Get up close and personal with some of our Entangled Teen August and September 2013 novels. This month we’ll be talking about pushing boundaries in YA. We’ll have new questions for you every month. If you have a burning question you want to ask one of your favorite Entangled Teen authors, post it in the comments section and we’ll send it onto them, and who knows, maybe your question will be the next one the authors answer.
Today, we have Rachel Harris, author of A Tale of Two Centuries, Renee Collins, debut author of Relic, Andria Buchanan, author of Everlast, Victoria Scott, mastermind behind the badass Dante Walker who is in the latest release, The Liberator, Melissa West, author of the bestselling Taking series, including the latest release, Hover, and Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry, the two powerhouse authors who wrote Out of Play.
Ladies, what are your thoughts on pushing boundaries in YA?
Nyrae: I think I do, yes. Maybe not to the same extent in each book and the boundaries that are pushed in each one are different. I try to be pretty honest and what feels real to me when writing YA.
Jolene: There are a million different “boundaries” you could find if you were looking for them. I try to write what I think is real, and maybe that’s boundary pushing and maybe it’s not… Probably depends hugely on the audience. 😉
Victoria: I think all authors believe they push boundaries to an extent, so I’ll go with “yes” to fit in.
Andria: I try to push boundaries in my stories, but I don’t think I pushed them too far in my current series. One way that I think I do push boundaries is that I don’t force my characters to stay white. If a character in my head is a POC, I don’t force them to change because “the market wants Caucasian heroes/heroines/love interests/etc.”
Rachel: In my current young adult series with Entangled, the Centuries series, not so much, at least in the typical way of looking at the term. I do push them more in the books I have coming out in the future, but I think it really depends on the story I’m telling, the mood of the book, and the intended audience. In whatever book I’m writing though, I think it’s important that my characters are flawed and make mistakes. Two themes I hit on in almost all my books is self-acceptance and the various masks we wear in life. I just prefer wrapping those bigger issues and topics in fantastical, romantic, humorous packages.
Melissa: I definitely push boundaries in my books, but more so with social and political issues than say sex. Gravity examines racial prejudice. Hover takes a look at war.
Renee: I push the boundaries when it comes to genre. It’s fun to mix things up in ways that haven’t been done before. Take two well-known tropes or settings and putting them together can create a new and exciting world to set a story in.
Interesting! All the characters push some sort of boundary, even if it’s not in the typical way one would think. Like someone in real life, these characters struggle and ultimately want to find acceptance. To further expand, do you think it’s important to push boundaries in your own personal writing?
Nyrae: Absolutely, but it has to be natural. I don’t think you can sit down and say… “Hmm, how can I push things today?” It has to the the way the story is supposed to be told and come naturally.
Jolene: I think it’s important to use your own voice. I think that once we try to stuff our stories into the cookie-cutter formula we think people will want, we lose something. I’m always trying to walk the line of giving a satisfying ending that people expect while tossing in a few surprises along the way. So, hopefully, as writers, we’re all pushing boundaries.
Victoria: Okay, I may be giving an unpopular answer, but here goes: Sometimes it’s great to push boundaries, but other times, like if you’re looking to make money versus win awards, it’s healthy to understand boundaries. For example, Twilight sold millions of copies. Hundreds of thousands of readers loved the book, if not more. So books following Twilight‘s success were wise to use understand what it is readers loved about that book and create their own story around that experience. As authors, we always want to push, push, push. But if we’re not careful, we can push readers away by doing so. My point is to understand what it is that have made bestsellers, bestsellers, and that if you want to make an easier paycheck…to emulate that success with your own spin. Like I said, this isn’t a popular answer, and not necessarily one I abide by. We all say we push boundaries, and my point is I don’t think that’s always true, or wise. I love chocolate. And I don’t want the boundaries of my chocolate pushed too far. At the end of the day, I want me some chocolate. Keep your nuts and fruit and freaky add-ins out of it. Capiche?
