ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing Writing Smut Like That?

on June 18, 2014

Hi, everybody!  I came back again today.

So first I want to point out that I posted the first scene from my book, What You Stand For, on its very own page.  You can read it by clicking on the link to the right.  What You Stand For is the second (or possibly third) book I’ve finished.  It’s nearly done, which is good because I’m going to a conference with it.  People do come back with contracts or even an agent, but me?  I’m just going for the experience this year.

I don’t talk much about writing.  Probably because everybody I know wants to do it.  People think it’s easy, that you just sit at your desk and work and then watch the money roll in.  Let me tell you that finishing that first draft is difficult!  And having out-of-control subplots (well, in my case I had misidentified them) didn’t help.  I kept realizing right around the 70% mark that I was not writing the book I had outlined and that I needed to go back and rework what I was doing.  Eventually I had to just keep going, knowing I had some serious flaws to fix in the next draft.

The other reason I don’t talk about writing is because my protagonists are mostly college age.  “Why, Ellen!” people say.  “Why’s a nice girl like you writing…pornography?!”

So then I have to explain that what I’m writing doesn’t really fit the New Adult label.  Yes, my characters have sex, but not very explicitly.  Yes, they go to parties, but they also study and read and volunteer and all those things a modern college student does.  Yes, my characters are people with problems, but they’re normal problems involving parents, friends, or other situations.

My writing projects in many ways have always been about college students. In high school I wrote a series of stories about a boarding school; when I was younger I wrote about kids away at camp or summer programs. I’ve always been interested not just in the growth and transformations people go through from child to adult, but the idea of that growth taking place away from parental figures. How do people decide who they really are? How does that affect the way we move through the world?

A few years ago I discovered New Adult fiction as its own separate category.  Many of the books I dipped into were traditional romance novels with protagonists who happened to be college students.  Many didn’t withstand feminist scrutiny, and a great many are primarily interested in dark pasts and heroes/heroines who have been abused in some way, reminiscent of the “problem novels” that made up much young adult fiction years ago.  Most of them have an extremely limited cast of characters. In nearly all of them sorority girls were either primary antagonists or stuck-up foils to the heroines. This approach seems to work for a lot of people, but I felt that there was a wider audience that wasn’t being served. Greek organizations today are more inclusive than ever, providing leadership and philanthropic opportunities for many students. And most students aren’t running from an abuser, but they are trying to make sense of themselves as adults in a world that continues to treat them like children.

I didn’t know why New Adult fiction was really a marketing title for contemporary romance.  I felt that the titles I read, while perfectly fine as romance, were not books I would have read as an older teen.  I thought, I could do something entirely different from pretty much any book I’ve ever seen.  And so, I wrote the kind of book I would want to read about college.  My biggest challenge?  Remembering that everyone has a phone–well, except Pati.

So that’s it.  I don’t think of what I’m writing as New Adult, but it doesn’t really fit any other category.  I’m just trying to write about that time when we transition from teen to adult in a way that grapples with hard decisions.

 

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