Author Archives: R. K. Brainerd

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. My characters are pretty much always clamoring for attention, and if I don't listen, they plague me with insane dreams and nightmares until I start writing. I also raise dairy goats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. My debut novel -- an alternate-history fantasy -- it set to come out in 2018, probably Fall time. Welcome to the adventure.

ICARUNITE; a short story

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A few weeks ago I was invited by the amazing Nicole Evans to write a short story for Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand, a talented collection of writers chasing their muses and finding their voices through writing short stories inspired by prompts.

The short story that arose was published last Friday, inspired by the prompt “The Last Entry in an Explorer’s Journal.”

My first thought was to write a short story within my Obsidian Divide series, because, well, there’s a lot going on in that world and it would be fun. But in the first two days I realized that wasn’t going to work… and completely changed over to write within another series I’m working on.

This other series I’m struggling with, because it has many themes, tropes, and ideas that are pretty big concepts. Just dealing with one of the issues I address is work enough. But within the story I’m dealing environmentalism, how it intersects with race, the relationship between “developed” and “developing” civilizations, how this fits together, and what a relationship across those divides really should mean. Then add in the fact that it’s New Adult, which means the series is about a character learning how she fits into the world, which is always hard. Oh, and as stories do, other issues are appearing out of the ether, such as white saviorism, how perspectives change across generations, and what the slow build of societal change really looks like.

It’s all very complicated. Which is why, in a weird way, I was so grateful to be invited to write for Muses — beyond just the honor of being asked to write for them. Within the short story I was able to delve into a critical point of backstory, and realized that part of my frustration with this series stems from vagueness. Writing this short story forced me to ask questions I hadn’t thought to ask, bringing clarity and further structure to the world (even within issues that don’t directly come up in the short story itself).

It was a struggle to avoid typical colonialism tropes (you’ll see why), and build a story  fueled with wonder and optimism without falling into exoticism or unreality. I’m not sure I entirely accomplished it, though I’m sure everyone will have a differing opinion on the matter.

ANYWAY. Without further ado, go check out what I wrote. And hey, if you feel up to it, let me know what you think…

P.S. Also, thank you to Jared for helping me figure out the name of ‘The Mineral’ 😉

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Death and Decay

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One of my goats, Beltaine, died last Wednesday. It was pretty sudden, and the circumstances are a little bizarre. The vet has sent off tissue samples to get more answers and information. But needless to say I’ve been hurting, and struggling a lot. My goats are my babies; I help them come into the world, and it’s my responsibility to care for them and keep them safe. When one dies… it shatters a piece of me.

That’s not to say I don’t heal or get better, but that doesn’t take away from the fact.

Now, usually, in heartbreak, I can’t write. I’ve never really been able to write in the depths of depression or hurt. If I need to escape, I spend that time reading or watching TV.

Something different happened last Wednesday as I dug a grave for Beltaine. I was thrown into a scene, a picture that had been vague for a while suddenly crystal clear. It was vivid in an undeniable way.

Two things, actually, came from digging her grave. One of them is for another blog post and will take some time. But the second, I wanted to share with you. Because the minute I came home from burying Beltaine I started to write.

I never write when I’m hurting.

I started writing about decay and yanking someone back from the brink of death. I wrote about what I couldn’t do in real life: saving a loved one when all hope was lost. The segment below is actually part of a bigger series, the series debuting next year.

I apologize for it’s unpolished nature; it’s a little jolting, the voice isn’t where I want it, and it’s pretty raw. The star of this scene won’t be present until Book One, after the prequel, so maybe this is a little premature.

But he talked as I unearthed the final resting place for one of my beloved kids, and I wanted to share.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Humans can smell the decay of a body a few hours after death. It’s sweet and repugnant all at once, candy-sticky and gorge-inspiring. This sense of smell works a little differently for my family: we can smell the decay of a dying person before actual death. See, the human body is equipped with everything it needs to live and die when it’s born – including the bacteria that that takes over at death, turning body to fertilizer. In a human lifetime there’s a constant battle between bacteria trying to keep the body alive, and the bacteria trying to decompose the body. It jumps at any chance to try. And when someone is dying, the bacteria begins its process. We can smell it.

