According to a list recently released by Forbes, three of the top five highest paid authors are James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer, and Rick Riordan. What do they all have in common, aside from millions of dollars? Books that appeal to both adults and youth.
Because the market for young adult novels is booming, writers are naturally beginning to follow the trend. Their reasons for crossing over, however, are as varied as their writing styles.
Richelle Mead—Because Her Agent Asked
Richelle Mead began her career writing the Georgina Kincaid series about a succubus with a problematic love life. Her agent suggested she write a young adult series about vampires, because the creatures were becoming increasingly popular. Her bestselling Vampire Academy series concluded in December 2010 with Last Sacrifice, but she has a spin-off series called Bloodlines launching today featuring Sydney the alchemist, a secondary character from the Vampire Academy series. Mead said that she drew from her experience teaching high school students—and her respect for their intelligence—to write her young adult characters. She believes that adults are more similar to teenagers than they are willing to admit.
Christie Craig/C.C. Hunter—Because Her Editor Asked
Since 2007, Christie Craig has been known for her “sexy, suspenseful and seriously funny” novels, beginning with Divorced, Desperate and Delicious. Craig decided to tackle a YA novel after she was asked by an editor at St. Martin’s who was familiar with her work to write a story about “paranormal camp.” In February 2011, Craig’s alterego C.C. Hunter emerged with the publication of her first YA novel, Born at Midnight, about a girl with special abilities who gets sent away to a camp for paranormal teens. In order to write in the unknown genre, Craig read the work of other YA authors and studied mythology for inspiration. She also drew from her own teenage identity crisis and struggles with dyslexia in order to create her flawed but lovable heroine.
Lyda Morehouse/Tate Hallaway—Because She Wanted to Be Cool
Tate Hallaway wrote four sci-fi novels under her given name Lyda Morehouse before she decided to take her career in a different, more lucrative direction by writing a paranormal romance series that launched in 2006 with Tall, Dark and Dead. The series concluded in 2010, the same year that Hallaway’s new YA series, the Vampire Princess of St. Paul, debuted with Almost to Die For—an intriguing story about a half-witch, half-vampire princess with some very unusual powers. Hallaway said that she decided to write YA because it was the “it” genre that all the “cool” writers were publishing in. She also wanted to feature a nerdy teenage girl as the heroine and not just the sidekick.
Sharie Kohler/Sophie Jordan—Because Her Friends Were Doing It
Sophie Jordan, a.k.a. Sharie Kohler, started writing historical romance novels for Avon in 2006 and paranormal romance novels for Pocket in 2007. Inspired by her critique partner, the YA author Tera Lynn Childs, Jordan decided to try her hand at writing a YA novel. She found that the genre had broadened considerably since she was a teen, and she could use her skills at writing steamy romances and apply them to more innocent characters. Her first YA novel Firelight, about a clan of beleaguered were-dragons, debuted in September 2010, and her next book in the series, Vanish, will be released September 6, 2011.
Kathryn Smith/Kady Cross—Because She Loves the Genre
Kathryn Smith’s first novel was published by Avon romance in 2001. Over the next decade, she became a USA Today bestselling author of historical and paranormal novels. She also wrote two YA historicals in 2002, but she didn’t have the opportunity to write more. When Harlequin launched their line of teen fiction, one of their editors knew Smith was interested in writing another YA novel and asked her to submit a proposal. Smith, who’d fallen in love with the steampunk genre, proposed a story set in a warped version of Victorian England where science and magic collide, and The Girl in the Steel Corset, written under the name Kady Cross, was released in May 2011.
Katie Crouch—Because of the Money
Katie Crouch, who has an M.F.A. from Columbia, published two literary fiction novels—Girls in Trucks in 2008 and Men and Dogs in 2011—but she found that her genre of choice was far from lucrative. As a result, she co-authored the YA novel The Magnolia League in 2011, a fascinating novel set in Savannah, Georgia about a girl who dabbles in magic and hoodoo in order to make her wildest dreams come true—at a price, of course. Unfortunately, Crouch and her co-author Grady Hendrix wrote an article for Slate in which they described themselves as “literary predators” who poached on children and took their money. They described the YA voice as “teenagerish and immature” and said that teens didn’t want literary perfection—they just wanted a good story. While the article wasn’t entirely negative, it did offend many advocates and fans of the YA genre and should be used as a cautionary tale for those authors who wish to cross over—they must respect their audience.
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.