Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Which Maggie Debates the Meaning of Crossover Fiction


While I was at the ALA conference this past week, I was asked to be on a panel about crossover fiction, i.e., fiction that appeals to both teens and adults. Because this is something that is getting discussed more and more in the YA world, I figured I'd post NOW what I said THEN and see what y'all have to say on the matter. So. Here it is, fairly verbatim from my talk at ALA.
I have really complicated feelings about this topic. Because when you say something has cross over appeal, it means that you’re saying some things DON’T have cross over appeal, and that means that you’re saying that some books are definitely adult and definitely young adult, and that means that really, you need to decide what you think those definitions mean.

Like I said, complicated.

It’s not like you’re deciding if a book is for a child or for an adult, after all. We are not debating whether or not an adult and child would derive equal pleasure from DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS (although I think I know a few adults who might give Thing 2 a run for his money in his Mo Willems fixation). You’re deciding if a book is more interesting to an adult or a young adult, and when you do that, you run the risk, first, of stereotyping, and second, of underestimating teens.

Here’s the thing: some teens are that stereotypical teen. They go to the mall. They are up on celebrity gossip. They know their brands, they have to be persuaded to read something longer than magazines, and they sing Friday Friday!

Here’s the rub, though: some adults are the stereotypical teen, too. They love pop culture, they’re reluctant readers, they love to shop and gossip. I would argue that if you looked at the percentages, the number of those sort of readers are identical for ages 16 and 60. Age has nothing to do with it.
That’s who these readers are.

And on the other side of the coin, you have the readers who love historical fiction, those that love sci-fi, those that love big, dense family sagas, those that love prose poems. I’ll bet your bippy that love was already there when those readers were teens. By the time you’re a teen, you’re becoming the person you’re going to be for the rest of your life.

So what does this mean for crossover titles? Well, I think it means that the real power of a crossover title isn’t a novel’s ability to appeal to both teens and adults. I think the real power of a crossover title is a novel’s ability to appeal to a wide range of humans.

Everyone likes to look at Twilight as an example of a perfect cross-over title. Women and teen girls both like to read Stephenie Meyers’ books. But that fact alone is true of every single young adult book I’ve ever read or written. I’ve always written young adult fiction, and I’ve never had a signing that wasn’t equally split between adults and teens. Adults have been reading children’s books, and vice versa, for much longer than I’ve even been alive. The thing that makes Twilight’s success special is not that both women and teen girls read it. It’s the number of women and teen girls who read it.

OK, this: another example of crossover is the Harry Potter series. This series is impressive because it not only crosses age lines but it also crosses gender lines. To me, the gender divide is a far more impressive one than the age divide. The age divide is crossed all the time. The gender divide is well nigh immutable. And this, I think, is the secret to a cross-over title. The thing is, Harry Potter breaks all the rules for what should commercially viable. The narrator is a boy, and everyone knows girls don’t read boy books. And the narrator is a child, and everyone knows adults won’t read books with child narrators. And it’s set in the UK, and everyone knows Americans only want to read books set in America.

But. Harry Potter’s secret weapon is its world. The depth of the world that Joanne Rowling wrote is stunning, and more importantly, it has something that speaks to nearly everyone. The broader your world, the more nuances you’ve stuffed into it — the more people you’re going to appeal to.

Many folks believe Harry Potter is not just a children’s book because it does not only concern itself with the matters of children. It’s not an adult’s book because it does not only concern itself with the matters of adults. It is, like our real world, concerned with many things, and so therefore, many different sorts of people can be concerned with it. I don’t think that’s it. That theory requires you to believe that people only want to read books about people who are like them. Children only want to read about children. Adults about adults. Single women about single women. That’s just not true. Otherwise the market for Silence of the Lambs would be entirely comprised of serial killers.
As gatekeepers — and every adult in any segment of the book business, from author to librarian to teacher to bookseller is a gatekeeper — we have to give teens the credit they deserve. They are young adults. ADULTS. That means that they are as varied in their reading tastes and abilities as adults are. They don’t need watered down versions of adult books — unless you acknowledge that there are adults, too, that also need watered down versions of those books.