So when the smell of death hit me, as my brother and I frantically bound the gaping holes on the neck, thigh, wrist of the girl bleeding out on the cold concrete floor – panic seized my chest.

Panic. What a funny thing. A sensation I hadn’t felt in years, perhaps decades. It froze me where I crouched, my movements stopped in denial. It flooded my head and made me stupid.

Her heartbeat – it changed. Stuttering. The tune of death’s march. The blood loss was critical, dangerous even in normal circumstances, with access to healing or medical care.

It was 20 minutes to the nearest hospital. This abandoned building was far from any civilization. Even with my speed, it was too far. I’d be fooling myself if I thought I could make it with her injuries. Panic opened its jaws wider.

There was nothing here. I had no blood, no medicine, no doctors, in the middle of nowhere. All I knew was how to kill. I’d gotten to her, and it was too late. She was going to die. I’d seen this so many times. They all died so easily… they all just died.

Twin spikes of grief drove up through my chest and my brother’s and rolled over us like a black wave. Our minds, ever connected, amplified it until I felt like I was drowning. It was inevitable: they all died, ripping from the world, bright lights extinguished I barely had the chance to see.

My eyes burned.

Her end was going to break me. She wasn’t just a bright life in the world; she was an incandescent sun that made the world less weary, that made the centuries feel lighter. She made me feel like living, instead of decaying in my own mind as death was a gift I would never experience. I’d barely had the chance to know her, I’d barely scratched the surface of who she was, and she was being taken from me.

She stopped breathing. Silence stretched. Pain ripped my chest open; my brother’s weary acceptance felt like a hit –

NO. NO. NO, DAMN IT.

Rage gave me breath, gave me clarity. I lunged onto my knees and hovered over her, tilting her head back as I covered her mouth with mine and breathed into her lungs. Her chest expanded with what I’d forced into it. Her heart was still beating; I could supply the oxygen.

I didn’t have the ability to speak so I ordered my brother through our link: Get Druindar. If you can’t find him, anyone who knows what to do. And blood. As much as you can.

Brother… he began.

I violently shook off his hand when he placed it on my shoulder. I was one of the most powerful creatures on the planet goddamn it – I was going to save this girl’s life. She was mine to protect, she was mine. It was going to be different this time. I was changing the story. I would not live without her. I refused.

I lifted my head to suck in air, immediately forcing it into her lungs. What could I use in this building? – this stinking lair of the strigoi. There was nothing here I knew, and no one I could ask, because I’d already killed them all in my pursuit of getting to her. She needed a transfusion. And more than that; her body needed more than just blood. My brother had to be fast, and I had to keep her alive.

You’re not moving, I snarled at him.

“Nothing will be here in time.”

My mouth broke from hers for a second. “I’ll keep her alive!”

Druindar was a goddamn magic healer – I should have made him come with me. I should have forced him to come to this place where I knew she was being sucked on. I wasn’t used to interacting this closely with humans, their fragility. I was a fool. I had to prepare better; no more fucking around.

Regan was dialing someone on his phone: he was helping. Grudgingly, afraid he was buying into my desperation and just delaying the inevitable, he was helping me. Good.

She needed blood and medical attention.

Blood and magic, if at all possible.

Blood and magic.

Blood magic.

I froze for a second. No. It would never be that easy. It couldn’t. My teeth clenched. In all probability it wouldn’t even work; at the very least it wouldn’t work how it was supposed to. But the idea was burrowing into my brain like a parasite. There was no way my shitty existence would make it that simple, but intent, intent changed all kinds of magic –

Her heart skipped… stuttered… all thoughts wiped from my head.

BAM. Her heart slammed hard, then raced, frantically trying to keep her flesh alive when it didn’t have the liquid nor the oxygen to provide. The relief her heart hadn’t stopped tasted like bile.

