Tag Archives: Lynne Ewing

Is Romance Necessary in YA?

6 Feb

Romance sells. (Or, as they usually say, sex sells.) And now more than ever, sex is being introduced into young adult literature every day. But that’s another debate for another day. Instead, I wanted to focus on the overall umbrella term of romance in YA.

Is romance necessary in every YA book?

The short answer is no, of course not. But the long answer is a lot more complicated.

If you’re a first-time author, then you probably already know the struggles of completing a manuscript, editing one, joining the query trenches, and understanding the marketplace.

More often than not, romance sells better than anything else.

Why? Well, we have to consider our buyer.

Ten years ago, YA literature was widely bought by the YA crowd (ages 14-18), but more recently, the average age of the YA buyer has increased to 20-25. (Hey, look! There’s me!) Granted, there is a lot of debate about this—and it’s hard to prove, considering adults can buy books as gift or teens can borrow books—but I love speaking to teens at my signings, and have listened to them say the same thing. A lot of young adults are reading fanfiction online instead, and hey, no shame! That’s awesome. I’m just happy when people are reading. But this fact has changed the marketplace, and I honestly believe that’s why we’re seeing more sex in YA literature, including less “fade to black” scenes. As an example, a YA book I just read had a one-night-stand between two inexperienced strangers, where both acted as if they were cool with it. Nothing wrong with that. Don’t get me wrong. But I cannot imagine reading that at 14 and feeling like I could relate, even though the characters were that age. However, I know some 14-year-olds can relate, and that’s fine! No worries. Just be safe. 🙂

That being said, at 14, I wanted to hang out with friends. I wanted to read books (and write them), and other than that, I ran around with my husky or my brother or studied a lot.

I particularly loved Ally Carter’s The Gallagher Girls books, because the romance was few and far in between. Same with Meg Cabot (specifically when she was known as Jenny Carroll and wrote the 1-800-Where-R-You series and the Mediator series). Oh! And Lynne Ewing’s Daughters of the Moon series. All of their YA books featured kickass, often hilarious, and always intelligent girls living life, figuring out a mess, and defeating any enemy they came across. Friendship mattered. Family, too. And, sure, sometimes a kiss was shared here or there, but romance never seemed to be the focus. Being a heroine was.

Granted, I must clarify that you can be focused on romance and still be a heroine. Please do not get me wrong. But I wish there were more YA books (in all genres) that allowed the characters to explore space, chase enemies, and save the world without falling in love, too.

Out of the last ten YA books I’ve read, the only one who featured no one falling in love was This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. Definitely recommended. (By the way, if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them below. I LOVE suggestions.)

Love that will never change? My love for YA

Love that will never change? My love for YA

Granted, I can admit I’m a hypocrite. I write YA, and every single one of my YA books has a romance subplot in it. That being said, my romantic plots are hardly romantic in comparison to popular YA books today. In Bad Bloods, Daniel and Serena kiss….twice?…in 600 pages. And that’s it. But hey, they’re trying to protect their families and survive a government out to kill them, so I think they have a lot on their hands.

They can always kiss later. If they even want to.

That being said, almost every editorial letter I’ve received included the suggestion of getting my characters “closer” or focusing more on their romantic endeavors rather than their friendships or families or fighting for the world they live in. And I find it increasingly frustrating.

While I can see the market value in focusing on these tropes, I feel an increasing value in the opposite of those aspects as well.

It’s okay to focus on studying and family and friendships instead of love. It’s a personal choice. But more than ever before, I feel pressured to include romance where romance isn’t necessary. Because of that pressure, I actually set out to include more romance in my latest, but sure enough, I found myself following the same pattern I always do: There is a romantic interest, but he’s on the sidelines while my protagonist is striving to…I don’t know…save the world or her sister or her friends. She’s too busy studying to think about some boy’s smile or (insert jewel description) eyes. But she does have her moments, albeit they are few and far in between, and at this point, I doubt they’ll survive my editing process. And I’m so torn about it.

I wanted to write romance. I tried. But I can’t. And I’m trying to be okay with that. I am trying to be okay with me.

I love romance. I enjoy reading it, and I sometimes seek it out. But I wish there were more books where girls (and boys) were simply living life or saving the world without romance. It’s okay not to date when you’re a teen. It’s okay not to have romantic feelings. It’s okay to be focused elsewhere.

I wanted to read about girls like that when I was 14, 15, 16, and even now, so I guess that’s why I write my books the way I do. It’s that fact that made me accept myself again. (Oh, and talking to a bunch of my fellow writer friends. They helped, too.)