Once you think about it this way, that adults and teens are very often identical readers, the word cross-over becomes a bit useless. I think the real word here is "commercial." And that’s an entirely different debate.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Five Things About Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Five Things about Endangered:

endangered by eliot schrefer 1. This is the first five star review I've given that is five stars for how I would've viewed this book as the target audience. This book is an upper YA, and although I enjoyed it, it would've made my eyes huge with wonder and shock as a fourteen year old unaware of the history of the Congo. I'm quite pleased to imagine it making its way into the hands of teens now, though. It's one of those books that makes you look at your own culture a little differently; makes your world a little stretchier.

 2. This book is not for everyone. Bad Things happen. I mean, it is not Little Bee, which caused me much rocking and moaning in the corner. But it is not The House at Pooh Corner either (I first typed that as the House at Poo Corner, which would have been a very different sort of book. Possibly one that would make me rock and moan). I've previously recommended Lucy Christopher's Stolen and Ruta Sepatys' Between Shades of Gray, and I'd say it would definitely appeal to folks who liked both of those. Definitely it has that gritty sense of place and history that seems to evade Pooh Corner.

3. This book is about bonobos. They are apes. That means they have no tail. We also have no tail. Bonobos, as you can see, are quite like us.

4. Tigger is not in this book. Unless he is a bonobo. Man, I really enjoy saying that word out loud. Go ahead. Try it.

 5. This book reminded me a little bit of those old-fashioned adventure stories I read growing up. There's something a bit timeless about the telling of it, about the girl-and-an-animal element, about the questing-for-safety. Something familiar. It's not a book that changed my life now. But it would've changed my life then, and for that, five stars.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where in the World is Maggie Stiefvater?

Possibly I am now old enough to make a reference that many of my readers won't get. Does anybody remember Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Maybe not. BUT I DO.

So where was I these past weeks? Well, apart from New York, and touring across the UK, I was also here:

Aikwood Tower


Scottish Borders


Dusk in Scottish borders


House in Scottish borders


Scottish Road near Selkirk


Road through Scottish borders


Castlerigg Stone Circle


Scottish Borders


Scotland borders

That would be Scotland. Coming to a novel near you? Anyway, I got back on Tuesday and tomorrow morning I'm headed off to ALA, otherwise known as my favorite convention of the year. I will be a more attentive blogger when I return.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Raven Boys, Wales, & Friends

1. I've notified all the winners of the ARC contest — everyone who got a million notifications back about their entry, rest assured that it didn't show you as having entered a million times. So I hope that didn't give anyone an ulcer. I really wish I could send copies to everybody, but I only have a few. And also I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage. But I still wish I could. A huge thank you to everyone who shared my link online. I really, really appreciate you putting me on your online space.

2. I am in the UK having a grand time on tour — Wales was amazing, the folks at Writhlington School were amazing (although cheeky), Bristol and Bath and Windsor were amazing. And I'm just assuming that my Coventry event on Tuesday will also be amazing. Oh. It already is Tuesday. Well, I assume that will be amazing today as well.

3. Here is a video of Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff, Jackson Pearce, Natalie Parker, and the DMG all stuffed into the NYC apartment they shared with me during BEA. It may or may not be in precisely the same format as the Friends intro. Just saying.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Making of the Music of The Raven Boys

I believe I have worn two or three inches off my legs running around Javits Center for BookExpo. I sort of fell asleep last night in a puddle of my own drool. So I'm sorry for my slowness in replying to blog comments and Twitter stuff. You guys have been amazing about the book trailer! (Also, those of you who are concerned about getting multiple e-mails about seemingly duplicate entries on the Contest Machine site, it is all working on my end, so don't worry!)

Folks have asked if the music will be available for download on my site like the others and yes, it will, but not until I get back into my office at the end of the month. On the topic of music, I do have a video of the studio process if you're curious:

 I might do a making of the art post after I get back. Possibly?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Animated Book Trailer for The Raven Boys

Whoo! Now is the moment that I can reveal the book trailer for The Raven Boys. Like the other trailers, I animated and wrote the music for this one (more on that in a post on Wednesday). I could say more about all that, but I might do another blog post on that, so it seems silly to go on an don here. Instead, without further ado:

Of course, the reveal of the trailer coincides with a contest for advanced review copies. This is my most grandiose one yet, as I have ten copies to give away.