No more options. This was it.

Blood magic.

I had her in my arms in a second, her body limp weight in my arms, tucking her head between my shoulder and my cheek. She smelled like death and decay and her. Haste was necessary; I couldn’t breathe for her while I held her, and I wasn’t risking brain damage. Regan startled, staring at me. I’d shut down our link without realizing it; he didn’t have access to my head as I raced down the dark concrete hall. That was probably good, because my idea was reckless and irresponsible and born of panic, and he’d try to talk me out of it.

I’d seen a blood collection room when we’d stormed this godforsaken hole, it should have what I needed.

My family – we had a lot of magic. An insane amount of magic. The only problem was we couldn’t actually use it. We can only use it as physical fuel. To do things like make us strong, or fast, or indestructible. But we can’t wield magic.

But there was a lot of magic in our blood.

There — the room. The door was hanging off the one hinge, almost obliterated from when I’d come through it the first time. Regan was on my heels as I shouldered open the remains of the door, lying her on the metal table in the center of the room. It was the worst kind of blasphemy that I laid her on a place where countless people had been drained of their life. But I had no time for sentiment. I held her jaw and felt her chest expand as I breathed for her again. 76 seconds she’d been without. Within safe limits.

“You’re not turning her into a strigoi, are you?” my brother asked with cautious humor. He was being deliberately calm. I could hear him assessing my mental state, trying to figure out how far gone I was.

His statement didn’t deserve the dignity of a response.

Find a blood collection unit.

He stiffened as he realized my intent. Or maybe he’d read it off of me. Arguments brewed in his head – all the ones I’d been thinking already; what we were, what it meant, that it could just kill her – and then they fell away as he was ripping open doors of cabinets, throwing things off counters as he searched. He thought I was delusional and was going to suffer even more at the end of all of this; I didn’t give a rat’s magical butt hair about his opinion.

He barked out a laugh.

Her heart stuttered…

We both froze. My hearing amplified as I listened, turning the small sounds in the room nearly deafening.

THWUP… thwup-thwup… THWUP… thwup …

Death was here.

REGAN!

He blurred as he moved, abruptly at my side. Our thoughts were in tandem; I tilted my head back as he jabbed smoothly, the needle sliding into my jugular. He didn’t need to be careful; dragon curses knew it wouldn’t hurt me. He’d found one with a giant syringe, meant to draw out a lot of blood at once.

Fucking bloodsuckers.

I caught glimpses of images from Regan: my blood sliding into the clear tube thickly, gleaming red. It’d seen a lot of blood. I’d seen a lot of my own blood. I’d never cared so much about it before.

Anxiety hit in waves. This could kill her. She could have an allergic reaction and her body could fight to kill itself. For all intents and purposes my brother and I had O- blood, not that our blood could really be put into a human category. From studying ourselves we knew it was bizarrely without markers or distinguishing traits, exceptionally ‘clean.’ And filled with magic. Magic that could turn on her. Or simply decay in her veins.

The wait was agonizing. Her heartbeat was fading, the counting of final remaining numbers, no surety which would be the last. Nausea twisted my gut, another novel sensation I hadn’t felt in decades. It seemed to take eons for him to fill the giant syringe with dark thick liquid from my body.

Then it was full. I was over her head, breathing through her blue lips. It had been 32 seconds for her without air.

Regan took her arm. There was a large vein in the elbow that was most accessible for transfusions and often used in the field; he had to be incredibly careful not to blow the vein.

“Are you sure?” Regan murmured.

Do it, damn it.

His focus sharpened, his fingers moving along her elbow as he found and palpitated the vein. Then he lifted the needle – which suddenly looked huge, despite Regan mentally snapping that it was the right size – and gently slid it into her vein. His thumb moved to the plunger and he squeezed.

With as long as I had lived, with everything I’d experienced, most everything becomes monotonous. There were few events that really changed anything, after you experience change over the span of centuries.

