Friday, February 11, 2011

One For the Action Fangirls

When my now-husband and I first moved in together, we were living in an apartment in Istanbul. I was just starting Turkish lessons, and so there were only a few channels that I could watch on tv in the evening. I owe MTV Europe my deepest thanks for all the hours of entertainment and cultural education they provided. To give you a frame of reference, the videos that were burned into my memory forever include Destiny's Child's "Independent Woman," Madonna's "Music," Jay-Z's "I Just Wanna Love U," and the Wu-Tang Clan's "Gravel Pit."

There was at least one channel that aired English-language movies. I remember one evening when my boyfriend was flipping through to find something we both could watch, and I caught a glimpse of Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery duking it out on Alcatraz. You know what I'm talking about: The Rock, an awesome 1996 action thriller and undoubtedly Michael Bay's finest work.

"Go back!" I squawked. "I love that movie!"
Old Nicholas Cage, I miss you so much

My boyfriend gave me a sideways glance. "No, you don't," he said.

It's hard to convey the precise tone that this was said in, but basically he implied that because I am female, I cannot love action movies. Apoplectic is the proper word to describe my reaction. Once I'd calmed down, we watched the rest of the movie together, and he's never questioned my love of action movies since.

Something we hear over and over is how the YA market is geared toward teenage girls, and therefore there must be some form of romance in your book for it to be a hit. You know what I was reading when I was a teenage girl? Everything Stephen King ever wrote. I read some Tanith Lee, some Michael Crichton. Granted, there wasn't the vast selection of YA novels that there are today, but I think I would have stayed away from the love stories. I'm not saying that I hate romance--when it's done well, it's fantastic. It's just not my first choice.

I'm sure most any publishing professional would tell me, That's nice dear, but the reality of the situation is, the girls who buy books like romance. And, well, it is what it is. But the book I'm writing is for the teenage me. There's no romance--my characters are too busy trying to survive to chase girls. I'm not saying I won't write anything romantic, ever. Just not right now, because that is not the story I want to tell. I think the teenage me would approve. (Whether or not any publisher agrees with me remains to be seen, haha. Maybe the joke will be on me!)

What are your thoughts on this subject? I think we all know the advice, "do your best and write the story you want to tell," but do you consider the teen girl audience when you're drafting your work?


  1. You lived in Turkey??? Cool! You should write a guest post for my travel blog ( :) Why were you there?

  2. Yeah, my husband is Turkish so we go to Istanbul a lot. I met him in Germany and we moved there for 5 months so that he could do thesis work and I could learn (ha!) Turkish. I'd be happy to write a guest post if you want!

  3. Haha, no robot romances! I guess I'm still a prude when it comes to human-robot love.

  4. Great post and something I've been grappling with while working on my current project. There’s the potential for a love interest, but it doesn’t have to go there. And the more I wrote those scenes, the more I realized I didn’t like how they fit.

    I’m still not entirely sure. In a few months I’ll be able to tell you if they survived the chopping block or not. I think while I’m writing I focus mainly on the story I want to tell. I do consider the audience, but I’m not going to throw something in just because it’s expected to be there. But I’m only 25,000 words in, it could change completely!

    P.S. I used a random phrase generator to help come up with a working title that I might like a little better. I got ‘Portentous Puritanism.” I love the alliteration but I’m not sure how it works for a YA detective story…

  5. Portentous Puritanism, ha! Sounds like maybe a historical romance, or a political thriller? I've used a couple of different working titles, but am far away from thinking up a 'real' one.

  6. I do think quite a few girls want to read about romance in their books. It's the easiest way to experience love without the pain of getting hurt.

  7. That's a good point, Alleged Author. I absolutely understand the appeal of romance in YA--I do love a good sweeping love story. Even as an adult, it's a way to experience the thrill of falling in love again, even after you're married and settled.

  8. I read all the Stephen King books as soon as I hit 6th grade. By 9th grade, I was at Sidney Sheldon. Not exactly teen romance. There are lots of readers out there who want "fighting to stay alive." Stick with it!

  9. Thanks Christa :) And holy smokes, that is early to be reading King! I don't think I got to him until 8th grade :)