The rules are very simple:
Post the trailer online somewhere, let me know where it is, and that’s your entry. Broken down:

1. All entries MUST be entered at this link, on the Contest Machine site. Links in the blog comments or on the Facebook post don’t count and WILL BE IGNORED by a WRATHFUL AUTHOR.
2. Post this trailer anywhere on the internet to count as an entry. Well, most anywhere. Post a link to it on your Twitter account. On your facebook wall. In a blog post. Tumblr. Things that you don’t have sole ownership don’t count, so -- forums and things like that. Seriously, this is a common sense thing.
3. Each link counts as an entry, so enter them separately. If you post on your FB, Twitter, and your blog, enter three times with the link to each place in a unique entry. Do not enter the same link multiple times or you’ll be disqualified, baby. I have tolerance of technical errors, but zippo patience for cheating.
4. These advanced review copies are of the U.S. edition and are provided by my U.S. publisher, and they say this contest is U.S. only. So if you live out of the country, you MUST have a U.S. address to be a winner. Sorry! I know.
5. If you win, you have to e-mail me back with your mailing address within 24 hours, because Lover will be shipping this out before joining me in the UK, and that’s the window of opportunity. If you don’t reply, I’m giving it to the next person I draw, right that second.

I think I’ve covered the questions that normally come up on these things. It runs:

June 4th, 5:00 a.m. - June 11th, 5:30 p.m.

If you want the html to embed the actual trailer in your blog (thanks for that!), it’s this:

And if you don’t want to bother with all this fuss and instead would like to make me a very happy author by pre-ordering the book, remember that aside from options like the major online retailers and your local bookstore, the independent bookstore Fountain Bookstore ships signed copies of all my books all over the world (you have to email them to arrange international shipping). If you PREORDER from Fountain Bookstore, I will not only doodle in your book, I will sign it on this fancy limited edition bookplate that I had made just for this occasion. Yes, that is my art from the trailer. Oooh? Aaah?

Bookplate for Fountain Bookstore

Anyway, I hope you like the trailer, and those of you entering the contest, GOOD LUCK.

Magic and Fast Cars and Helicopters

On Monday, I'm releasing the book trailer for The Raven Boys to the internet (and starting a contest for TEN advanced review copies)(sadly, because they are ARCs for the U.S. edition, provided to me by my U.S. publisher, it is for U.S. addresses only). Monday is also the day I arrive in NYC for BEA. BEA is also the moment when advanced review copies start making their way into the hands of reviewers and readers of all stripes. It is really, really strange to be here in this moment. I keep picking up the advanced review copy from where it sits beside me on the desk. I open to a random page. I ask myself, "What will other people feel when they read this?" The thing is, I'm not sure what I've written. I know what I want to have written. But novels are in the eye of the beholder. So I won't know what other people see until they read it. Monday. That's when it all starts. I have an ulcer. This is what I wanted to write: the book that didn't exist when I was sixteen and reading novels with my dad. I read all his old hand-me-downs — Dean Koontz, Jack Higgins, Michael Crichton. And at the same time, I was checking out Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, and C. S. Lewis from the library. I adored them all separately, but what I really wanted was a series that was both: magic and guns and fast cars and old myth all tangled up together, told by teen narrators. I wanted it to be full of heroes and people don't think they're heroes but are wrong and people who do but are also wrong. And I wanted it to be action! dreamy! love! angst! This is what I think I've written. But I'm not sure. My dad read it a few months ago and pronounced it the best thing I'd written, by which he means the most dad thing I'd written, so there's the KoontzHigginsCrichton itch scratched. And my younger sister Kate (she of the tears in the dedication of Shiver) read it and said, "Oh, Maggie." So there's the angst part. But both of them together? We'll see. Plus, the trailer, it . . . well. You'll see. It took me a long time. And it's different from all of the others. Sort of exactly precisely a lot like The Raven Boys. It is so very odd to have nerves in my stomach over this. Although I am frequently hyper and often melodramatic and sometimes angsty, I am very rarely nervous. I'm going to go . . . well, I was going to say that I was going to go make cookie dough and tea, but I gave up caffeine ten days ago. I'll probably go stare at my tea pot for a little bit. And then pack for BEA.
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