But this had the potential to change everything. None of us had ever done something like this before. We’d never given bits of ourselves to another person, only inanimate things, in tests. It was unprecedented in my family.

Maybe that would be why it worked.

Regan continued to press down glacially slow. I knew it was important, so he didn’t blow out her vein, but I had to strangle panic and impatience all the same. My heart hammed inside my chest, and in bizarre echoes it seemed connected to my blood sliding into her veins. It felt like a part of my soul went with it. I was still breathing for her, hyperaware of her heartbeat, her skin, the sounds her body made as organs fought against shock.

I hadn’t spoken Gaelic in decades, yet mother’s prayer sprang so easily to mind, muttered against her lips, it was like I’d been saying it every day. I almost wanted to laugh at the childish reaction; Regan definitely did.

Despite the cheesiness… a prickle across my skin made it serious. Intention changed magic.

It had to be enough.

The first syringe was empty, into her veins. She wasn’t convulsing, her skin wasn’t reacting… her body had to be accepting it. Please, of all dragon’s mercy, let her be accepting it.

My brother stabbed me in the neck again, and we repeated the process. Heaviness filled the air, stuck to the walls, weighed down the pathetic light in the room. This had to work. My blood was powerful. I was giving it to her to save her life. Magic was all about intent. It had to work…

We did it again. And again. Regan was calculating in the back of his head, making sure we didn’t give her too much, or too fast. We fell into a rhythm, a pattern, fulfilling a set of actions that would be completed over and over without deviation from perfection. Only when something changed would our actions change; we were machines, razor focused to our tasks.

She coughed.

I reared back. She stilled again.

Silence stretched.

She coughed again, and sucked in a breath, her lungs expanding on her own, her body jerking, her face screwing up. For a horrifying second it looked like death spasms.

But her heart was beating. Beating stronger, more surely; incorporating a part of myself into her system, using it to revive her. I could hear the shifts in her body, shock still crashing through her, death battling against her body’s natural rhythms.

I’d been frozen for several seconds now, but I couldn’t seem to make myself move. I just kept measuring her breaths as they filled her chest, over and over, almost unable to believe it. Regan finished the syringe and turned to me for more blood – she still needed more – his expression blank even as I felt his cautious relief through our link. There was so much more to be done; transportation to a hospital, monitoring her for adverse reactions to my blood, getting every damn healer and doctor I knew to look over her, preventing retaliation against her for what I’d done to find her. But I’d done it. I’d yanked her back from the brink of death.

“She needs another half-pint of blood before we try to move her,” Regan said.

I nodded. My hands lifted from her head, where they’d been to hold her in the correct position for resuscitation. I hesitated, then lowered my hands to her hair, stroking it back from gently her face. She suddenly felt fragile as glass, I wasn’t sure if I should be allowed to touch her.

It took me a few moments to register, having been so focused on the mechanics of moving oxygen from my lungs to hers to really breathe or recognize air.

The smell of death no longer hung around her.

 


A Change for AwakeDragon

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All right, so this week’s post is going to be short and sweet. Because I want to highlight a change happening to AwakeDragon.

I’m adding a whole new page, which will be set as the front page, consisting of a colorful and exciting description of my upcoming New Adult alternate-history fantasy series. I’d like to have a central place where all the info for my writing can be found, and really highlight it!

Instead of my blog posts holding the place of honor, my series is going to be the first thing seen when visiting my website. Not only because it’s awesome and amazing and you should totally read it when it’s here, but because it gives a more complete picture of who I am as an author.

Sooo… go check it out. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Update and Cover Art (Aug. 2017)

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Recap: I sold my New Adult alternate-history fantasy series late last year to Glass House Press. Since then, I’ve been detailing my journey of what goes on behind the scenes. Now, my publishing story is going to be (probably markedly) different than someone else’s, but you might take some inspiration or advice with my tale.