Romance will definitely help you sell your book—be it to an agent, a publisher, or a reader—but don’t force it. The most important aspect of any book is to be true to your work, and if that means avoiding crushes and angst-ridden kisses, then so be it.

I will continue to have romantic subplots, because that is my style, but as of today, my protagonist will focus on her studies more. She might not even kiss anyone at all. And that’s perfectly A-okay with me. (And more importantly, okay with her.)

If one day she changes her mind, I will listen to her, and if she doesn’t, I will continue to listen to her. Why? My answer is simple.

A protagonist is enough without a love interest to back them up. So is a story.

~SAT

 

Books That Changed My Childhood

27 Aug

Announcements:

First, I would like to thank Between the Lines for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for a collection of wonderful awards, but second, I would like to thank the two latest reviewers of Take Me Tomorrow:

 The Modest Verge wrote, “The characters in this novel are just as complex, and just as complicated as The Timely Death Trilogy so if you enjoyed those characters you will love these. These are not just normal teenagers thrust into the unknown. These teenagers know that life can be upset in a single heartbeat. They know that lives can be irrevocably changed by the decisions or mistakes of a single person. This book is an adventure and I loved every single minute of it.” But you can read her entire review by clicking here.

Death on the Road focused on the genre in their review, stating, “It had a lot of action, was fast paced, discussed very serious things and made my first brush with YA dystopian fiction a pleasant one.” But you can read the entire review by clicking here.

Remember to send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want me to share your review of Take Me Tomorrow right here on ShannonAThompson.com! If you want to check out the novel, click here. I would love to share your thoughts.

Books That Changed My Childhood:

This was actually inspired by Cassandra Clare’s video Books That Changed My Life. I started compiling a list when…well, like any avid reader would say, it got a little out of control, so I condensed it down to times in my life, and I thought it would be fun to show the books that changed my childhood. Why is this important? I’m a big believer in going backwards. For instance, if you’re a writer and struggling with writing, I think going backwards to a time where you only wrote for fun can help remind you why you love writing in the first place. (But that’s explained in my old post Sharing Childhood Inspiration.)

So I’m sharing my list by starting at the beginning and stopping around age 14. That being said, I definitely can’t share all of them. I am only sharing the first ones that pop into my head, and I think this list would change depending on my day (which I think is the neat part!) I hope you share your lists below, too. So check it out. 😀

1. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman – This is the first book I remember reading, but it’s also the first one I carried around…oh, just about everywhere. This might have been the first sign that I would be obsessed with books in the future.

 2. You Choose Stories: Scooby Doo Mystery – The amount of amazement I had for these was unreal. I could read and choose how the story went? I didn’t have to just read? Oh. My world changed. I loved reading these over and over and over again just to see how much one story could change from one event changing. This might have been the first sign that I wanted to be a writer.

3. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine – Oh, the delightful horror I had reading these books. These were actually bought for my older brother, but I had a habit of stealing his things, so I ended up reading these, too. And I’ve loved horror and scary stories ever since. I cannot wait for American Horror Story to begin.

4. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I obsessed over these books. I loved the books, the computer games, and pretty much anything else associated with them.

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5. The BFG by Roald Dahl – Again, my brother had an influence on this one. It was one of his favorite novels, and he gave me his copy to read. I had a house bed, and I kept this book in my shutters for years, constantly trying to figure out what I loved about it. Maybe it was the bone-crunching.

6. Dear America series – I had an entire collection of these books. I was obsessed. I could learn about history and be entertained. This was a new concept to me when I was younger.

7. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne – It’s safe to say that Twister on Tuesday might have been the cause of my phobia when I was moving to Kansas.

8. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix – I felt like this was the first middle grade fiction book that didn’t hold back.

9. 1-800-Where-R–You series by Meg Cabot – Wait. So a girl gets struck with lightning and can find missing people? That’s…different…and totally awesome! Meg Cabot’s books definitely changed my perspective on fiction, specifically paranormal fiction and how unique it could be. She also includes badass women in her young-adult books. Who couldn’t like that?

10. Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing – I’ve mentioned it once, and I’ll mention it again. I loved this series growing up. It was about four girls (the daughters of the moon) kicking ass, and it also revolved around mythology. Not only did this book further my obsession with the paranormal but it also reminded me of my favorite childhood show, Sailor Moon, and it reaffirmed my love for the type of fiction I grew up with.

Oh, how I want to keep going, but I’m probably stopping around age 14. Maybe I’ll continue this list with the books that changed my life as I got older. It will definitely include 1984, but that’s for another post. For now, these are the top 10 childhood novels that came to mind, but what about yours? Did any books you read as a kid influence your reading decisions as an adult?

