Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest post by YA paranormal author Ella James

               Never too old for YA books...

Before I started writing ebooks and was writing with the goal of getting an agent and a "brick and mortar" book deal, I always imagined my potential readers as high schoolers. They would buy my books and pass them around school, as in those best-case scenarios where a book becomes an international sensation and people start naming their children after its characters. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I spent a good deal of time trying to stay up on teenage slang. I was thrilled to learn the term 'Facebook official' and tried to make myself - or at least my characters - say 'sick' instead of 'cool.'

Sometime last summer, I started hearing a lot about Amazon's Kindle and the BN Nook, and sometime after that I decided maybe I would put some of my books out there in eland. I got a Facebook account. Put myself on Goodreads. By some miracle, people started friending me. Fan mail came eventually, and in my shock that anyone was reading and loving my books, there was another shock: almost none of these people were teenagers. In fact, according to the data on my blog and my Facebook page, my average reader is about my age - maybe a little older: somewhere in their late 20s or early 30s. Most of the readers who track me down to say they liked my books read Twilight as adults - if they read it.

I was originally going to write my guest post about Sex, Drugs, & Rock N' Roll in YA books. After I realized that's probably been done to death, I thought of another problem: How much vulgarity is acceptable depends a lot on the age of the reader. If almost all of my readers are adults, how does that affect the way I write YA? What does it mean for me that I now know I'm writing for adults at least equally as much as I'm writing for teenagers?

This has been my experience: On the sex front, adult romance readers delving into YA romance want a little somethin' somethin'. They don't seem to want much, because they're mature enough to understand that teens are also reading YA books and they want to shelter the teens, but they do want something. Teens, on the other hand, seem a little more likely to be satisfied by a good kiss or a romantic confession of neverending love - a la Twilight. When it comes to drugs, it's the exact opposite. In my YA paranormal romance, HERE, the main characters go to a party in a Denver suburb where some of their friends are rolling (that's doing E, or Ecstasy) and other friends are drinking. More than one high-school-aged reader has said they thought this scene was spot on - "just like a real party," one of them told me, "but more people would be doing (prescription) pills." Part of me feels like I'm skirting real issues by not writing more about "pills" and having studious Milo "vyvansing" (using Adderall-like uppers to study). It may not be a desirable reality, but it is a reality - a lot of high schoolers use recreational drugs. But since adults don't like reading about it and there's a widespread mentality that we're supposed to shelter teens by ignoring the issues in fiction or only writing about them in such a way where the character suffers in a big way as a consequence, I haven't pushed the envelope with this (yet?). I included the peripheral characters "rolling" in HERE only because I cannot imagine a large, unchaperoned high school party where no one is doing drugs. Call me crazy...

Yet another interesting facet of the sex, drugs & rock 'n roll debate is this: The average teenager reading on a Nook, Kindle, or Ipad can likely make independent choices about which books to buy. I know that since there are so many adults reading YA ebooks, they sometimes screen the books first, but I also would imagine that parents might be less likely to pre-read their children's books because unlike at a bookstore, the purchasing of the book is not as 'obvious' or as formal an occasion. (I can buy a book on my couch and my husband might never notice me doing it.) Not having or being a teenager, though, this is something I don't know a lot about.

What I do know is my own standards: nonspecific hanky panky in a book marketed for teens, even if the majority of the readers end up being adults. By nonspecific I mean the Cayne and Julia scenes in the Amtrak. You know they're doing something, but I tried to make it almost impossible to discern whether they were simply kissing or doing a whole lot more. (If you read Stained, what was your impression?) As for drugs: I'll probably continue to mention them in YA books even if it makes some adults unhappy (as it did when a woman reviewing HERE said it turned her off the book).

And, because it's true: we are never too old for YA books, I'm changing my stories in other ways, too... Making sure each character has a really solid history. Making sure it's abundantly clear exactly why the characters like each other romantically - usually because some need is being satisfied. And making sure the plot can hold  up under the scrutiny of someone who's been reading fiction for 25 years rather than 10.

Do you read YA romance? What do you think about the inclusion of sex and drugs? I think we can all agree on the merits of rock n' roll.