If you’re interested, here is:

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If you’re caught up, you know that I’ve been working on a whole ‘nother book before the original series I sold to Glass House Press. My editor, in considering how gigantic my world is and how much backstory I have to get there, was nervous that there was too much information to pack into the beginning of the series. Thus, a prequel.

Well, it’s turned into 64k words with the latest revision, so I guess it’s real-book sized! I thought it was going to be a novella but since it’s basically impossible for me to write anything short… yeah.

Anyway, August consisted of me working with the first letter of feedback. Mainly, fleshing out my ending, and putting more world details and MC voice in the beginning. This last month was a big of a whirlwind, in learning more about my world than I have before. (The last blog post goes into more detail about this)

I’m a pantser character writer, which means that my world building comes in fits and starts as my characters explore it. It’s got it’s disadvantages; meaning, I tend to have to re-write everything once I get to the end as I figure out Oh Yeah I Need To Know How That Works. Because there’s nothing more irritating to a reader than going along thinking one thing and then having to jar yourself into another world-space because of oh yeah this important detail of my world right here that I’m suddenly bringing in to create conflict hahahahaaaa… 

Okay I’m sure there are other things that are more irritating but that’s probably one of the top ones. At least for me as a reader.

Anyway, I ended up fleshing out/discovering things about my world beyond what I expected. I thought I had it mostly figured out; in delving deeper, into things I thought weren’t important because they weren’t important to the character necessarily, I discovered/created a lot that made my world a lot more interesting. Even though I still feel meh about this prequel coming out before Book One, the exercise of going through all of this has been immensely helpful (and important, to be honest). I already have a boat-load of new information that Book One needs to have. It’s really rather exciting.

I’m starting to think that going forward as a writer, I need to write a ‘history book’ involving whatever world I’m working on. Nothing I ever publish or even make interesting in any sense of the word, but something that makes me walk through and flesh out the environment that my characters are living in. I plot it out in my head, but there’s just something about writing it all out. Because I vastly underestimate how much detail I need to build certain world elements.

(You world-building first types are probably like DUH, but hey I’m getting there)

So that’s the update involving the writing portion of what’s going on behind the scenes.

IN OTHER NEWS.

The publisher and I have started talking cover designs and concepts. For a fun and awesome twist, I get a lot of input on what is going into my cover(s). So last month I had a meeting with my publisher and we worked out concept ideas, themes, and what we wanted to portray for my series. Like, the covers are all going to be made in the same style with similar designs in order to link them together.

The color and certain elements will be different for each one (I’m not sure how much I can talk about details since it’s not quite set in stone this is killing me!!), but we have a basic concept, theme, and vision going forward.

An AMAZING designer (I’m not sure I’m allowed to really say who yet but omg I’m so excited!!?!) has been booked to create my first cover in November. She’s slotted for the first three for sure (first three including prequel and book one and two), and I’m not sure what happens after that, but considering it’ll be like a year or two before I have to think about it I’m sure we’re fine.

Guys I’m so excited about the designer. I didn’t really connect who she was at first, but as soon as I went to check her out and I was like WAIT I KNOW THIS I’VE SEEN THESE COVERS ON SOME OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS. She does gorgeous work, and I think the theme that the publisher and I worked out is going to be very striking and unique. *Cue flailing*

So there’s that.

I’m going to do my darnest to get the latest revision of the prequel back to my editor today. I’ve walked through all the changes she suggested (and some changes I felt it needed), and I can feel my focus on the story flagging; I’m not really seeing it anymore. I’ve done a LOT of work on it (12k words of addition plus whatever I’ve subtracted!), and need a break to come back with it with fresh eyes.

The next step is going to be another round of hard core development edits focused on what I’ve written (the last round of devs utilized a very detailed outline for a big-picture set of edits). It will be very interesting to see what my editor thinks walking through the story, versus just hearing about what the story will be about…

I’m pretty nervous, but also really looking forward to it. I’ve been craving this kind of in-depth, er, teaching, for lack of a better word. I read a lot of writing advice and such, but it’s easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to your own writing and not quite see how to apply the advice. Developmental edits are not my strong suit, and I sincerely want to learn!

