Since I'm part of the Embrace line and love writing all things New Adult, I sent an email to our awesome Editorial Director and boldly demanded an interview. Instead of firing me, she actually said yes! Lesson: You never know if you'll get it if you don't ask.
So, let's get on with the interview, shall we?
Gather 'round and welcome to the blog the amazing, the luminous Karen Grove! *applause*
Kate Evangelista: My readers (many of them aspiring authors) would like to get to know you better for stalking purposes. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you found your way to Entangled.
Karen Grove: For stalking purposes, eh? I think my age is going to show on this one. I’ve been around publishing since 1982…starting as a book design intern at St. Martin’s Press. I then moved to Hearst Magazines, where I was a junior print buyer and then a production assistant. Then, in 1984, I moved from NY to CA, and spent a year as a production assistant at Academic Press. When Harcourt created their Gulliver Books children’s imprint, I moved over there as an editorial assistant, working my way up through the ranks to Senior Editor, working on board books, picture books, nonfiction, middle-grade, and young adult. For the past 20 years, however, I’ve concentrated in young adult fiction, which has always been my love. Over these years, I received some wonderful submissions that were just a bit too old for YA yet not what we would consider “adult” fiction. With no place for them on the bookstore shelves or means to get the word out, I sadly had to decline them for publication. Today, I’m absolutely thrilled that New Adult is finally being recognized, and I’m doubly thrilled that Entangled has embraced this category and is making a home for these wonderful stories.
KE: Alright, let’s get into the nitty of this interview. How would you define New Adult as a genre? How is it different from YA?
KG: I don’t really consider New Adult a genre. It’s more of a category—just as YA is a category—covering a wide variety of genres, such as romance, contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, suspense, historical, etc. YA and NA are very much tied together, the main difference being the perspective from which the story is told. NA is a time between high school and adulthood, where young people are legally adults but still testing the waters of just what that means. They deal with many of the same issues of identity and exploration faced in YA, but there’s a stronger sense of breaking away from parents, discovering one’s future, and taking on greater responsibilities. The NA protagonist’s world is bigger, and there’s more experience behind a character’s decisions and thought processes…and a lot more independence.
KE: A few years ago, YA was everyone’s darling category. It seemed like every author had to write something YA. Now, YA’s naughtier older sister has made herself known. What do you think is the reason for the sudden resurgence of New Adult?
KG: I think there has always been a need and desire for NA fiction—as an editor, I saw these manuscripts come across my desk, and a lot of them were worthy of publication. The problem was that there was no way to sell it. Bookstores didn’t have an NA section (and most still don’t), and so there was never a clear picture for how to shelve these titles—adult or teen—and get them into the hands of their intended audience. Placing them in either section risked their being lost. After all, there were no review journals for this category, either, so how would readers find out about them? It was a risk for print publishers to take them on; in what was already a risky business. But with the rise of digital publishing and a wide variety of online review sources and bloggers, there was finally a way for people to learn about these books. Publishers didn’t have to sink tons of money into printing books as a “test” to see if there was truly a market for these books. And they could get the word out about them without having to invest in pricey ads. More than any other factor, the digital world finally made NA fiction a possibility. And now print publishers and bookstores are listening.
KE: Just because you make your character’s age eighteen and above does that make the story NA?
KG: Not at all. The age of the main character is merely a guideline. We like our NA characters to be 18-24 years old—just as most YA fiction prefers characters from 14-18, and in high school. But for both categories, those are simply guidelines. What makes the stories YA or NA is more the approach the author—and the main character—takes in viewing his or her world and the decisions that must be made. I have received manuscripts that “feel” YA with 21-year-old protagonists; those characters must be aged down. And there are manuscripts with 17-year-old protagonists that need to be aged up for the way they approach their world. Does this mean that there aren’t mature teens or immature adults? No. But for a story to be successful, the character’s age, voice, world, experience, and decisions must all work together to create a believable story.
KE: What about the popularity of the contemporary romance genre in NA? Why does it seem to work better for NA than for YA? I’m basing my question on the number of NA novels topping the Amazon Top 100 List compared to YA, especially in ebooks. Not that I watch this list on an almost daily basis, of course.