About Ella:

Ella James is the author of Stained and Stolen, books one and two in the Stained Series; HERE, book one in anunusual sci-fi romance trilogy; and Before You Go, a YA romance that tells thefirst meeting of Logan and Margo, who will be featured in her upcoming adult release, Over The Moon. She has a YA paranormal romance release scheduled for almost every month of 2012, including Chosen (Stained Book Three) in June and the second HERE book in July. Ella is inviting readers to help her write anadult romance shapeshifter novel, which is plotted via polls and questions onher blog and her Facebook page. Ella lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her wonderful husband, opinionated baby, and mopey dog. You can visit her blog at, or friend her on Facebook at For a list of her award-winning YA romances,visit her Amazon page at

Ella's books:

STAINED:After a fire destroys seventeen-year-old Julia's home and kills her fosterparents, she chases the half-demon responsible across the country and back, determined to avenge her family and discover why a host of celestial baddies want her dead. With Julia is enigmatic hottie Cayne, who has his own score tosettle with the half-demon, and who might be just as dangerous as the creature he and Julia hunt.
Listed as one of the Top 10 Books of 2011, Cayne voted one of 2011's Top 10 Book Boyfriends. Recipient of the Flamingnet Top Choice Award.

                                    STOLEN (Stained Book 2):
With Cayne's fate in the hands of his enemies and Julia spirited away to the covert Stained compound, the two are separated by impenetrable walls and a gulf of unanswered questions. Soon Julia learns thetruth about the Stained and the plans they have for her, the compound isattacked, and a new group is running from an unwanted destiny, searching the globe in pursuit of the knowledge that just might save them all.

CHOSEN (Stained Book 3):
Julia has been chosen. While at the Stained compound, shewas tapped as The one to win the war against the Nephilim and leashed with an illness that worsens each day she is away from The Three. Determined not to return to the frightening Chosen leaders and desperate to learn the fate of The One, Julia and Co. trek to the Swiss Alps, home of a rogue Chosen clan. In this snowy haven, all Hell breaks loose. Someone is a traitor… Someone changessides…  Someone is dragged to Hades…  A new romance blossoms. An old romance is damned. And The Three will stop at nothing to recover the weapon that will helpthem regain power.

HERE (Here Trilogy Book 1):Milo Mitchell's life used to be charmed, but that was before her family dissolved, she went a little crazy, and her best friends started acting more like strangers. Spending Saturday morning in a tree house with a stun gun for company and a herd of deer for friends is the only exciting thing in her life...until she shoots a fawn and finds her dart stuck in a guy.
Her gorgeous victim is dressed in a Brioni tux and armed with a hanky. He has no idea who or where he is. Afraid her dart caused his amnesia, Milo takes him in, names him Nick, and vows to help him solve his mystery. Soon the pair find Nick's face in a newspaper obituary, and Nick begins to have strange, the real memories of Milo--who is sure she's never met him. Suddenly Nick knows thing she shouldn't know and is doing things he shouldn't do. When the Department of Defense shows up, Nick and Milo run--toward a shocking conclusion that could destroy both their worlds.

BEFORE YOU GO:Margo Ford just became an heiress. Not the Paris Hilton kind. Her billions came after her father died and her insanely wealthy, insanely absent mother officially claimed her. Unfortunately, some terrorists noticed, and they hatched a plot to kidnap her. After a news report goes awry, reporting that Margo *has* been kidnapped, and her mother offers the humiliating sum of $500,000 for her return, Margo doesn't want anything to do with her *#$!@ of anegg donor. Then she is sentenced to a summer of "protection" on hermother's private island. Not the Oprah Winfrey kind. This one has anastronomical observatory filled with scientists, including Logan Greer, a superhot, super infuriating planet-hunter. Hiding out from kidnappers has never beenso boring... until suddenly it isn't anymore.

Thank you Ella for being on our blog, it's been a pleasure to have you.


  1. Yay! Great post! I love Ella James!

  2. Great post Ella!
    As far as what to put in YA books - Maurice Sendak has a great quote about talking to children,“I said anything I wanted because I don't believe in children, I don't believe in childhood. I don't believe that there's a demarcation. 'Oh you mustn't tell them that. You mustn't tell them that.' You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it's true. If it's true, you tell them.”
    Now, I know he is referring to a much younger audience and different subject matter, but I think the sentiment is true. If the sex or drugs or whatever pertains to the story and what teenagers are going through, I think it should allowed to be in YA books without too much controversy. Like you said, it doesn't have to be in explicit detail, but I think leaving it out and pretending it isn't happening is doing both teenagers and the literary world a disfavor.

  3. Laura - that is exactly how I feel.

  4. I was going to say a whole lot, but I can't put it the way it is in my head, so I'm going to agree with Laura. Don't leave it out, and don't pretend it doesn't happen, because that's not helping anyone out.


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