AWW Feature & Giveaway: Fiction for the Not-So YA by Alex Moses

Welcome Alexa Moses!

I am pleased to welcome Alexa Moses to Book’d Out today. Drawing on her journalistic and screenwriting experience, and hours spent listening to ancient Egypt lectures as she breastfed and rocked her screaming baby during the night, Alexa is the debut author of Slave Girl, a fun adventure novel for tweens and teens, and the first in a planned series featuring  Jenna Bookallil-Brown.

In Slave Girl,  thirteen-year-old Australian exchange student Jenna has nabbed an appointment in New York’s coolest hair salon, but when her teacher insists she stay with the group at the boring Metropolitan Museum, she storms off and stumbles into what she thinks is a fancy-dress party. And it is a party. In ancient Egypt. 3500 years ago. Once Jenna accepts she’s really travelled back in time, she realises she has to work out a way home – with only her big mouth, a smart phone and a pair of second-hand Marc Jacobs sandals to get her out alive.

When Alexa approached me for a review I accepted with the intention of sharing this story with my nine year old daughter, who agreed to read it and write her own review and whose uncensored opinions you can find HERE

This morning, Alexa has chosen to share the challenges involved in writing for the wide audience of readers who enjoy young adult fiction and has generously offered Book’d Out readers the chance to win one of three copies of Slave Girl. Read on…

Fiction for the Not-So YA

Squirrelled away in my pyjama drawer is a collection of exercise books, those run-of-the-mill lined ones you find in any newsagency.

Mine are have pictures of bands like Midnight Oil and the Cure glued on the front. Across the photos are quotes in liquid-paper pen including, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength – George Orwell”.

You know, the slogans you plaster across your exercise books when you’re 14 and fancy yourself an intellectual heavyweight.

These are my diaries spanning from when I was 10 years old until I was 16. In that time, I filled seven fat exercise books and developed a habit of talking to an older version of myself whom I called Elder Lex. (Again, what you do when you’re 13 and fancy yourself an intellectual heavyweight). Every decade, I dip into my diaries and meet Younger Lex again. Each time, I’m forcefully reminded of the same thing: She’s not so different to who I am today.

Sure, a ‘tween or teen’s impulse control, emotional insight, and understanding of the consequences of risk-taking behaviour are far weaker than an adult’s. Their ability to reason and grasp concepts is not. ‘Tweens and teens are not vacuous creatures waiting patiently to be given information, easily fobbed off with lazy books.

I think that’s one key to writing books both children and adults can enjoy. Being certain I didn’t patronise my readers was crucial when I wrote my Slave Girl series for 10- to13-year-olds, while making sure older readers could pick it up as well. (Another key was stylish packaging, and for that I have to thank designer Jane Waterhouse. A book that looks too kiddie isn’t going to attract an older market, whatever’s inside.)

The boom in children’s and young adult’s fiction over the last five years, with the rise of Harry Potter and Twilight, is thoroughly documented. What’s not so well-known is that most YA book buyers are adults. Last month, Bowker Books in Print released a report saying 55 percent of people buying books in the USA intended for kids aged 12 to 17 are adults, and 78 percent buy for themselves.

More and more, kid’s books are appealing to grown-ups. Earlier this year, Time columnist Joel Stein wrote a  sly op-ed piece, saying that adults should be reading grown-up books instead of embarrassing themselves with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Stein likened kid’s books to other media that ‘doesn’t require much of your brains’.

I’d argue that the differences between adult and children’s fiction come down to themes and the age of the main character, rather than the brainpower needed to read them. The prose in children and young adult’s literature is often more direct and the pace faster, but in terms of quality, it depends which books you’re comparing. Twilight versus Freedom? I’ll back adult writer Jonathan Franzen any time. The Fault in Our Stars versus James Patterson’s Cross Fire? Nope.

Modern children’s literature is replete with rich characterisation and plotting: Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Wonder by R. J. Palacio and Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper series spring to mind. Conversely, anyone can think of adult fiction teeming with cardboard characters and ludicrous plots. Even Agatha Christie was hardly mistress of the multi-layered character.

Slave Girl, which came out in August, Heroine (May 2013) and Priestess (2014) follow the adventures of self-absorbed 13-year-old Jenna who time-travels back to ancient Egypt and ultimately discovers there’s more to history and other cultures than mouldy old pottery. When I wrote it I had Younger and Elder Lex squarely in mind. I imagined turning the pages, both at 13 and 36.

While I didn’t have to consider the intelligence of my younger readers, I did have to consider the preoccupations of their stage of life. At age 12, I was simultaneously scared and fascinated when I thought of kissing a boy, let alone sex?! At age 13, university seemed magical, and working until 6pm in an office felt impossible – when would I watch TV?

Stories for kids centre on themes that fit the age group – discovering talents, confronting new situations, attempting to carve a place in the world. And the best of these stories are usually sharper, shorter and throb with the breathless intensity that younger people have as they experience the world for the first time.

So, I’ve been flicking through those diaries again. She ties herself in knots with clumsy melodrama, but she’s also the owner of penetrating insights. My favourite is the knowledge that I’d be laughing at my own clumsy melodrama from this vantage point.

I was only half-right. I’m smiling, not sneering. I’m beguiled by the intensity of that teenager and have a new understanding of her through the lens of an older woman. And she reminds me that if I want to write for older and younger readers, I should never, ever assume any of them are dumber than I am.

Even if they’re only eleven.

Follow Alexa Moses at

Website I Twitter

Available to Purchase

@HarperCollins I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko

ENTER TO WIN

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia you can win

1 of 3 paperback editions of Slave Girl

(Sorry – Open to Australian Residents only)

Click Here To Enter

Entries close October 21st 2012

Winner drawn via Random.org

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 10:43:28

    Oh, thanks for featuring this, Shelleyrae! Definitely one to add to my Ancient Egypt and Time Travel book lists. 🙂

    Like

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Review & Giveaway: Slave Girl by Alex Moses « book'd out
  3. Mary Preston
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 23:10:36

    SLAVE GIRL looks wonderful.

    I smiled throughout the post.

    Like

    Reply

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