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YA Genre Fiction: Who Needs It?

So I was sifting through my documents folder on my Hyper Awesome iMac of Destiny (+1, +5 vs Books) and I came across an old article that I did for Sci-Fi Now magazine sometime last year. So I figured I’d stick it up here to keep you guys happy till I finish my book 😉

This may help to illustrate why I still write books for kids as well as adults…

PS, right at the end of Iron Jackal. Will be done in a couple of weeks, then I’ll edit the hell out of it, then it’ll go to my editor for some proper editing. But all the production machinery is geared up and ready to go, so we’re still looking good for August.

And now, for your edification:

Young Adult Genre Fiction: Who Needs It?

SF, fantasy and horror for young adults is notoriously tricky territory for publishers.

Many advanced readers have already progressed to adult books by the time they reach secondary school. Plenty of the most popular genre writers are well within the grasp of teenagers anyway. So is it actually necessary to have genre books that are specifically aimed at younger readers? Is there really any point in dividing our shrinking share of the bookshelves further, just for the sake of a small, rapidly shifting market that spans a few years at best?

Well, yes. Here’s why.

That thin sliver of years between childhood and late adolescence is fertile ground for the genre writer. Yes, you might have to forego your tendencies towards megaviolence and ultra-porn, and you’ll never be able to write an epic of Erikson-esque complexity. Yes, you’ll be forced to limit the age of your protagonists. But your reward will be freedom of a different kind.

A publisher of young adult books doesn’t have to deal with the genre prejudice of the adult market. Children’s books are divided on the bookshelves by age, not by subject. Genre works are mixed in with the others where the browsing public can see them. My own YA books – a jumble of SF, fantasy and horror – sit happily next to Jacqueline Wilson’s stories for pre-teen girls. In contrast, you’d have to visit the Fantasy/SF section to find my adult-market books, which you wouldn’t do if you weren’t already a genre fan.

There’s a similar lack of boundaries within the YA genre field. There’s no high fantasy or hard SF, no New Weird or urban fantasy. Genre definitions mean nothing. You want to write a steampunk post-apocalypse adventure full of cities that drive around eating each other? Or a book about a child passing through alternate realities in search of a weak and feeble God? Or a dystopian sci-fi about an underground city that’s running out of light? Go for it!

Such ideas would be risky prospects at best in the adult market. Books that don’t fit into easily recognisable pigeonholes traditionally struggle in comparison to those that do. Straight-out fantasy and SF are much safer bets than something genre-straddling and unfamiliar. Just look at the big sellers in the field if you need evidence.

Not so the YA market. Mortal Engines, Northern Lights and The City of Ember went on to sell bucketloads. And it’s books like these that prime our next generation of adult genre readers. If we’re ever going to break down the mentality of pigeonholing, if we’re ever going to tempt readers into that vast, scarcely explored territory between Tolkien and Asimov, then the YA market is the best place to start.

YA genre fiction isn’t interested in the rules and regulations of the adult world, which is exactly why we need it most. It’s innocent, unjaded, full of possibility and promise. And, just like the readers it represents, it might even have a thing or two to teach the grown-ups.

Maintain Holding Pattern

Not a vast amount of news, since I’ve been buried in The Iron Jackal, but let me magic something up.

Am on, er, chapter 39 of about 46 now. Bombing through it. It’ll probably be about the same length as The Black Lung Captain when I’m done – I may yet go back and cut out a chapter or two, which I’ll save for the next book. That means we’re all still looking good for an August release, as per Amazon. Speaking of Amazon, ignore the blurb they’ve put up. It’s so far beyond wrong it’s… well, I can’t think of an accurate comparison, but it’s pretty wrong. None of that stuff happens in the book.

After that I’ll be back on Vendetta, which is the current working title for the movie-that-used-to-be-called All Fall Down.

Cover for The Iron Jackal and the revamped Braided Path coming very soon. The design dept is just tweaking font size and stuff like that. I’ll post ’em up as soon as they’re finished.

Cassandra Diaz is busy doing her artwork sorcery for Pandemonium – I probably won’t get to see it till it’s all done now, so it’ll be a while. No movement on the Malice movie.

Also, it’ll soon be Eastercon time again! It takes up the Easter weekend, and this year it’s in Birmingham. I’ll be there all day Friday and Saturday, I should think, and I may well be appearing on a panel or two – I’ll know when the organisers get the schedule together. News when I have it, as ever.

