#YA with sex? Talking New Adult Fiction with Wende Dikec (with 3-Book #Giveaway)

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. 

Thanks, Wende!

(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.).

25 thoughts on “#YA with sex? Talking New Adult Fiction with Wende Dikec (with 3-Book #Giveaway)

  1. I am way out of the age range for YA, but I do read and enjoy several different YA authors. I’d like a bit more mature content, so New Adult might be a good choice. I will say that at least one of the YA series that I read does have characters that are having sex, it just doesn’t have (nor does it need) graphic sex scenes. Graphic sex scenes don’t bother me, unless they are written just for the sake of putting in a sex scene. They MUST advance the plot, or at least have a reason for being included. After all, we don’t need to know every time the characters visit the bathroom, so we don’t need to know every time they have sex.

  2. I read an occasional YA book and I don’t have a problem with slightly older characters and sex. But having younger teens in the family I would want to know that the books contain scenes which might not be appropriate for them.

  3. I LOVE Cora Carmack’s Losing It and Jennifer Armentrout’s New Adult series.

    I think what draws me to NA is the college setting – it’s fun, no parents, and lots of exploring going on, both academically and sexually 🙂

  4. I read a lot of YA. (I am 49) I have daughters that are 16 and 22. I have never censored what they read and I know they both have read books with sex in them. We have kindles and when I see a book that I think they will like I put it on theirs. I don’t always know about sexual content until after the youngest has read it. I don’t have time to pre-read her books. She has also read books that I put on there for myself that she knew had sex scenes. I like to think that she reads for the story and not for the sex scenes. We all read for the story. We don’t pay that much attention to whether it is YA, NA or adult.

  5. I’ve actually been reading a lot of NA books lately. I have to say, I enjoy quite a variety of genres, and I like that this new delineation of NA can separate the steamier reads from younger audiences.

  6. To me, the classifications of “YA”, “New Adult”, and “Adult” aren’t what get me to read a book. I don’t care which classification it falls into, as long as the story appeals to me. Although I do not want to read about kids under legal age of consent having sex.


  7. I enjoy reading a variety of books at many different levels, including YA, NA, and adult. The story is the main reason I select a particular book. Adding a NA level would certainly encourage older teens to continue reading.

  8. I actually fell into YA on accident. Once I picked up reading again, after a huge break, I dove into romance and all the sub genres but I steered clear of any and all YA. I was intrigued with some of the covers and titles but clearly, I was way past being a teen and I didn’t think it could give me what I wanted in a book and I didn’t think the characters would hold my interest. I was way into adult hood and enjoying the smexy bedroom scenes in my adult reads. I ended up entering a contest to win a book that I really wanted from an author I loved. She was also giving away books from author friends and books that she herself read and loved. I ended up winning, just not the book I wanted. I won a YA book and I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It sat on my bookshelf for several months until our household was hit with the flu. I just finished a book and needed to go out and buy a new one, but was to sick to leave the house. I picked up the YA book and not expecting to really like it and then was blown away with how much I ended up loving it! It brought me back to a time in my life that I never thought I would be able to revisit nor want to. It honestly made me feel young again and it was fun to see the chemistry between the characters have so much more emotion with just a kiss and a touch or a sly look and smile, hold much more or equal to that bedroom scene that I loved. I started to pick up more and found myself hooked and getting butterflies watching these characters overcome obstacles and being invested in the sweet romances. NA has been just as fun and I love that it bridges the gap and gives me just a little bit more in that bedroom department. I know a lot of YA authors and NA authors write specifically for a younger audience, but I think the storylines, their writing styles and the chemistry they give there characters are nothing short of amazing. Not only that, but they also tackle tough subjects and I love knowing that the books I now have on my shelf are not just naughty books that I need to keep my kids from but also books that I will keep on my shelf and know my daughter can pick them up and read them and will give us something fun to discuss

  9. NA does filled the gap between young adults and regular adults so it is a good fit that this genre came along..

  10. I’ve pretty much always been reading adult books. I got bored with childrens books at a very young age and they didnt really have many choices YA books back then too much, so I just went straight for the adult books. But I do like having the NA books around im 24 so im still in that age where it fits me. Its a good bridge for after high school. To me the NA that I’ve read just reads as an adult but it deals with people my age more so so I dont really see that much of a difference. Oh and as my grandma used to say if there isnt sex in it why should I read it?

  11. I read some YA, but I’m older and prefer my characters to be out of college, so I don’t think NA is going to be a favorite for me.

  12. I’m not so much of a fan of NA. For me, it’s just YA all the way! Plus, I’m more into fantasy and paranormal, and NA is all about romance and contemporary, and all the plot lines sound similar to me, to be honest.

  13. I do prefer adult books and read only a little bit YA and then only if authors I already enjoy venture out into YA. I am still leery of NA though. It is just a lot about real life problems and drama, and that is not why I read books.

  14. I LOVE new adult as I fall into that category itself. I always mix up my read with New Adult and adult. YA has its own charm but I can relate more to NA nowadays 🙂

  15. I read a lot of YA and have started reading a fair amount of NA. I really like it. It does seem like most of the NA books I’ve read are contemporary romance. But they also can deal with more mature subject matters than YA (not just sex).

    One of my absolute favorite new adult authors is Colleen Hoover. Both her Hopeless and Slammed series have blown me away. Amazing.

    jlkalman26 at gmail dot com

  16. I find it interesting and amazingly sad that many in our civilization, mostly men, have taken one of the most wonderful human interaction’s and form of communication, making love, turning it into rough aggressive sex that one only selfishly takes for themselves. Most generations have seemed handled this tendency reasonably but our current youth have a critical problem because of how easy it is for them to access online pornography.

    Though we teach our children about the birds and bees we rarely find it comfortable to describe them the various details of making love leaving them to rely on information from their peers or other sources. Commonly guys will say “Did you do her,” and girls who have many sexual experiences will be referred to as sluts where guys are studs.

    Any positive, descriptive information about the physical joy and wonderful bonding qualities of making love for New Adult readers surely can be only looked upon as not only entertaining but helpfully instructive. Not having read Johnson’s work I can’t vouch for the beneficial detail of intimate situations but since the author is represented by the Stringer Literary Agency no doubt it will be a welcome to this genre and serve as an example of the reality of human intimacy rather than the fiction of pornography.

  17. The majority of books I read are YA and I don’t really enjoy NA. I guess mature adults do appeal to most people though.

  18. I think that NA fills an important area of fiction, especially for teens. YA and NA are braver, in my opinion, than general fiction. They are specifically geared to teens and they do NOT shy away from controversial but IMPORTANT topics like teen suicide, bullying, drug addictions, and yes, sex. Teens need to see their peers in the things they read–they need something to connect to and feel that someone empathizes with the thoughts they’re struggling with and the things they’re going through. It’s like the Trevor Project and It Gets Better–that is SO important to an LBGTQ teen to see people like them, dealing with struggles and overcoming them. And NA has the license to get into the nitty-gritty details, and teens appreciate that they’re not being coddled. I was reading smutty romance as a teen, so it’s pretty laughable to say that NA themes are too adult for teens. That’s just continued trying to force them into a box. I say bring on the NA!

  19. I’ve read a couple of New Adult books and those that I have read I enjoyed . I think it’s great seeing books for my age group (20’s), young adult going into adulthood. Great topic.