Friday, June 10, 2011

Dianne Greenlay - Guest Post - How much romance is too much for a Young Adult novel?

Hello Wendy, thanks for your invitation to visit your blog.

How much romance is too much for a Young Adult novel?

I don't know that I am well qualified to speak with any authority on this subject, but first a little bit about my background: I raised 6 children ( blended family of 4 boys and 2 girls) who were all teenagers at the same time. Boyfriends and girlfriends, and friends of their friends revolved through our house like shoppers through the double doors at Walmart on Black Friday. Varying degrees of real-life romance constantly abounded.

That said, I am always shocked at how much detail TV and movies include in the romance department for shows that teens watch. It's a different world than when I was growing up and the rules and the level of acceptance have changed. Initially, when I was writing QUINTSPINNER - A PIRATE'S QUEST, I was writing an adventure novel for adults. It was only when I worked with an editor who suggested that I lower my protagonist's age to 16 to capture and include the YA market, that the amount of romantic detail became a consideration for me.

Along the way, I read several YA books by popular authors, some of whom wrote in both YA and adult markets, and I compared the writing. This was not that helpful, as the novels varied widely in their levels of description in romantic scenes. Some were pretty tame, others made me downright blush with both their extensive sexual descriptions and expletives. I realized that the Young Adult age group has been gradually desensitized to observing intimate details in all of their media and the vast choices out there for them offer something for everyone's degree of comfort.

It was when I read an old review of an Alfred Hitchcock movie that remarked on how he was a master of suspense, that I made up my mind as to what level I would include in my own YA novel.  Hitchcock was skilled at creating a mood of terror by just offering a few details and setting up a scene so that the viewers filled in the unseen parts with their own imaginations - a technique that was, in the reviewer's opinion, more successful in creating the desired effect than the present slasher genre which leaves nothing to the imagination.

Because I was writing in the historical/adventure genre, there was a lot more action going on than just that with my characters' hormones, and the romance scenes were not the  front-and-center scenes of the story as they are in a purely romance novel. Relationships and attractions between the characters did develop, however, in ways that I had not intended in the beginning. I used my own grown children ( all in their late teens and early twenties) as early beta readers from a YA point of view, for the romance scenes as well as for some of the  novel's grittier scenes. Their conclusions were both complimentary and unexpected.

The grittier scenes? "They were so cool, I couldn't stop reading."
And the romantic ones? "Um ... well, they were OK." 
Me: "Just OK?"
Them: "No, they were really, really good, but ... well, this is going to be a book and ... (big sigh), well, we don't know if we want our friends who will be reading it to know that our MOTHER can make kissing sound so HOT."

And that, in my opinion, was the biggest compliment that they could have given me.

As the daughter of a London physician in 1717, sixteen-year-old Tess Willoughby has seen her share of horrors and been to some of the city's shadiest quarters. But a simple trip through the chaos of a London marketplace takes a bizarre twist. Tess witnesses the murder of a renowned elderly seer and unwittingly becomes the mistress of the woman's prophetic spinner ring. Even worse, Tess's panic-stricken trip home leads her to discover a secret family history that shocks Tess to her core. Unable to give up the bejeweled ring, Tess must embark on a treacherous voyage to the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies. Trapped on a merchant ship and unwillingly betrothed to the murderer who covets the power of her ring, Tess finds strength and comfort in the company of a handsome sailor, even though this growing temptation will most certainly jeopardize their lives. Even stranger, she soon realizes that even though her fiancé is ruthless, he alone can secure her safety throughout their perilous journey. Thrust into a world she doesn't understand to fulfill a role she is only beginning to grasp, Tess questions everything she has believed up to now. Her only hope of saving those she loves is to accept her destiny. And yet, the strange influence of her spinner ring could change everything ... Full of high seas action, dangerous magic, and a dash of romance, Quintspinner is a swashbuckling adventure that twists and turns with the fury of a hurricane. 

Saving lives by day (physiotherapist, EMT) and spinning lies by night ( writer/author and playwright/director of Community Theatre), I live on the Canadian prairies with my husband in a lovely historical home that we share with a consortium of cats. Having raised a family of 6 kids ( and, amazingly, everyone lived through it!) , I have plenty of their escapades still fresh in my mind, to weave into my fiction. Whenever possible, I travel to exotic locales to research my novels and to seek out new adventures to fuel my already overactive imagination.

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  1. I love this post!!

    My last blog post is, in fact, about this, so here's my two cents :)

    As a 22-y.o. (not a teenager anymore, but I still feel very much in sync, as I do read YA and watch TV shows marketed toward teens), I feel like it is impossible to avoid at least a little bit of sex, violence or language.

    Now, I am a pretty liberal, open-minded person (no criticism to those who are more conservative whatsoever - in fact, I understand where they're coming from), so I don't mind more sex and violence and what not. Firstly, I believe that this is the world these teens live in, so the books should feel true to life (case in point: Hunger Games), but at the same time, it shouldn't be exploitative.

    All in all, great post, and I love your children's reactions!

  2. Thanks Nikola, for your comment. I agree, that it's impossible to avoid sex and violence if one wants the book to feel "real" to today's YA readers.If you read Quintspinner, I'd love to hear your thoughts on its contents. :-)Thanks for dropping by here.

    Wendy, thank you so much for hosting my guest blog as part of my book tour.I have so enjoyed meeting each of you bloggers! Cheers! - Dianne


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