Thursday, May 2, 2013

What is New Adult fiction?

People keep asking me, What is New Adult fiction?

Answer: It’s YA for girls who have outgrown young adult novels or Chick Lit for college age women. Like Chick Lit and YA, New Adult fiction is often written in the first person and focuses on a particular time in a woman’s life. From a publisher’s perspective, an advantage of this new genre is that older women read it, too.

As of yet, there is no genre of New Adult fiction for men as well as women, but there are books that would fit the genre if it existed. Check out The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman, two novels that redefine the fantasy genre.

And here’s a journalistic take on New Adult fiction….

New Adult novels explore the terrifying and wonderful chasm between adolescence and adulthood.
From USA Today here.

·         New Adult authors include Jamie McGuire, J.Lynn, Molly McAdams, and Tammara Webber
·         The New Adult category draws readers who grew up loving Young Adult novels
·         The novels mix the emotional intensity of YA fiction with more mature elements

Mix the high-octane emotions of youth with the freedom of leaving home and you've brewed up a potent new book category called "New Adult."

Navigating the exhilarating, sometimes dangerous chasm between adolescence and adulthood, these novels — aimed at readers out of high school — are roaring up the best-seller list. The setting often is a college campus and the vibe is intense as only young love can be. It's sex, bad boys, too much drama and, if you consulted the characters' parents, not nearly enough library time!

For evidence, check out USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, where Jamie McGuire's Walking Disasteris currently No. 1.

It's the companion book to McGuire's 2012 hit Beautiful Disaster, the tale of tormented college lovers Abby and Travis. She's on the straight and narrow while he's "Eastern University's Walking One-Night Stand."

McGuire has gone from a digital self-publishing success to landing a major publisher, Atria, which publishes her books in print and e-book formats. Beautiful Disaster sold more than 500,000 copies and Warner Bros. has optioned the film rights.

McGuire, 34, who lives in Oklahoma, credits the "self-publishing revolution" for the explosion of New Adult and creating a niche where none existed, filling the gap between Young Adult (YA, for readers ages 12-18) and commercial women's fiction for readers in their 20s and older.

"Bookstores didn't have a place for novels about college-aged students so publishers were unable to sell it," says McGuire.

McGuire, who has a 13-year-old daughter and has published a YA trilogy, says her New Adult novels are appropriate for readers 17 and older because "of the language, the mature themes, and there is more detail in the sex scenes."

Other YA novelists are finding success moving into the New Adult category. "Two years ago, agents and publishers couldn't place New Adult in the market," says writer Jennifer L. Armentrout, 32, from her home in West Virginia.

How things change. This spring, Armentrout's New Adult novel Wait for You spent six weeks on USA TODAY's list, reaching No. 5. Released under the name J. Lynn and self-published as an e-book, it tells the story of a 19-year-old college student carrying a terrible secret.

Thanks to the novel's strong sales, Armentrout, like McGuire, has signed with a major publisher, William Morrow, which will take over the e-book distribution of Wait for You, release a trade paperback edition and then publish the subsequent two books in the trilogy.

An established writer of 13 novels, Armentrout says New Adult is "the perfect middle ground" for a YA writer like herself who wanted to explore more mature issues. YA "has your characters' firsts: their first love, first hate." With New Adult, "it's more serious. The characters are older. They love more strongly and they are doing it without the safety net of parents or close high school friends," she says.

New Adult readers usually are women 18 and older who grew up on YA fiction. The category also draws older fans nostalgic for college, says Armentrout.

Colleen Hoover is another star. Three of Hoover's New Adult novels have hit the list with Hopeless reaching No. 2 in January. Her next title, This Girl, arrives April 30. It features a heroine named Layken who first appeared in Hoover's debut novel Slammed at age 18.

Shanyn Day of Elko, Nev., is a book blogger and fan of New Adult. For someone new to the category, she strongly recommends 2012's Easy by Tammara Webber (peaked on the list at No. 61). Set at a college, the novel has romance but also explores the impact of sexual assault.

New Adult fiction isn't simply YA novels with grown-up sex scenes, says Day, 27. "It's more the setting. College is a time of self-development, characters are trying to find themselves."

Interest in the category has generated a New Adult website  for both readers and writers called "NA Alley: Bridging the Gap Between Young Adult and Adult Fiction." One of the founders, Carrie Butler, 26, is an Ohio writer whose New Adult novel Strength (Sapphire Star) was published last month.

Butler credits technology with propelling the New Adult trend: "The e-book revolution pushed (New Adult) into the readers' hands," she says.

Armentrout's new publisher Liate Stehlik notes that with e-books and self-publishing, "things happen so much more quickly." When a mainstream publisher acquires a successful self-published author such as Armentrout, "You have the momentum. Fans of the category are discovering authors like Armentrout digitally."

Like the HBO hit show Girls, the characters in these books "are trying to find their way in the world...It's an intense time in your life," says Stehlik who has published a number of New Adult best sellers. They include Losing It by Cora Carmack and Taking Chances by Molly McAdams. 

Although the novels explore young love in all its glory and misery, the happy-ever-after-ending of a traditional romance isn't required. "It's modern romance … it's a happy-for-now ending," says Stehlik.

Nor is New Adult a variation on the erotic romance category dominated by E.L. James'Fifty Shades of Grey. "Sex is an element," says Stehlik, but "it's not the driving thread."

Laura Carter, 19, who is studying for a master's in chemistry at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., founded Goodreads' "New Adult Book Club" in December 2012. It has more than 1,600 members around the world.

"Self-discovery is often just as big a part of the books as any romance," she says. "Quite simply they are books about people who are new to adulthood. Hence the term New Adult."

Brian Henry will lead "How to Get Published” workshop on Saturday, May 4, in Barrie, with guest literary agent Olga Filina of The Rights Factory (see here). To register, mail

He’ll also lead “From the Horse’s Mouth: Getting published or self-published at Ryerson University on June 15 with Stacey Donaghy of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, Greg Ioannou of Iguana Books, and Patrick Crean of HarperCollins Canada (details here). To register, mail

However, before you submit, though, the best way to get your manuscript into shape is with a weekly course. This summer, Brian will be leading Intensive Creative Writing courses on Tuesday afternoons in Burlington (details here) and on Thursday evenings in Mississauga (details here). To register, email

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Gravenhurst, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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