Why teenagers connect so deeply with YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
by Leandi Cameron When I was a kid, there was nothing more magical than finding myself engrossed in a wonderful book filled with magical creatures and horror tales of demons, vampires and werewolves – back then some of these stories seemed to be awfully frightening, yet absolutely captivating.
It transported me to a world where I found myself escaping from the normal mundane life of being a teenager, living a life where the friends I had closest to me being the actual people who were my bullies.
I have grown up now, and have become a much stronger person, and have worked hard at finding my self-confidence again, even though, I must admit, bullies do still exist in the “grown-up” world as well. However, during that time, I realised, that my world of books saved me – whenever I was depressed, or felt down, alone in a corner with no one to call my friend, I knew that I could go home, and I would find a host of friends within my stack of books I picked up from the travelling library, and that is where I would stay for the rest of the day.
Books were my salvation – my escape to a place where I was safe and able to live out the person I was feeling deep inside – the romantic who wished I could find my dark prince who would woo me and sweep me off my feet, ready to save me from the pain I had to endure during my day at school; or the strong female character that wouldn’t allow anyone to stand in her way and who was strong enough to stand up for herself.
A soft person I used to be – yes, she still exists, I must admit, but through my books and the beautifully crafted, strong characters, I have found, one thing that stood out for me – they were determined, and fought for what they wanted in life. And, even though I was a teenager who some nights cried myself to sleep, my books helped me understand that if I wanted anything in life, I must fight for it.
And that I why I feel so connected to young adult (YA) books – they speak directly to the heart of teenagers and to what they go through on a daily basis and what they long so desperately for.
And now, there’s no question about it that this market has skyrocketed and the audience for these types of books are ready to indulge themselves in anything that might transport them to another place. There simply is no steady growth with the YA market – it has already exploded.
But, with that, the readers have become more demanding, the market has become more tough and, therefore, writers are expected to know more about their target markets – if they miss the mark, they simply won’t get the YA market “on their side”.
So, the question is, what are the keys to writing a successful YA novel? It isn’t that simple, but if writers delve deep into their past, and feel what they felt when they too were YAs, then they could bring to life a world that makes sense to any teenager who picks up their books. In a way, having a tough teenage life could even have been the best thing that has ever happened to me as a writer! It has formed me, and given me a greater understanding into the psyche of what teenagers feel when they are in love with a boy or a girl but the love isn’t mutual; it makes me understand how it feels to be the outcast; it makes me know just how insecure one can be about yourself – I’m not pretty, skinny, or curvy enough, or I have braces, my hair is ugly or I’m not popular enough. Having experienced these things makes a writer of YA books indispensible.
When you’re young, everything you feel is much deeper and much more intense. Song lyrics speak to you in a way a grown-up could never understand – because, face it, grown-ups don’t understand – they forget how it was to be there and feel pain, hurt and exhilaration so intensely.
Being a teenager is like electrical currents running through you at all times – nothing pleases you and everything pleases you – all at once. You find a first love and you will experience your first heartbreak, you make bad decisions and will be betrayed by those around you who you trust the most. These are all things that we all have been through, and what all teenagers go through still, today. Nothing has changed – yes, times have changed and kids have better equipment to read their books with or Playstations and PS Vita’s, but they still have to experience what we, grown-ups, had to once experience ourselves.
They have to find ways to make important decisions and deal with the consequences if their decisions were wrong. When they look around them, they all believe that they are the only ones who feel this way, but what they don’t know, is that every other teen around them have to go through the same things, and everyone will make a different decision to the tales of their own lives, which will shape who they ultimately become.
When you are a teenager, everything is utterly intense.
That, however, is why the YA paranormal romance genre is so intriguing to youngsters – it is dark and it speaks to their very core. It takes them to the place they feel inside, and it makes them be something or someone else for the 300 or more pages the book in hand is – a world of escapism.
And that is what YA paranormal romance / fantasy is about – it is dark, broody, mysterious and… intense – just like teenagers.