KG: LOL. I think contemporary romance was the natural place for NA fiction to begin. Emerging adults are in the throes of discovering their sexuality, and there is a limit on what can be explored in teen fiction. There are a number of reasons for this: some teens are not yet emotionally ready for explorations of the sexual kind, school libraries do not want these books on their shelves for obvious reasons, and what we call “gatekeepers” are very much in play in YA fiction. As they should be. New Adult fiction has allowed a voice for this tumultuous period in people’s lives—where exploration, conflicts, and, yes, mistakes are made, and survived. Readers want to read about others going through similar trials. And I think one of the reasons for the success of NA is that the audience is so broad: teens reading “up”, readers from 18-24, and adults touching base with their younger years. They say that no matter how old we get, we still think of ourselves as we were in our twenties.
KE: NA versus Adult. When do we know we’re crossing the line? How far can New Adult test the boundaries in terms of storylines without venturing into the Adult genre?
KG: Crossing the line truly depends on the perspective. A story about 18-24 year olds told from the point of view of an older—or younger—woman or man is crossing the line. The viewpoint must be youthful and without the benefit of years of experience, yet old enough to have developed a stronger sense of identity and responsibility than a teen. After all, these protagonists are experiencing many of these things for the first time. Just as in YA or Adult, the voice must believably reflect the age and life experiences of the main character. In terms of storylines, NA is all about testing boundaries; the only boundaries are set by the voice and point of view.
KE: As the editorial director of Embrace, the sickest imprint specializing in NA (and I’m not just saying this because Impulse is part of this imprint), what are you looking for in a submission? What kind of New Adult manuscript will call to you?
KG: Yes…we’re the sickest imprint specializing in NA, though I may be biased. :-) For me, personally, voice is always the element I look for. It must be strong, unique, and bring the characters to life. A strong voice gives a character legs. It allows that character to walk down any street and feel “real”; to find themselves in any situation and be true to their heart; to relate to themselves and others consistently and with conviction. I’m looking for NA fiction in all genres—romance, suspense/thrillers, mystery, urban fantasy, paranormal, contemporary. At this moment, I’m especially looking for contemporaries…college stories, stories with MCs who choose to enter the workforce rather than go to college, protagonists taking a gap year, entering the military, floundering after high school, struggling to define themselves as adults. Whatever the story, I’m looking for characters who leap off the page with powerful voice.
KE: What are your goals for the Embrace line? What do you envision for its future?
KG: My goal for the Embrace line is to release strong, quality fiction that readers can relate with; that young readers can see themselves in or test the waters, so to speak, vicariously; that older readers can feel themselves drawn back in time to relive the feelings of their past. I want our books to embrace the endless possibilities and potential that beckons to emerging adults, showing the failures and triumphs, heartaches and joy, relationships and independence that each person experiences throughout their lives. And I want Embrace to be known for giving a damn good read.
KE: Now, last question. If my enterprising friends would, let’s say, want to submit to the Embrace line, what do they need to know besides what’s on the website before flooding the Submittable? Can you give us some inside scoop?
KG: Inside scoop, eh? Hmmm. Simple: Make sure you have a great story. :-) Too easy? Well, a few suggestions: You can be assured that all manuscripts that come into Embrace are read, but the key is creating a great cover pitch so that more than one editor chooses to read your story in full. The more eyes, the more chances that your story will resonate with just the right editor who will want to champion your book. And make sure you’ve gone over your manuscript and eliminated typos and grammatical issues as much as possible. No one expects a perfectly clean manuscript, but with each typo, odd sentences left over from a previous revision, and contradictions, the more likely the reader will be jarred out of your story. You have a captive audience, don’t allow these “speed bumps” to disrupt your pacing.
KE: Thank you so much for gracing us with your virtual presence today! We learned a ton. Do you have any final nuggets of wisdom as an editor of New Adult for all our readers out there?
KG: Be proud of yourself as an NA writer, and strive to stretch your wings. New Adult is in its infancy and you’re a pioneer. As such it’s up to you to test the waters, expand and define the category, write the rules. The possibilities are endless. Above all, band together with other New Adult writers and create a support system for one another. NA began with word of mouth, and it will grow even stronger with word of mouth. Praise one another, cheer for your fellow NA writers, share your love for the category. For with each NA title that garners success, that reflects favorably on you and your stories. NA is here to stay…and it’s all because of you.
I love this interview. Karen really gets into the heart of New Adult and I'm so proud to be working with her as an author in the Embrace line.
It's my hope that through this interview Karen and I were able to inspire all of you to keep on writing and reading! New Adult is a fun category and I can't wait to share with everyone what I'm working on.