~SAT

Enough is Enough. I am not ashamed that I read Manga.

6 Jul

Two announcements before I begin today’s post about reading Manga:

The Nerdy Girlie is giving away two journals along with an eBook of Minutes Before Sunset to one lucky winner. You can join the raffle until July 10 so click here, join, and good luck!

I’m also going to start putting the title at the top of my post after the separation between announcements and the articles, so they are easier if you don’t want to read my announcements. (But please do!) Being able to share my author life with you all means a lot to me, and your kind support is the extra boost of energy I need when the author life gets tousled around in chaotic troubles.

Enough is Enough. I am not ashamed that I read Manga.

So – originally – I was hoping to upload a new video to my YouTube Channel Coffee & Cats (since I haven’t in two months!) but I was unable to, so my plan didn’t work out, but I am planning on uploading a new video soon. That being said, I sat in front of my laptop last night, slightly panicking over which topic I wanted to talk about instead. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know I’m a planner. I have dozens of pre-written blog posts for moments like this, but I just couldn’t share one of those today because I had this urge to share what is at the tip of my tongue, and that is Sailor Moon. If you didn’t know, a remake released last night all around the world. (And it was amazing!)

But Shannon, wait, you only blog about reading and writing…What does Sailor Moon have to do with that?

A lot…to me. Maybe not to you. But stay with me because I’ll explain everything soon.

You see – to me – Sailor Moon is more than just a silly cartoon that played in the 90’s. I still remember the first time I saw it. I was sitting on the floor in my grandparents’ living room, watching it on a little, old television that could be turned to black and white by opening a panel on the right side and twisting a knob. If you turned the knob too far, everything flickered to neon green. (I got a kick out of doing this!) After that first episode, I was hooked – or obsessed, however you want to say it.

Photo from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal website

Photo from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal website

At this point, you might still be wondering – Sailor Moon is a television show. Seriously, why are you blogging about this?

Because it has to do with some hard reading lessons I learned.

Sailor Moon, yes, started out as a television show for me, but I grew up, and it disappeared from daytime television shortly afterward. At some point during my preteen years, I remembered that show because I read Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing (still one of my favorite YA series) and it reminded me of my once-loved show. So I went searching, and I found out it was a comic book. I did not know the word “manga” yet, and I definitely didn’t know how different (and more mature) the manga was compared to the show I watched as a kid. But I quickly learned after that.

I read every manga I could get my hands on. (And I hid this because I was embarrassed.) You see, I feel like manga has a worse reputation than reading YA as an adult – it’s something we should ashamed of. Adults don’t read cartoons. Teens shouldn’t read cartoons. That stuff is for kids. Blah. Blah. Blah. It goes on and on. And I will admit that I fell into this at one point. I even asked for gift receipts at the local bookstore because a clerk once said something about how he could never read something like that. What can I say? I was fourteen and impressionable. Now, that I’ve gotten over it, I can admit that I was embarrassed because I fell into reading bullying.

But enough is enough.

I like manga. I like it a lot. It’s currently one of my “go-to” reads, especially when I can’t afford novels (or the bookstore is closed because it’s two in the morning, and I need a break.) But I read it anyway. I read it because I like it.

I’ve only started admitting to reading it within the past year. Perhaps this is because I’m older, and I don’t see a reason to hide it anymore. (And now I’m ashamed that I hid it at all.) After all, grown adults read Spider-Man and go to the theatres to watch Iron Man – both of which are comic books – but I, somehow, convinced myself that manga was different, that it was childish and immature and weird.  And it’s not just me. When I started admitting to reading it, I had friends and family say the same things (ironically, as they were talking about the new Batman movie.) It was almost like Marvel and DC comic books are acceptable, but manga isn’t.

Manga is not weird or childish or immature or something we should be ashamed of. It’s just like everything else. It can have bad and good stories with great characters, mystical plots, and wonderful emotions.

To me, watching the new Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal last night reminded me of how strongly I feel about this subject. Even though it was an anime that I started with and not the manga, it turned me on to manga. (Warning. I’m about to fangirl like crazy.)

Seriously. If only Bogart looked like this.

Seriously. If only Bogart looked like this.

You see, Sailor Moon is more than Sailor Moon to me. It was independence. It was power. It was being graceful and strong at the same time. It was not relying on a man but also not hating on men. It was friendship AND love. It was wearing boots with heels on them. It was kicking ass, being equal, and finding strength within yourself while believing in the strengths of others around you.

Oh. And a black cat. (Seriously. If Bogart was female, he would’ve been named Luna.)

