Please join me in welcoming author Wende Dikec to Preternatura today!
Wende lives in a small town in western Pennsylvania with her rather culture shocked European husband and three teenaged sons. She writes both young adult and new adult fiction, and is represented by Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Literary Agency (who’s also my agent, and a fabulous one!). Wende is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, and Pennwriters, and she teaches a writing class for children every summer through the Young Writers’ Institute. Wende is a java junkie, a trekkie, a book addict, and a world traveler. Her first book, SO PRETTY, is currently on submission.
And now, let’s hear from Wende (and stay tuned for a giveaway, of course)!
Sex and the New Adult Novel
I have always been a young adult writer. I was comfortable in that genre. It felt safe to me. My books had a romantic element, but other than a few awkward and yet passionate kisses, there wasn’t much more I had to write involving sexuality. Young adult, or YA, is for teenagers, and my books were aimed at the youngest of the teenagers, readers between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.
I’m not stupid. I do realize that some children in my age group are already sexually active. But I’m a mother as well as a writer, and I wanted to keep my books safe enough and clean enough for anyone.
Then I decided to try my hand at a new genre. I wanted to stretch myself as a writer, and learn something new. I ended up going to the dark side. I wrote a “new adult” novel.
New adult fills a gap between YA and adult fiction. It mainly focuses on older teenagers and people in their early twenties. It has been given a mixed reaction by critics. Some call it “sexed up YA.” Others think of it as smut for teenagers. I saw it as an opportunity to write something different for a more mature and sophisticated audience.
I approached it cautiously. I wasn’t sure I would be able to write sex scenes, and that was a major stumbling block for me. I’m not a prude, but I am a somewhat modest person and I don’t usually discuss sex or sexual issues very openly. I decided just to put my fears aside and go for it.
The book started well. I liked the story and the characters. I had fun including some profanity (something I hadn’t done in YA). I enjoyed bringing up sexual topics and making several jokes and references, but it took twenty six chapters for my characters to finally do the deed.
I built up to it slowly. There was more kissing and petting and male arousal than I had ever even considered putting in my YA books, but it felt very natural to me. It fit the book, and it fit my characters.
When my characters did finally do the horizontal mambo, it was much easier to write than I ever anticipated. I didn’t feel shy, or ashamed about what I’d written. My characters were young and in love. Adding a physical dimension to their relationship was the right thing to do. It was perfectly normal.
The only problem I encountered was once they started, I couldn’t get them to stop. Like any healthy young couple who were very much in love, they were boinking like bunnies. I had to reign them in just a bit. I’d gone from not being able to write sex scenes, to having to stop myself from writing too many sex scenes. It turned out, to my great surprise, that writing about sex was much easier than I had ever anticipated.
New adult is not a category for everyone. Like any up-and-coming genre, it has its critics and its champions. I personally feel that anything that will get teenagers to read, or keep teenagers reading, is a good thing. And the more tough topics a book addresses, whether bullying or drinking or abuse or sex, the better it is for kids in the long run.
New adult freed me to write for a broader audience while still writing about characters who are young and fresh and full of promise. Writing about sex no longer bothers me. It has become a non-issue, in fact.
The only concern I have is if my YA readers were to pick up one of my new adult books and be exposed to subject matter that is a bit beyond them. I’ve decided to use a pen name for my new adult books for that reason, and also so that my mother will never read them. Because as comfortable as I am writing about sex now, I will never, ever, ever, ever be comfortable with my mother reading what I wrote about sex. Or my children. Or my Grandma.
On second thought, my ninety two-year-old grandma would probably be okay with it. After all, most of the dirty jokes and sexual references I actually know, I learned from her.
Maybe that will be the next genre I take a stab at, something about sex for seniors. Hmmm. It would involve a lot of wrinkled bottoms and sagging parts, but I think I just might be able to do it.
(And thanks for putting an image of geriatric sex scenes in my head!)
So, I know a lot of you guys read some YA, and we’re seeing more and more “New Adult” titles. Do you like the idea of sexy, slightly older YA characters? If you read primarily adult fiction like myself, would “New Adult” appeal to you more than YA? Leave a comment to be entered for your chance to win a three-book assortment from my Mt. Everest of TBA books in your choice of genre or a $10 gift card from Amazon, B-and-N (or equivalent from Book Depo if you’re outside the U.S.).