Back to work…

A Bunch of Stuff

Frosty Christmas Updates!

I’m over half way through The Iron Jackal and motoring. Still looking good for an August release, although it will require some heroics from the editorial team and production department behind the scenes.

Pandemonium has been given a very tentative publication date of early 2012 in the US, possibly as early as January. Which is pretty fast if we hit it, actually: 13 months from now to the bookshelf, and Cassandra Diaz, the artist, has only just started final drawings on a 158-page graphic novel. As to other countries, including the UK: don’t ask, cos I have no idea.

To the 80 blillion people asking about the Malice movie, when it’s gonna be out, who’s gonna be in it, etc, all I can say is: I’ll let you know when I do. If it gets made (and that’s an IF so big that if it actually existed its weight would knock the Earth off its axis and send us all howling into the sun) it might happen very fast, or it might not happen for years. Could be shooting by this time next year, could be ten years, might not be at all. Might take three drafts to get the script right, might take thirty (and I’m not even exaggerating on that score – you wouldn’t believe how much some movies get rewritten). Each draft, depending on the writer, might take a month, might take six. Additionally, I’m not exactly on the inside with this process: the producers keep me informed about the stuff I need to know, but not about the day-to-day, and just like writing, six months can pass without any major news because long projects are, um, long.

Speaking of long, readers of mine from back in the day will no doubt wryly remember the palaver about the movie of The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray that we all got excited about for a couple of years until it fizzled and died (along with the Broken Sky TV series… *wistful sigh*). Those same readers may now want to turn off the Internet completely at the news that, after being dormant for about 5 or 6 years, Trademark Films have optioned the story for development into a movie 😉 So now we’re effectively at square one again, but at least we’re back on the board! See, I warned you back then that this could take ages! Them’s movies, folks!

Also, US Covers for Ret Falls and Black Lung:

Pretty! And if you want to know why they’re different to the UK versions, there’s a quick post about it from my US editor here.

Aaand, that’s your lot.

The Black Lung Captain makes Amazon UK’s list of the 10 Best SF/Fantasy Books of 2010

Well, it did!

In your face, Universe!

Pandemonium, Braided Path, Other Stuff

So! Rather unexpectedly, a few weeks ago the artist for Pandemonium turned in pencil sketches for the entire graphic novel, all panelled out and everything. And they are totally hyper awesome. I danced. And, because I’m tragic, I ROFLcoptored at my own jokes, although in my defence I had forgotten them all as it’s been, like, five years since I wrote the thing.

No idea how long it will take Cassandra to do the finals – probably six months to a year, to be honest – but Pandemonium is now definitely actually getting drawn. Which means it will definitely actually get published. To which I say: Yay.

In Braided Path news (bet you never thought you’d hear Braided Path news!), some of you may have noticed that this had recently become very hard to get on Amazon or wherever. This is because it’s been allowed to run out of print. But wait! Put down your scythes, angry mob! It’s out of print because it’s going to be re-released around April time, in a sparkly new uber slick deluxe mega edition with a new cover by Larry Rostant . I am excited for the pretty.

Have just delivered new draft of All Fall Down. Back on The Iron Jackal, which is rocking along now. The release date is still officially August next year, but we’re gonna re-evaluate in the New Year depending on how far I’ve got by that point and how quickly Production can turn it all around. Otherwise it’ll probably be knocked back to October-ish, as I mentioned before.

Oh yeah, happy Hallowe’en. I shall be camping by my door with a flamethrower waiting for witches.

Progress Report #3456A/7

Alright boys and girls, Chris has been busy.

So I’ve got seven chapters in the bag for the revamped version of The Iron Jackal. I’ve been faffing around with the title but I think I’m sticking with the one I’ve got now. The titular Iron Jackal wasn’t in the reworked version originally but I think I’m bringing he/she/it back in cos they’re frankly so damn badass. Anyway, am belting along with it now, so its looking good.

The option for the Malice movie has been renewed, which is great news as it means that the producers have bought themselves another eighteen months of development time. Progress has been slow but steady up till now, but the process of writing and reworking scripts can take an age. Updates as and when.

