Today I have Emma Pass, 2012 debut author of ACID, which will be published by Random House in early 2013.
How Contemporary YA got me a book deal (even though I don’t write it)
First of all, I have a confession to make. Although I count authors such as Keith Gray, Kevin Brooks, Sarah Dessen and John Green among my all-time favourites, ACID, my own YA debut which comes out in 2013, is a dystopian thriller set 100 years in the future. And I’m working on a second novel that runs along similar lines.
So what am I doing writing a blog post about contemporary YA?
I started writing Young Adult fiction in 2002, after struggling for many years to write for adults. Up until then, I wasn’t enjoying my writing or my reading, but I couldn’t work out why. All that changed when I signed up for a short course run by YA and children’s author Linda Newbery – who has written many contemporary novels – and I read some of her books before I went. I enjoyed them so much I tried books by other YA authors… and then more books… and a couple of months after the course, I had a revelation. Why not try writing the contemporary adult novel I’d been struggling with for several years as a contemporary YA novel?
The end result was pretty horrible, and – quite rightly – was rejected by every publisher and agent I sent it to. But I was hooked, and started writing another, also a contemporary YA. This novel never even made it as far as being submitted to publishers, but it did win me a free critique with a leading manuscript assessment and editorial advice service. The feedback I got from them convinced me that I was on the right path and I started a third YA novel – yet another contemporary.
This one did go out on submission. After a few rejections, Carolyn Whitaker of London Independent Books asked to see more. And after working on the book with me for a few months, she started sending it out to publishers.
In the end, it was a near miss. I got some great feedback, but the novel didn’t get picked up, and I started to realise that maybe, as a writer, contemporary wasn’t the right genre for me. So the next novel I started was what would eventually become ACID, which sold in the summer of this year.
But even though I don’t write it any more, I still love to read contemporary YA. My characters might live in a world which has changed drastically from the one we know, but they still fall in love; they still have families; they still have issues; they still have to struggle to figure out the people around them and deal with the consequences when they don’t get it right. For me, the characters are what make the books in any genre work, and contemporary YA has, I hope, taught (and will continue to teach) me a huge amount about how make mine relatable and real. I have a lot to thank it for!