Stories are more than stories to fans. They make up intricate parts of ourselves and resonate in our every day lives as lessons, hopes, and dreams. No, my dream is not to wear a mini-skirt and fight the Dark Kingdom. But it is to be true to myself and fight whatever it takes to get there. To me, even though Usagi cries and whines at the beginning, she grows into herself and she always steps up to the challenge. Always. And she’s never selfish when it comes to her relationships with her various loved ones. (Unless you consider getting bad grades selfish…then, okay. I’ll give her that.)

So, go ahead – poke fun at the fact that I’m 23 and reading a manga or a comic book. You can’t hurt me. You can only hurt yourself but not giving various types of literature a chance. You might miss out a story that resonates with you for the rest of your life.

But if I had to be completely honest, the older I get, the more I don’t understand reading bullying. It’s pointless and destructive. Please don’t make fun of anyone for reading anything. Seriously. It is okay if a type of literature isn’t for you, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to hate it. Read what you enjoy. Give new things a chance, and even if you don’t like it, don’t bully other readers. What if you bully the next J.K. Rowling, but that reader never becomes a writer because they are turned away from reading because of reader bullying? Let them read what they enjoy, and perhaps, you’ll both find new types you enjoy when you support one another.

~SAT

Genders Aren’t Defining Features: Why I’m Tired of Seeing Female Characters Described as Weak and Male Characters Hardly Being Discussed at all.

14 Jun

First, thank you so much for supporting the eBook release of Seconds Before Sunrise on June 12. I wanted to remind everyone that you can get my latest novel for only $0.99 on Smashwords by using the code – BW58C – but you can also go to Amazon and various websites.

Secondly, thank you to Jonas Lee for showcasing me on his website.

And lastly, I have a disclaimer: Today is obviously going to be a heavy discussion. I am not going to pretend that I could cover every little detail that I wish I could discuss. I couldn’t. Not even close. And I was quite sad to see the amount of information I had to delete just to have a reasonable blog post instead of a practice dissertation. That being said, I do plan on sharing more in the future if you would like me to continue this conversation, but I want this to be a positive place on the internet to discuss this topic. From the research I share below, I know how this topic can become highly sensitive very fast. Bullying, stereotyping, name-calling, and other spiteful comments will not be tolerated. I would also like to apologize to those who do not define themselves as male or female. Instead of discussing specifics, I will be discussing the beginning of my research and how the most popular results reflected my frustrations with judgment in literature.

Love,

SAT

Oh, no. I pulled out the gender card. I’m going to be one of those hardcore feminists – (whatever that word actually means ::sarcasm::) – and yes, I will be ranting about the stigmas of today’s world. Watch as people come running, some with popcorn, others with absolute disdain.

What else is new?

It’s a sad fact that I even struggled to write this piece. I’ve been working on it on-and-off for weeks now, wondering what was appropriate, how best to word it, and where to begin, but I should’ve been asking myself one thing: why censor myself at all?

The publishing industry isn’t new to this conversation, so I’m not going to bother with specific character examples. No matter what kind of reader you are, I am sure you’ve heard the debates over various female protagonists being “weak-minded” or “submissive” or “incapable.” In contrast – yes – there are conversations about male leads, but I do not believe they are nearly as judgmental as the discussions that go on and on about female leads.

What’s my proof?

Since I cannot go on forever, I found these two lists:

Yep. The stats for judging females are tripled, if not more, compared to their male counterparts, and that is only one set of lists on Goodreads alone. Even more unfortunate is how much these conversations continue through the depths of the chaotic Internet waves, never-ending, always judging.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am not blaming any specific person for this trend. I am not attacking men. I am not attacking women. I am not attacking any of the participants on voting lists or the writers of the articles I am about to share. I simply want to discuss how we – as readers – are judging women in novels more harshly when we shouldn’t be judging any gender at all.

I decided to start where most Internet addicts go – Google – and I knew I wanted to focus on how male and female leads in literature are judged, so I read a few articles here and there when I kept coming across something along these lines: “Author A should be ashamed for creating a character like this for girl’s (or boy’s) to look up to.”

Every discussion generally came back to the author, including an author’s history, religion, or other personal information. As an author myself, this disturbed me because I am adamant that authors are NOT their characters. Yes, some use real-life inspiration but that does not mean that the author intends for a young girl or boy to look up to a fictional character so much that they start repeating their actions. It’s important for readers to separate themselves from characters. (Ouch. I know.) I love characters, too. Some characters I’ve read have helped me through many difficult times in my life, and they will always be close to my heart, but I wouldn’t dress in a green dress to fight demons and fall in love with my enemy just because Serena does that in Daughters of the Moon. And I doubt Lynne Ewing wanted my 12-year-old self to sneak out of the house to fight paranormal crime anymore than my parents did. I am not saying you cannot look up to characters. You definitely can. But there’s a difference in looking up to a character and allowing a fiction world to dictate your decisions in reality.

