February 7, 2015
IN SEARCH OF THE MEANING OF DEATH, SHE’LL FIND THE MEANING OF LIFE.Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to the isolated cove of Twycombe, Devon, with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.To believe the impossible.
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Dealing with YA tropes
by Megan Tayte
Any author has to find a balance between writing the book that s/he wants, needs, to write and writing a book that readers hopefully want to read.
“What?” I hear some fellow authors cry. “You admit to considering marketability in your writing? You don’t just write for yourself, whatever strikes your fancy, and then expect readers to jump on board?”
I hold my hands up: I do think carefully about the market. About the young adult genre, and its tropes. About what readers expect when they pick up a young adult novel. And I don’t think that’s to the detriment to my craft. I think it gives me a framework within which to work, and a means by which to build a relationship with readers.
I’ve been reading young adult fiction since the dawn of the genre, and in recent years I’ve worked on plenty of titles in my job as an editor and ghostwriter. So I’m well familiar with the tropes and the discussions that spring up around them. Fascinating discussions which I wholeheartedly welcome, because we should keep thinking about the young adult genre and challenging its authors, so that the genre continues to innovate and inspire and grow.
Here’s one argument: Tropes are clichéd. Tropes are unoriginal. Tropes are stifling. Ditch ’em all and write new, new, new.
(Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry, I have to insert my thought bubble here)
And in the opposing camp: Tropes are essential to the genre: they’re its backbone. All young adult literature must include several and stay true to their interpretations.
Personally, I sit in the middle.
In my own writing, I bring in several tropes that will be recognisable to readers. For example, in The Ceruleans the heroine, Scarlett, is seventeen and summering alone in her grandparents’ cottage: lots of freedom with no interfering parents about. Familiar? Yes. Unrealistic? No. In fact it’s authentic because it’s based on my own summer between school and university, when I lived independently – and those three months were the making of me.
Beyond the tropes I happily embrace there are those I challenge. The biggest one is the heroine’s reaction to discovering the existence of a supernatural world and her place in it. Readers are familiar with this journey: There’s something odd going on > Holy cow, xxx exist! > I’m ‘special’ too/want to be one of them/am in love with one of them > I’m transformed and so happy in my supe skin. In The Ceruleans, Scarlett reacts differently. She’s sucked into a life where she’s supposed to be ‘special’ and delighted by it, but truth be told, she’s not. She’d really rather just have a simple life as a human – she doesn’t cope well with the responsibilities and limitations of being other than human. And as for who she falls in love with… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the story, but certainly the kind of strength she most values in a guy isn’t of the supernatural sort.
For me, writing in a genre comes down to following the maxim ‘the same, only different’. By ‘the same’ I don’t mean copying other authors; I mean following enough of the conventions of the genre so that my books belong within it. And as for ‘different’ – well, that’s what makes the books worth reading, what makes them memorable, what makes a difference to readers.
Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess fireman. 'Write, Megan,' her grandmother advised. So that's what she did.
Thirty-odd years later, Megan writes the kinds of books she loves to read: young-adult paranormal romance fiction. Young adult, because it's the time of life that most embodies freedom and discovery and first love. Paranormal, because she's always believed that there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. And romance, because she's a misty-eyed dreamer who lives for those 'life is so breathtakingly beautiful' moments.
Megan grew up in the Royal County, a hop, skip and a (very long) jump from Windsor Castle, but these days she makes her home in Robin Hood's county, Nottingham. She lives with her husband, a proud Scot who occasionally kicks back in a kilt; her son, a budding artist with the soul of a paleontologist; and her baby daughter, a keen pan-and-spoon drummer who sings in her sleep. When she's not writing, you'll find her walking someplace green, reading by the fire, or creating carnage in the kitchen as she pursues her impossible dream: of baking something edible.
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