Andria: I think it’s important to tell a good story. That’s it. If you push some boundaries in the genre while you’re doing it and you still tell a good story then great. If you don’t push any boundaries, but you write a good story then that’s great too. But if you’re writing bad stories under the justification that you’re pushing boundaries then I think you’re doing it for the wrong reason. In my opinion, at the end of the day it’s always about writing a good story.
Rachel: I think it’s important to push my own personal boundaries in my writing, pushing past my comfort zone, and trying different things, yes. But I definitely don’t think that every book has to challenge a reader or push conventions, in that sense. I think there is a place for every kind of book, and I know as a HUGE bookaholic, that I go through moods. Sometimes I want to read a book that is deep and angsty. Other times I want a fantasy or a book set in a different world, whether that is sci-fi or historical. And most often, I want to read a book that is fun and romantic and helps me escape my own world for a while. Whatever I’m feeling, I love knowing there’s a book out there for that mood. And as an author, I love being able to provide that, too.
Melissa: I think it’s important to push your writing in every way. But I also think it’s important that you stay true to the story. Don’t push just to push.
Renee: Definitely. In pushing the boundaries, we enter a truly new, raw way of writing. It can be a risk, but taking risks can help us grow as an artist.
So the consensus is sometimes you can push boundaries in your own writing, but it has to be for the right reasons and not just because it’s what people want you to do. It has to fit the character and the situation. I love that, and think our readers will love that too. Like Rachel pointed out, everyone goes through moods and sometimes light is what a person needs, not always angsty and deep. Last question for you lovely ladies. How do your characters push boundaries in YA?
Nyrae: One way is they screw up. A lot. I’m a fan of flawed characters because in real life, I think we’re all flawed. We screw up and we make bad decisions, some of them worse than others. Their mistakes aren’t always popular, but I think they’re real.
Jolene: At the moment, I’m thinking mostly of Penny Jones, my girl in Out of Play. I love that she doesn’t always do what people expect. I love that she has a hot temper and she lets it loose. I love that when Bishop starts freaking out, she doesn’t tell him to breathe, she tells him to punch something. I think the boundary pushing of stereotypes is what makes a character, and therefore a book, stand out.
Victoria: I don’t think all of my characters push boundaries, but Dante certainly does. However, see my answer above. That doesn’t always translate to mass sales. You can push boundaries and divide readers with how they feel about your characters (read: Dante Walker), or you can write a story and characters that are going to be universally liked. One will make you remembered as stand-out author (for better or worse), one will make you money hand-over-first (assuming in both cases you’re a talented writer and storyteller).
Andria: In this series I tried to make sure I added cultural diversity to the characters, in the main characters and in the secondary characters that they interact with. That’s this big boundary in YA. Everyone is white. Everyone. Main characters, secondary characters, people on the street. In real life I live in the middle of Amish Country and we have more diversity than the YA world and that’s crazy because young people now are exposed to so much more diversity and are so much more accepting of it but we’re still trying to write in Mayberry, USA and with this series I tried to push away from that a bit.
Rachel: They aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. And in most of my books, I have at least one character finding their own path in life, away from what the world tells them is normal or cool or expected. In my latest Entangled Teen release, A Tale of Two Centuries, my main character pushes the boundaries of her own comfort zone. She’s a sixteenth-century girl who time travels to modern day Beverly Hills, where she is surrounded by scandalously clad teens and is put into situations that test her at every turn. It was fun shaking up this “proper” girl’s world, having her break the rules, only because that was so against her character in the beginning. Her stumbles, hilarious and heartbreaking, symbolized her change.
Melissa: Ari pushes every boundary imaginable. From societal boundaries to those with her family and friends.
Renee: My characters push boundaries by acting against expectations. If a certain action seems most likely, pushing the boundaries means having that character do the opposite.
Thanks for joining us today on the hot seat with the Entangled Teen authors. Ask questions, and they’ll answer. If you’re lucky, maybe even their characters will come out to play. I know Dante will play, and maybe if you’re lucky so will the kickass heroines these girls penned. Till next time, this is Constance Brooker, signing off.