Writing to me is …
by Leandi Cameron Writing is our basis – without it, we cannot learn and our intellectual capacity is judged upon our ability to write clearly and concisely. However, it is also a tool to express ourselves, and journalists still, today, often create new words, as Shakespeare created hundreds of words as one of the greatest and most prolific writers of all times. Writing is also an important part of our community, business and every day functioning as one of our largest methods of communication, next to speaking and body language. With such an important function in our society, how can writing not affect me as intensely as it has for the past 18 years? Writing is a passionate drive towards being something other than the usual. It isn’t easy to write – many people wish that they could have the ability to write, and simply can’t put two sentences together. However, to me, writing is something that can be learnt. With a lot of passion, hard work and the ability to learn, everyone can become a writer. No one said it would be Shakespeare, but if it makes you happy, and you love it while you are doing it, then nothing in the world can stop you from making your thoughts come alive. Technology has made it much easier I admit, but when I started writing, my main method of capturing my thoughts were with the now ‘pre-historic’ method of pen and paper. I still have all my writings from when I was at high school. Somehow it is nostalgic to look back at the work I produced when I was still a child. My feelings so much more heightened, and my ability to pour my feelings onto paper so much more prevalent. However, today, I wouldn’t say that this has changed much – it just works differently – no hormones to make my broken heart write down poems of love and loss in the most intense ways that I did when I was younger. But, today, I still lose myself in writing; I still explore different parts of my psyche and I still escape into a creative space and time where only I exist – with my multiple characters that have been yearning to scratch through the surface on a daily basis. They are always there, talking to me, telling me what they want to say. Some of them have stronger voices than others, and, therefore, they end up on my written pages as my protagonists or lead characters. They tell me their stories as I go along – I never know what is going to happen next, until it actually happens, and then even I am surprised. It can sometimes be scary, as I never know whether my story would have an ending – some stories don’t have an ending – yet, and they rest in a special place on my computer, where I leave them be, until they decide to tell me the rest of their tales. Even though writing is the place where I escape, it is also the place from which I sometimes feel I need to escape from – I work as a full-time journalist and newspaper editor – where is my freedom from the love I have for the written word? It somehow, sometimes, becomes a love-hate relationship, a suffocating place that I cannot escape, and a life-sucking space that I simply cannot say no to. What can I do to find peace? Even so, I cannot move away, it doesn’t matter that writing and I have become so reliant upon each other – we have become one – we are twins, and without each other we are merely ordinary. Writing makes me who I am – different and unable to be silent as my mind always talks to me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Breaking into the YA market with a little help from my friends
Young adult paranormal romance/fantasy has become one of the largest book genre’s within the last five years and, that, is a challenge in itself.
Young girls everywhere are dreaming of that hero that would whisk them away and take them to a place where their world will be turned upside down, and magical things will happen to them.
Even when we grow up, we still love to believe that magic really exists and that the worlds created for us by authors could, somehow, one day become a reality.
Mostly, when it comes to vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts and other fantastic or otherworldly creatures, what attracts us most is the mystery and the dangers that we, as readers, are free to explore – in our minds, these characters become real and we come to love them.
Therefore, there is no doubt that the young adult market is steaming, and very, very, attractive to many authors who are racing towards biting off a piece of the pie.
Herewith lies a great problem, however.
As the young adult book industry grows, so does the amount of books that are badly written and cheaply sold, and these books are overcrowding an industry that includes so many authors that are “true” writers with brilliant stories to tell – these beautifully crafted tales wash away within a slush pool of badly written novels that are unedited and badly thought out.
However, true writers would know that the significance of having a unique take on the paranormal genre is the most important part of making your book stand out – or that is what I keep on reading on blogs, highly acclaimed websites and from marketing experts. This, is what I did with A Tale of the Other Kind: A Therian Novel, which is the first in a series.
But, as an author and a qualified journalist and editor, there is one thing that still eludes me – marketing and driving sales. For myself, as I believe with many authors, I have the uncanny inability to know how to get my book noticed. I confess – knowing how to be a saleswoman isn’t my forte.
If you are not on the bestsellers list, you can kiss getting reviews by highly acclaimed reviewers goodbye, and getting bloggers to respond to your emails is a nightmare. You are simply invisible, no matter how well your book is written, or how unique your story is.
Marketing, marketing, marketing, the bane of my existence, yet the most important part of making a book sell. Therefore, when I realised that my abilities simply consist out of being a creative spirit, I decided to leave the marketing and sales driving to the experts.
It is important to find good avenues to market your book – yes, you are going to have to invest some money into getting this done, but if you find a marketing expert that understands your book’s genre, and is dedicated to finding you the best platforms to display your work, then, within time, you will start seeing growth with that book you slaved away on for many years. Your baby will grow, and soon it will become the stable and impressive young adult you hoped it to be.
For me, I found that Bookbuzzr, Goodreads, LibraryThing and Quora are great platforms, among others, to help increase exposure for your novel. Then there is Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages – yes, the list goes on and on. This is a lot of hard work! Especially if you have a full-time job, and need to get started on your second novel, before you start getting screaming emails from those who have read your book and can’t wait to see what happens next.
However, I cannot stress enough, the importance of enrolling the help of a book blog tour marketer. I use Orangeberry Book Tours, and without Pandora’s help, I would never get through all the work it takes to get my book’s name out there.
Hopefully, in time, continued exposure would bring about change and a climb in sales – I know I have a unique book and soon someone will notice that it isn’t “just another paranormal romance/fantasy just like all the others”. Therefore, I will continue working hard at it, and dedicate time to my novel’s success on a daily basis – with the help of others – of course.
Leandi Cameron is a South African award-winning journalist and newspaper editor. She is also co-owner of multi-disciplinary company House of LeaVik. Her debut novel, A Tale of the Other Kind: A Therian Novel, was released in October 2012, and is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook format. For more information, visit www.leandicameron.com.