring Susan Cooper, McCaffrey's Harper Hall books, Douglas Adams, Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, et al??? :-)

Oh, and poor Spidey has plenty to whine about...everyone he likes keeps dying! Or stealing his sandwich. Or something. (And both can be traumatic when you're a teen.) ;-)


Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 3:13:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Ginnie Siena Bivona said...

In my humble opinion life without a lot of sparkle isn't worth living. Cheap sequins to the Hope Diamond, if it glitters it's got to be good. And Rosemary sparkles both as a writer and as a person! Way to go girl!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 5:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Personally hoping that unicorns are the new sparkly vampire, but that's just me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 7:12:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Donna Maloy said...

Rosemary, good fantasy wasn't as easy to come by years ago. Madeleine L'Engle and Tolkein were about it -- unless you invaded the boys' books -- science fiction. There the fantasy was cool, but not romantic. Then Dragonriders came along and suddenly I could fill my bookshelves with good romantic, fantasy reads. They're getting better every day. And even the "boys'" books are putting romance in. Fantasy is IN!

Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 9:07:00 AM EDT  

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