Wende Dikec writes Young Adult, New Adult, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She has three books coming out in 2016, TIGER LILY (January 2016, Inkspell Publishing), STARR VALENTINE (March 2016, Inkspell Publishing), and TRAVELLER (2016, The Wild Rose Press, writing as Abigail Drake). After travelling the world and living abroad for many years, she now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three sons, a puppy named Capone, and a very well used espresso machine.
Young Adult vs. New Adult
I started my writing career in the safe and happy world of Young Adult fiction. It was easy for me because I knew the rules and was very familiar with the genre. I wrote several books, two of which will be published by Inkspell Publishing in 2016 (TIGER LILY in January and STARR VALENTINE in March).
When I first heard about the New Adult genre, I was intrigued. It was described to me as Young Adult with more sexual content and mature subject matter. Easy peasy. I could do that. Or so I thought.
I wrote a book called TRAVELLER about a twenty-one year old girl on a study abroad trip to England. She was a former Junior Miss Kentucky who won beauty pageants using martial arts as her talent, and ends up employing those skills to fight monsters. There is a love interest (a sexy gypsy mercenary warrior) and there is sexual content. I thought I’d written my first NA. Ding, dong – I was wrong.
After speaking with Katherine Ernst, a NA adult author and one of the founders of Jasper Ridge Press, I finally understood NA and realized exactly why my book was not NA. Once she explained it, it seemed so simple and clear. I had no idea why I hadn’t caught on before.
New Adult is the genre referring to books for 18-26 year olds (mostly women). There can be other interpretations of this genre, and it is ever changing, but this is my understanding of the concept. There have always been books for 18-26 year olds, and there have always been protagonists in this age group. They were just not called “New Adult.” They were referred to as paranormal, or contemporary, or women’s fiction, or chick lit, or whatever related to the actual story and the book.
New Adult is something different. Traditionally, college age women were not targeted as a market. Think about it and remember your college days. Did you really have a lot of time to read for pleasure? I didn’t. My brain was so full after my classes, I had no room for anything else. In the summer, it was a different story. I devoured books from the moment my last class what over until the next resumed in the fall, but during the year I did very little (if any) reading for my own enjoyment.
New Adult fills a niche for this age group that never existed before. The successful New Adult books are almost always contemporary romances about someone going through a transition – growing up, moving away from home, attending college or joining the military, and learning life lessons by making mistakes and poor choices.
As soon as Katherine explained it to me, I got it. I also realized why TRAVELLER, although I’d gotten lots of positive comments about it in various contests I’d entered, never really clicked as a New Adult book. One judge actually said, “I love this book and the writing, but it isn’t New Adult.” That really should have been my first hint, but I didn’t quite pick up on it until Katherine spelled it out for me clearly (and using small words).
I decided to market TRAVELLER as a paranormal romance, and within two weeks I had eight offers on it. I sold it to The Wild Rose Press and it’ll be published in 2016. I wish I’d listened to people earlier. I wish I’d studied the market a bit more and realized where my book actually fit. It would have saved me a great deal of time and energy in the long run. And I wish I’d read more in the genre before I assumed (rather arrogantly) that I could write it. Do your homework. Talk to people. Figure it out.
I’m happy to say I’m writing an actual New Adult book at the moment. LUCKY NUMBER FIVE is about a girl in college whose boyfriend suffers from severe depression and has issues with alcohol and drugs. She makes a lot of bad choices, learns some life lessons, and finds her way through a very dark time. It is New Adult, and this time I know I’ve got it right.
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