Your book looks fun, but do you worry sometimes that it looks like a YA paranormal romance, which might be outdated? Like maybe I just haven't read enough about it yet, I'm sorry if this comes across as mean, I'm genuinely curious. Thanks for all the fic your write!
Okay so my goal when writing Not So Shore was to take all the tropes I loved from the done-to-death ‘mortals meet’ genre of fanfic (the fun of the reader having information the point of view character doesn’t, dropping subtle references to the canon characters’ powers and experiences, having everyone be in awe of how cool the canon characters are) and write them without any of the horrible negative tropes that always seem to feature in those fics (over the top jealousy, slut shaming, unnecessary violence, no subtlety anywhere to be seen). I had so much fun writing it, and the response from all of you suggests you had fun reading it, too.
And I’m basically trying to do a very similar thing with my novel. I grew up riding the wave of popular Paranormal YA. I was there for the publication of Twilight and the thousands of series inspired by it. I’ve read most of them, because as a child I adored the stories of people like me visiting magical lands (Alice in Wonderland, HP, PJO, Narnia, LotR [in which the people like me are the hobbits lol], etc.) so it seemed a natural extension that as I entered my teen years I would follow this genre to its teenage equivalent.
It was supposed to be like the fantasy I loved reading, but darker and more mature, with slightly more graphic violence and more adult risks and consequences. But in its hormone ridden angst, Paranormal YA/Urban Fantasy lost a lot of the things that made me fall in love with fantasy in the first place.
- Gone was the focus on proving yourself worthy by doing good deeds and helping others; Instead you had to be snarky and “not like other girls” and worry more about your love interest than the fate of the world.
- Instead of quests completed by fire-forged friends, the only relationships developed (and I use that word loosely, in some cases) over the course of the books were the romantic ones. Friends were always pushed aside, no one ever understood the protagonist, but the protagonist never tried to get anyone to understand, because they were dark and moody and needed to do things on their own -
- Except, oh, no, they can’t do it on their own, because they’re a girl, and so they’re just going to sort of dither about before their big, strong male love interest comes along to save the day with physical violence. The protagonists rarely had the power, even when they were ‘the chosen one’ or when they should have had the opportunity to grow over the course of the novel. Or if they did have power, it was often so poorly developed that it just read like a massive deus-ex-machina invented purely for the finale.
- Their male love interests were rude to the point of abusive, had no sense of appropriate personal boundaries, and treated the protagonists as idiots who had to be talked down to at every opportunity, rather than people who were discovering entirely new worlds and were entitled to ask some questions.
- Protagonists no longer had strong morals; instead they flipped back and forth between choices (often between two love interests, hurting both in the process) and were reactive to circumstances changing around them, rather than forces for change.
- Dialogue was no longer inspiring, something to repeat to myself on dark days, to remind myself that there was always some good worth fighting for. Instead, everything was one of two extremes: It had to be sassy and referential, or it had to be so pretentious and faux-philosophical that no teenager alive would ever dare utter it for fear of eternal ridicule.
(This is not so say, of course, that the fantasy books I had enjoyed as a child did not have their own faults. They were overwhelmingly cast with straight, white men, or straight, white women who weren’t anywhere near as well developed. Any other diversity was hard to find, and women as romantic interests were often treated as props or rewards. Trouble was, these problematic aspects carried over into Paranormal YA/Urban Fantasy without bringing most of the good stuff with them.)
Obviously not every single Paranormal YA/Urban Fantasy was as disastrous as I am describing them here. But enough were for it to become a well known fact among the industry and readers that Paranormal YA was formulaic to the point where if you had read one you’d read fifty. I still loved the concept of the genre, obviously, or I wouldn’t have kept reading it, but the execution was letting me down.
So in my novel I’m taking the things I love about it - the mystery, the magic, the overlap of our world with something so entirely new and different hovering just beyond our perception, characters and things from that new world crossing over to ours, the dark overtones and the threat of real danger and violence - and I’m adding all the things I adored from fantasy back in, and putting the emphasis on female friendship.
YA has taken great leaps forward in terms of representation of marginalised groups, less problematic love interests, and more unique plotting, all of which is so amazing and absolutely fantastic to read. But I still find close, supportive, realistic female friendships lacking, and as most of the books I read are written by women I always find this preference to have their female protagonists always hanging out with guys puzzling. So although there is a romance between my female protagonist and a male character, it’s tertiary, behind the plot and the core group of female friends that drive it forward. I’ve tried to write each of the girls as unique individuals rather than stereotypes, as characters with their own goals and personalities and no tokenism, and I hope that their friendship reads as strongly and sincerely to you as it does to me.
I’m hoping that this distinction, the focus on characters and the relatively less-popular type of mythology I’ve decided to write about will be enough to convince a publisher to give me a chance. (The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater is the series that comes closest to what I’m trying to achieve in terms of tone and themes with my novel, which also gives me hope that there’s still a market for it. Although obviously I am nowhere near as skilled a writer as Maggie, and I can only aspire to one day be anywhere near her level.)
So, to finally come to the end of this extremely long winded answer to your relatively straight-forward question: This novel is like my love letter to everything I enjoyed about growing up reading Paranormal YA and Urban Fantasy, but with modern day priorities and diversity included, and all the shit bits thrown out (hopefully).