And on that note…. happy Monday everyone! May your week be filled with inspiration and writing.


Strange Neural Pathways: Moving On From Grief

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It’s very strange how our brains make connections between ideas or concepts that don’t really seem all that relatable.

Example: I used to watch Grey’s Anatomy with my biological father when I visited him on the weekends. It wasn’t the only show we watched, and honestly, not even the best. But we watched Grey’s Anatomy.

(If you don’t know what that is it’s a dramatic doctor show that follows a group of surgeons (but specifically one woman with the last name Grey) from internship to becoming full-fledged Attendings, using medical problems and situations as metaphors for life)

Then my father and I had a falling out, which lasted about a year before we tentatively started repairing our relationship. Then he killed himself.

Needless to say, there’s a lot that can be unpacked in that, but I want to talk about Grey’s Anatomy.

Because I didn’t keep watching the show after he died, despite the fact that I wanted to. I even had opportunities to, and the inclination to. I just found myself… not, without quite realizing why. There’s a lot of things I didn’t really touch after he died. And not intentionally, really; I just would realize, in a particular odd moments, that I hadn’t thought about or attempted to engage with something, something I’d cared about or was at least interested in before.

The weirdest part is that these things I stopped thinking about weren’t even things that made sense. They weren’t the things that were ‘most important’ in our relationship. Like, writing, stories, dragons, deep intellectual thought — all of those things are still deeply ingrained parts of my life. Maybe because those things were more me than him and me? I’m not sure.

But back to Grey’s Anatomy.

Because a few months ago I started watching again, from the very beginning. I can’t even remember why I started, I just know that I saw it on Netflix and saw a few ads and then suddenly I was sneaking an episode here and there when I was alone.

Then suddenly I was binge-watching episodes once a week while consuming a bottle of wine. It’s very funny, rewatching a show I’d enjoyed as a teenager, realizing what memories about the show stood out most vividly — versus how I’m interpreting it now. Why did that issue stand out most, as opposed to others? Why that scene, that emotion, versus another? (But that’s a whole ‘nother concept to be unpacked.)

I found myself absolutely bawling at parts that — while dramatic and emotional, whatever — probably didn’t really deserve that kind of reaction. I was invested in the ridiculousness. It was ridiculous and silly — and despite that, it felt… clean.

The point is, the idea that started this whole blog post, is that I just finished watching all of the episodes that I watched with my father. According to Netflix, we watched up through season 7 together.

Now I am starting season 8… all by myself. So far it’s just weird, watching the overblown emotional drama without a clue as to how it ends or where it’s going. Up until now it’s all been nostalgia, and now it’s…. not.

It’s stepping out into the unknown. It’s moving on, from my father, through a silly TV show that held a flavor of our relationship. It’s experiencing things that he’ll never be able to experience with me anymore. His time stopped, forever not moving beyond where we were.

Me?

… my time keeps moving. I’ll continue to live and laugh and love and it breaks my heart over and over again that he’s forever stuck in my past. But watching this ridiculous show… it’s somehow become a small piece in showing me how everything is okay.

Isn’t it funny how our brains associate different things together: overly dramatic show about pretend doctors and their unrealistic trials = daddy issues and suicide and moving on from death.

A’ight. Whatever you say, brain.

 

Has anyone else discovered this connection in your own life? What seemingly unrelated things have made important associations for you?


Let’s Talk About “New Adult” Novels

 

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Okay, so we all know what Young Adult (or YA) is. Novels written for a teenage audience. And we know what “Adult” books are. Books written for an adult audience.

If you don’t know what “New Adult” is, that’s okay, because it’s kind of a new phenomenon and doesn’t have an aisle at the library yet. Simply put, New Adult, or NA, are novels geared towards that aggravating in between stage in life, where you’re technically an adult but are lost in the big, wide world and are pretty sure you’re still a kid somehow.

