Bio.: Aaron Michael Ritchey was born with Colorado thunderstorms in his soul. He’s sought shelter as a world traveler, an endurance athlete, a story addict, and even gave serious thought to becoming a Roman Catholic priest. After too brief a time in Paris, he moved back to the American West and lives semi-comfortably with three forces of nature: a little, blonde hurricane, an artistic tornado, and a beautiful, beautiful blizzard.
I’m kind of baffled by genres. I mean, I understand the idea—gee, honey, tonight I’d rather watch a light romantic comedy and not the evisceration of skinny-dipping teenage zombies. The general public wants an understandable label on their stories because life is confusing enough. If suddenly aliens appear in a taut political thriller about a corrupt politician in Washington D.C., well, hey, there weren’t aliens at Watergate! I want my ten dollars back.
So yes, people like labels. Me? I like my mind-blown more than anything. I would totally go for a Watergate thriller where Nixon is an alien who eats skinny-dipping teenage zombies. I’m all over that. But to quote Michael Jackson from the Thriller video, “I’m not like other guys. I’m different.”
Okay, so what about Young Adult fiction? That’s a genre right? What does YA fiction look like?
I should know because I’ve published a YA novel, but sometimes I feel like a total fraud. I never would’ve read YA novels when I was a YA. Never. I was reading Stephen King at 13, and yeah, I need an edge. I want an edge. I want blood, guts, sex, violence, and rock and roll, baby. And my books have that edge. Does that mean I’m not writing YA novels?
Here’s the thing. I’ve been handselling my book for a couple of years now and in my mind, rating means more than genre. If I’m selling my book to a nice mother and her eleven-year-old daughter, I gotta warn them—my book has teenagers in it, but it’s very PG-13. There’s violence and some sex.
Warning for all you YA authors out there. Teenagers murdering each other a la Hunger Games is just fine. Careful with the sex, though. People get weird about sex. I spent months working on my two paragraph love scene, studying meticulously how Maggie Stiefvater did it Shiver. Still, I had adults look askance at me. Seriously. Askance. And just because a book has teenagers in it doesn’t automatically make it YA. There’s a feel to the YA genre. You know it when you read it. However, not all YA books are alike.
I was on a panel and one woman said she only reads YA because she knows it’s going to be a nice story without a lot of sex and violence. Nice. Comfortable.
Really. Hmm. Ma’am, don’t read any Ellen Hopkins, and you should probably steer clear of Winter Girls or Thirteen Reasons Why.
There are certain themes that reverberate through a YA novel: a search for identity, a search for freedom, new romance, coming of age, and you can read a million blogs and attend a million classes on such things.
But I think what really makes a YA novel YS is the nature of the conflict. If the central conflict is the socio-economic realities of Nigeria, well, that’s a tough sell for a Young Adult audience. You can have that as a distant background, but in YA novels, generally, the conflict needs to be intensely personal. Young readers have to identify with the characters and the conflict. Kinda critical. For example, I wrote a middle grade novel about a kid trying to save his house. I gave it to my daughter to read and she couldn’t get into it. Because I’d put the conflict on saving his house, not on his friends, his life, that kind of thing.
Twilight worked because the central conflict was an impossible romantic relationship. I love Edward, but he’s a blood-sucking vampire. That’s a problem we can all relate to.
So far, no one has called me out on The Never Prayer being too adult, and so far, my young readers like it. But it’s edgy and cross genre. Sure I have elements of YA paranormal romance, but I also have a strong crimethriller element to it. And it’s real. And it’s gritty. I’ve been dinged that the paranormal didn’t seem necessary, but I’d argue against that all day long.
In the end, I’m a hot cross-genre mess. I wanna write books like Twilight, but I want to add in very real Ellen-Hopkinsesque elements. So yeah, I have angels and demons, but I also have drug addicts and atheists.
My next book is also cross genre—I wrote a suicide book that has a strong crimethriller element to it. However, my suicide book is far more YA genre friendly than The Never Prayer.
Do you know what my dream is? My dream is to write books I adore for an open-minded market. I’m reading The Fault in Our Stars, and it is brilliant, kind of adult, but still very YA. Yeah, they cuss, and yeah, it’s not for everybody, but it’s a firebrand of a book.
So I’m still lost and confused as far as genre goes, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, gotta make the characters real and gotta keep the conflict personal. Adding in skinny-dipping teenage zombies isn’t a bad either.
For more about me and The Never Prayer, you can visit us both at www.aaronmritchey.com. And of course, I’m on Facebook, as is the book at http://www.facebook.com/TheNeverPrayer. And I tweet – @aaronmritchey. Reviews can be found at the Goodreads page, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13565800-the-never-prayer. If you are at all curious about the novel, our friends at Amazon.com would love for you to visit them! The ebook is on sale now! http://www.amazon.com/The-Never-Prayer-ebook/dp/B007P6ISSS
If Steampunk is more your thing, I’m in a new anthology, and it’s as cross-genre as a steam-powered elephant. http://www.amazon.com/Penny-Dread-Tales-Darkness-Clockwork/dp/098327827X
The Fury of Heaven. The Desires of Hell.
A Broken Girl.
Shattered by the death of her parents, Lena knows she is not handling her sorrow well – keeping to herself, running drugs, risking her little brother. But she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her disintegrating family together.
Two Lost Souls
Lurking on the edges of the afterlife, Chael and Johnny Beels have spent centuries manipulating events, one pushing for good, the other sowing chaos. Now these two desperate souls have taken human form to play a dangerous game of hope and despair with Lena trapped in the middle.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
Lena must maneuver the shadowy realm between angel and demon, love and lust, good and evil, until she finds the courage to see the truth and make the ultimate sacrifice. When do we struggle to change the world? When do we let go and embrace life’s broken beauty?
In this tome, the third installment of the Penny Dread Tales series, we explore not only the darker side of steampunk but also the black, sullied underbelly of the human condition. The nightmare of Jack the Ripper stalks these pages… drenching them in blood… twice. Slavery, the murder of the weak and helpless, dire choices of life and death: these tragedies and more become fodder for the mind, where the possessed and dispossessed steal men’s lives, and in some cases, their souls. This volume is rich with shadowy settings shrouded in fog, and the ensuing brutality is glimpsed piecemeal through windows of moonlight where dark shadows hide nefarious villains plotting murder and mayhem upon unsuspecting victims. PDT3 carries the reader to the four corners of the Earth and beyond. It traverses the centuries, from the Victorian era all the way into a future 40,000 years distant. It is an exploration of mankind’s darkest dreams and nightmares, and in its reading you too may experience nightmares where might In Darkness Clockwork Shine.
I love YA! It's my favorite genre right now, it's what I write and almost everything I read lately is YA.
I enjoy reading YA, but to be honest I prefer reading adult books. Maybe I just haven't found the right YA author. Excellent guest post! I look forward to reading The Never Prayer, sounds very interesting.