Writing YA Fiction: A Guest Post by James Morris, Author of Feel Me Fall

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I’m delighted to welcome James Morris, author of Feel Me Fall, to Linda’s Book Bag today. James has kindly agreed to tell me a little about the challenges of writing a novel for the so-called young adult market and, like me, he doesn’t always find categories of books helpful.

Feel Me Fall was published by Inkspot Imaginarium on 2nd May 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Feel Me Fall

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Secrets and survival in the Amazon

Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and her teenage friends stranded and alone in the jungles of the Amazon. Lost and losing hope, they struggle against the elements, and each other. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new order emerges, filled with power struggles, betrayals, secrets and lies. Emily must explain why she’s the last left alive.

But can she carry the burden of the past?

Discover the gripping new adventure novel that explores who we are when no one is watching, and how far we’ll go in order to survive.

Writing Young Adult Fiction – Or Am I?

A Guest Post by James Morris

Feel Me Fall tells the story of Emily Duran, the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and her teenage friends stranded and alone in the jungles of the Amazon. Lost and losing hope, they struggle against the elements, and each other. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new order emerges, filled with power struggles, betrayals, secrets and lies. Emily must explain why she’s the last left alive.

Feel Me Fall is classified as young adult, but as a reader wrote, “It reads like an adult psychological thriller,” and that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. For me, writing young adult is no different than other genres. While the characters might be younger, the drama and stakes still have to be high. The plot must still be engaging. The dialogue has got to sound real. A relative of mine once asked me: “How can you write YA if you’re not a teenager?” The undercurrent was: What do you know about being a teenager today? (Let’s just set aside that thing called imagination.) To me, teenagers are the same, in every era. True, the technology might be different, but the worries about fitting in, identity, sex, and wanting to be independent while still being dependent, are universal. People will be writing teen stories hundreds of years from now. That’s what I tap into. Even if I came of age in the 80s, my struggles and worries were probably very much the same as a teenager today.

I do avoid slang, because like technology, that will date itself. And I’m careful not to be patronizing. I try my best to make my characters—no matter the age—as real and complex as possible.

I find it interesting that when I was growing up, there wasn’t a “young adult” category. It was just stories with younger characters. A lot now is about marketing. I had a person in publishing tell me that “it’s all about where your book sits on the shelf,” meaning: What category can they clearly market it to? I think the marketing side of things has taken away some of the surprises of a book. If it’s easily categorized, a reader knows a lot about a story before they even read it.

I don’t even like to say my books are “young adult.” I like my earlier definition; they are stories that just happen to have a teenager at the center. If anything, the phrase “young adult” can seem patronizing—as if the story has to be watered down because the reader isn’t adult enough to handle it. Maybe that’s my own opinion. That’s the danger of YA—riding that line between what’s acceptable in an “adult” book, and one that a younger reader might read. But I like seeing a recent trend where everything is not just safe characters, but more complex, more morally ambiguous, maybe even slightly uncomfortable. I guess it all depends on whether you read for pleasure, or to be challenged. And there are times for both.

I’d like to think Feel Me Fall does both: provide a nice rollercoaster ride for those who want one, while asking questions of us that might be hard to answer.

About James Morris

James Morris

James Morris is a television writer who now works in digital media. He is the author of the young adult thriller What Lies Within, the dystopian love story Melophobia, the young adult suspense Feel Me Fall, and the upcoming young adult horror Screams You Hear. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching ‘House Hunters Renovation’, or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.

You can find out more about James on his website, Goodreads and on Facebook and by following him on Twitter @JMorrisWriter. All of James’ books are available here.

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