Those can be pretty broad terms. An age-group can encompass a vast variety of experiences and lessons — and each of these can be different depending on the person. We all learn and grow at different rates, and everybody probably has different ideas of what should happen (or what’s appropriate) for a particular age group anyway.

For simplicities sake, we’ll go with this explanation I’ve heard and appeals to me: YA is about finding yourself, NA is about finding how you fit into the world.

Now, obviously, that’s simplistic. There are adult books that are stories about finding yourself or finding your place in the world. Honestly, I think “finding yourself” happens at any age and all throughout your life, but there does seem to be a particular foundational self-finding as a teen. Or self-solidifying. Or something. But anyway, NA is college-aged focused, tends to be more mature and have darker content.

Because certain things are more acceptable in NA… and the fact that not a lot of people know about NA, so those who do tend to dominate simply by design… and if we’re looking at numbers a lot of writers tend to write some element of romance… a lot of the writers spearheading the NA as an age-group write romance.

NA is able to delve into the area of sex and sexuality that is frowned upon in YA, which means that what people love about YA gets to be mixed with another very popular element: sex. Descriptions and “exploration” of sex is allowed in NA where it’s not in YA. A win-win for a lot of people.

However, this is also leading to a source of frustration.

Please note: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ROMANCE. I love romance. I read quite a bit of romance. I’m a romantic person, I eat it up, especially when I want a happily ever after where everyone is okay in the end and the idea of reading anything about reality makes me want to goat-bolt into the nearest bed.

(I’m going to make goat-bolting a thing. It’s really fast. Trust me.)

Buuuuuuut. The frustration stems from the overwhelmed amount of romance that is dominating New Adult. NA seems to be, practically, just “YA with sex” instead of “college-aged life struggles of finding where you fit in with life.” (Which includes sex of course but you get what I’m saying.) NA has a huge capacity to explore A LOT, but many people of the NA age group or who enjoy the NA age group get frustrated by the seemingly never ending stories about sexual awakening.

Sometimes you want something non-romance. Not only because of the lovely asexual folks out there, who don’t want every book they read in their age group to be smut, but because diversity is a wonderful thing that leads to greatness. Also, choices, because that’s a thing, asexual or otherwise. Romance is great, but when you’re inundated with it you can become sick of it.

The truth is, I get really excited about New Adult stories. I’m a new adult. I feel like I’m in this adult world helplessly swimming in tar looking at everything like WTF AM I DOING. (Current world affairs don’t help.) Finding oneself is amazing and wonderful, but putting those pieces of yourself out in the world and finding how where best they fit keeps me up late wondering. This is where magic happens. This is where “oneself” starts changing the world. This is where “oneself” goes from meaning something just to you to finding the you that means something to other people. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, incredible. Sometimes it’s heartbreak and destruction. Sometimes it’s belonging and joy.

Anyway, the point is: NA is an age-group, not a genre, which means it’s capacity for story is GIGANTIC. I sometimes forget in my own little world where I write what I want, that reality doesn’t always reflect what I think it is or what I think it should be. So, it was really only recently that I realized, yeah, NA is pretty romance-heavy.

But I think there’s an evolution.Since it’s a new age-group, it takes a little bit before it’s fully fleshed out. Romance brought attention to NA: it’s becoming popular and noticed. Agents and publishers acknowledge it, the indie-publishing scene is all over it. Which means that now, as people realize it’s a thing, there will be people writing into it that have other stories to tell.

It’s funny, I wrote NA stories before it was even an age-group. I just wrote what I wanted to see in the world, I wasn’t really worried about it fitting in a bracket. Maybe that’s why I have confidence that NA will move on from “YA with sex” — because if I’m writing it, someone else had to be too. If readers and writers are frustrated about NA seeming limited to one genre, they’ll start writing something different.

NA will evolve. It will become more diverse. Many of us are working on making it so. And hey, if you’re one of those, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s be writing buddies.

 

Comments? Questions? What’s your experience with New Adult — are you writing it?