Jen and I are both enjoying the recent trend in New Adult romance. It seems whenever it’s discussed, questions arise as to what qualifies a romance as “New Adult” etc. so we decided to ask a few authors of New Adult romance to weigh in. Today we have Tammara Webber author Easy, and the Between the Lines series.
FVBR: Besides the ages of the hero and heroine, what is difference between Young Adult, New Adult and Adult romance. What specifically qualifies a novel as New Adult?
TW: At the moment, New Adult (NA) is not an official category – it’s a label that’s been knocked around since St. Martin’s Press coined the term for a submission contest in late 2009. Those who use it seem agreed that the protagonists are (generally) in the 17-24 age range. The argument to authenticate NA as more than a marketing label is complicated. Categories, their subsets and applicable BISAC codes are governed (created and retired) by the board of the Book Industry Study Group (http://www.bisg.org).
The main issue concerns which over-arching category would house NA – something that authors, publishers and booksellers can’t seem to agree upon. There are only two choices: Juvenile Fiction (which includes ALL “children’s” fiction, board books to YA) or Fiction (which includes ALL adult fiction).
Romance is a popular genre subset of the (adult-implied) Fiction category. An HEA is expected, and sex can range from very mild to graphic.
Young Adult (YA) books have a reader age range of 12-18, despite the fact that books at the mature end of YA are often inappropriate for 12 year-olds… and most 18-year-olds would be bored to death by books found interesting by 12-year-olds. (Ignore Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, which are literary enigmas – if publishers had any clue how to replicate these, they would replicate the s*** out of them.) YA books may or may not include romance, but a coming-of-age theme is standard. YA Romances may conclude with an HEA or not, but they will illustrate positive growth in the protagonist, complete with lessons learned and battles fought – whether external or internal.
Some suggest that sexual content and/or darker issues should require a book to be categorized as (adult) Fiction. But traditionally published YA novels like Perfect Chemistry, The DUFF, Looking For Alaska and The Sky is Everywhere are all dark-themed, respected examples of YA literature containing sex, alcohol and strong language. Books like Slammed, Reason to Breathe, Easy, and Gayle Forman’s books Where She Went and Just One Day have all been termed NA, and all contain strong coming-of-age elements that lend the stories a “young adult” feel. In addition, Forman’s novels – traditionally published under a YA imprint and shelved in Young Adult at Barnes & Noble – have college-aged protagonists and sexually active characters.
As a former undergraduate academic advisor and a parent whose children range in age from 17-23, I can attest that few college students have life all worked out. They may be financially dependent on parents, at least partially. They’re learning how to deal with mundane adult issues like paying rent and buying groceries while balancing work, academics and social life with limited parental input. They’re developing viewpoints and beliefs concerning romantic relationships. In other words – they’re still very much coming of age. Should “NA” should be contained within YA? My opinion: It depends.
FVBR: New Adult seems to be gaining popularity with readers who tend to shy away from Young Adult novels. What do you think it is about New Adult romance that appeals to readers who generally prefer adult romance?
TW: I believe NA is most popular with crossover readers of (romantic) YA and adult romance, because most NA-labeled novels (at the moment) are contemporary romances. Many books labeled NA fit perfectly under contemporary romance: Beautiful Disaster and Thoughtless, for example. Publishers have recently admitted (in terms of large advances and publishing contracts) the clear self-published success of stories with post high-school, 18-23 year-old heroines, when for years they’d declared there was no market for them. Obviously, that was wrong.
FVBR: What audience are you targeting when you write a New Adult novel? Are you going after the 18-24 market similar to your characters in the books or are you trying to reach a broader age range? If so, how do you do that?
TW: The audience I picture is very specific: a romance-reading female in her upper teens. My female protagonists range in age from 17-20. Before the NA craze, I categorized my books as (mature) YA. I believe stories resonate with certain readers or they don’t, and that author-reader connection is nearly impossible to predict. If authors actively attempt to satisfy everyone within a wide, varied audience, they are more likely to fail.
FVBR: New Adult has been described as Harry Potter meets 50 Shades of Grey by some readers. How graphic do you think you can get with New Adult writing? Is there a specific point where you have to draw the line in sex scenes?
TW: When I read that statement in a NYT article, it irritated me more than anything else I’ve seen written about NA to date. It was a ludicrous assertion, made by someone who’d not bothered to research the subject of the journalistic assignment. As examples of this new “sexually-explicit” category, the article references Slammed (contains no sex whatsoever) and Easy (contains YA-appropriate levels of sexual activity). The majority of popular NA-labeled novels are either YA-comparable romances with slightly older characters… or contemporary romances with slightly younger-than-normal characters.
How graphic can an author get with NA sex scenes? Imagine you’re required to choose between two shelves for your book: YA or Romance. If your answer is YA, then stick at the realistic end of YA. Push the envelope, perhaps, but not in a way that you wouldn’t feel comfortable defending. If your answer is Romance, then all bets are off, because you’re writing an adult book, and you’re free to write whatever you want.
FVBR: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today Tammara.
You can visit Tammara on her website and learn more about her books.