Speaking of Malice, I was very happy to learn that it won the Leeds Book Award in the 11-14 category this year. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go and receive the award, and was duly punished by karma when the award turned up in the post smashed in a dozen pieces 🙁 Lesson learned…

I delivered the first draft of All Fall Down (God, I hate that name, it has to go…) which was naturally received with the kind of reverence usually reserved for sacred tablets and dried bits of saints. Currently in meetings with the producers for the first draft polish, which is movie language for ‘the second draft.’

And because I’m feeling musical, here’s the five songs currently dominating my iPod.

Bubbles by Biffy Clyro

American English by Idlewild

Liquid Confidence by You Me At Six

The King Is Dead by A Wilhelm Scream (with apologies for the rubbish makeshift YouTube video)

Makers by Rocky Votolato (ditto)

Them’s The Breaks


So anyway, I wrote the first quarter of The Iron Jackal and then threw it in the bin and started again.

Just goes to show, no matter how long you’re at this game, you can still get things wrong.  It’s terrifically hard to be objective about a novel that you’re writing; you’re just too close to it. So perhaps the time I took writing the first draft of All Fall Down was a blessing, because when I came back to The Iron Jackal I just thought, well, it’s just not as good as the last two. And after attempting to tweak it to get it right I decided to do the decent thing, which was to blast it to pieces with a cannon and start over.

As my longtime readers know, I binned an entire novel and rewrote it from scratch when I wrote The Weavers Of Saramyr. And I had a nightmare with The Fade which also involved binning half a novel. Now I’m only down to a quarter, which means next time it’ll only be one-eighth, and by the time I’m fifty I’ll be abandoning novels three sentences in. So things are looking up, but unfortunately the Quality Control Monster that looms over my shoulder as I write has rapped my knuckles good on this one.

The good news is that I’ve reworked a whole new plot and it’s much better than the original one. I’ve also salvaged some of the best bits of what I had (and other bits that may well make it into Book 4 of the Tales Of The Ketty Jay) which will cut down on the time it takes to write a new draft. The bad news is that publication will probably get knocked back by a few months, meaning it’s likely to arrive late next year instead of the planned release date of August. But I’m gonna do my damnedest to make sure it hits the shelves in 2011 and doesn’t slip into 2012, and barring any more mishaps that should be eminently doable. It will also probably undergo a title change, as the Iron Jackal in the original story isn’t, er, isn’t actually in it any more.

There’s a saying in the publishing world: Better a good book late than a bad book on time. Creativity is a slippery business, and sometimes you just gotta make the hard call. You’ll thank me in the end. Honest.

The Crooked Lanes Forum

So anyways, one day some forward-thinking people realised that discussions about my lovely books would be better facilitated by a forum. A lot of my newer readers won’t be aware of this, so I’m posting it up here until I can get round to doing a perma-link on the site. Therefore, for all your discussion needs, flamewars and the like, check out The Crooked Lanes.

Other news: tapping away at All Fall Down. Probably be on that for the rest of the month, after which I’m back on The Iron Jackal.

Kneel, Pestilent English Serfs!

A vast nothingness to report. Iron Jackal has not moved on ’cause I’ve been writing the first draft of All Fall Down. Don’t fret, though, it’s still well in hand for the end of the year (he said, with the kind of blithe confidence that makes editors sweat and makes Chris wish he had an Internet Delete button come Christmas time). Nar, seriously, since I’ve done all the planning on it beforehand, the rest ought to be relatively easy.

And, er, that’s it. Apart from the week I spent in a little town off Lake Maggiore in Italy, scarfing pasta and going all mahogany coloured. That was nice.

Also, apparently I’m related to William the Conqueror. So my Dad tells me, anyway, who’s been doing a bunch of genealogy research on our family tree. This was doubly interesting news, since my friend has long known that her family was descended from William the Conqueror’s servants. Much hilarity was had by all, until I gloated a bit too much and she roundhouse-kicked me over the horizon.

Retribution Falls and Black Lung Captain US Release Dates Moved Forward!

Good news for those who still think the Atlantic is an impenetrable magical barrier!

Spectra have moved forward their release dates for Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain for the US. New dates:

Ret Falls: 26th April 2011

BLC: 26th August 2011

Or for those who don’t want to wait, you can buy them here and here for $7 or $15 respectively, including shipping.