But I’m moving on from that—(I could talk about that all night)—I want to talk about the next piece of research I did.

What does it mean to be a “good” male or female character?

mint-male-symbol-hiThis is when I returned to handy-dandy Google. I’m about to share the results that bothered me, but I need to take a moment to clarify that this isn’t going to be about how to write that character that will never be judged.

A)   Every character will always be judged

B)   The results are what I’m focusing on because they show how we focus our judgment in gender roles.

Here are pre-typed suggestion results:

When I Googled “How to write a good male character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good male dating profile came up first. (Followed by social media profile, THEN character, and then a personal ad)

When I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good female protagonist came up first. (Followed by female lead, villain, and THEN dating profile.)

It seems we are more nervous writing about a female character than a male character in literature. We’re also curious about villains and leads. But these did not show up in the top four for males.

As frustrating as this was, I continued to Google anyway. I wanted to see the articles. I wanted more insight. I wanted to see what authors “should” be doing and what readers think, so here are the top articles I found: (these articles are informative and amazing pieces. My point is NOT against them, but how we view writing female and male characters in general.)

I Googled “How to write a good male character” These are the first articles that pop up:

Here’s something you should know about me. I HATE the words masculine and feminine. Perhaps because I have constantly been told that I’m a rather masculine girl, “one of the boys”, part of the gang, a “cool” girl. This generally happens because I drive a manual, collect knives, and have seen more dead animals than I would care to admit. I hate makeup, and I wear combat boots every day. I’m used to it. Whatever. What I hate is that these things are “masculine” – that if I do it, I am “masculine” – but so are female characters. In fact, I was reading an article that told female writers to stop having their female characters driving sticks, because it is a lazy attempt to get her to seem deep.

What the actual hell.

red-basic-female-symbol-hiFirst of all, driving a manual isn’t deep. (I should know. I drive one.) It’s learning how to press an extra pedal and move the gears around. Second of all, whether a female is driving a stick or a male is driving a stick, it shouldn’t be seen as masculine or feminine or a blatant attempt to break some weird social stigma we deal with every day. Third of all…UGH. In this belief, there is no winning with female characters. You lose if you use stereotypes and you lose if you don’t because you’re seen as purposely trying to stray away from “realistic” expectations. (This is also where I would like to point out that there are many articles complaining about the various dystopian novels and their female leads being so capable with weapons… I don’t even live in “dystopia” and I have weapons. Try me.)

In case you want the other results, here are the top three articles I found when I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • How to Write a Main Female Character: this article actually begins stating that female characters are the most complex characters, but I have an argument. We need to stop thinking of women as more complex than men. We’re human. We’re all complex. And a good character – no matter the gender – will be complex.
  • Overcoming Object Love: How to Write Female Leads Who Are People: The title sounds horrible, but the writer does tackle another issue: female characters being treated as “objects, objectives, or incentives.” But it’s terribly sad that we live in a world where we have to CLARIFY that woman are people, too, so female characters should reflect that. I definitely did not see anything close to this on the male results.
  • On Writing Strong (Female) Characters: Again, nothing against the articles. I just dream of a day where articles are based on writing strong characters without focusing on what gender they are.

Just a quick summary: when I research male characters, the results were directed on how women can write them as masculine, and when I searched female characters, I was exposed to objectification. Both of the results revealed gender stereotypes I disdain – both in society and in literature. This isn’t just an article about how we need to stop judging female characters. We need to stop stereotyping male characters, too. But here is my main question:

Can we please stop judging all of our characters based on their genders?

When we do this, we are teaching young readers that they won’t be safe – not even in fiction. That might seem extreme to some, but let’s look at the widely popular complaint: “That female character was weak because of x, y, and z.”

A weakness should never be based on the expectations of a gender, but I would even go so far as to say that we need to stop calling characters weak in general. One (wo)man’s weakness is another (wo)man’s strength, and sometimes, they are the same thing. That is the complexity in literature. That is the complexity of life. And gender shouldn’t devalue the moral ambiguity displayed in various novels in a world filled with so many genres and eclectic tastes. The physical description should be the last thing we mention.

Genders do not define us. They shouldn’t define our characters either. 

~SAT

men-women-holding-hands-hi

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