Genres (and why we write them) #3: Laura M. Kolar

Today in our “Genres (and why we write them)” series, we have Laura M. Kolar, YA author of Canvas Bound and co-author of Ashes of Life. Thank you for joining us, Laura!


Laura M. Kolar: Writing YA Fiction

Hi Jessica and thank you so much for inviting me to your blog!

Canvas-Bound1I never know how to get these posts started so I’m going to jump right in. I’m a YA writer for the most part. When I first stared down the writing path, the idea of adult readers liking YA novels was a fairly new concept. You never really heard adults gushing over a “teen” story the way you do now. But within a two year span, YA became huge among adult (mostly women) readers. The first novel I wrote was actually a new adult (NA) story, but because YA had become so big, I decided to work onCanvas Bound more and ultimately decided to query that out rather than the NA.


One of the things I like most about YA is if you’re classified as a YA author, you can write anything from a heavy fantasy to a contemporary fiction and no one thinks that’s odd. Readers don’t seem to have the same genre specific expectations. In fact, if you’re writing a YA fantasy, the characters don’t even have to be young adults, it’s not really age that makes the story YA, it’s content.


The biggest thing I try to remember when I’m writing YA is it has to feel like the characters are experiencing things for the first time, like a first dance or first kiss. A fantasy character could be over a hundred years old, but never have gone on a date before. It’s all about the newness and emotional reaction to that newness that makes the story YA. I think the first few lines of Ben Rector’s song, Brand New, says it best:


“I feel like new sunglasses, like a brand new pair of jeans
I feel like taking chances, I feel a lot like seventeen”


(Side bar – if you’re writing about the real world, the characters do need to be between the ages of approximately 15-17.)


One of the things that drives me crazy about the YA genre is the sub-genre trending.cover For example, if you have a great idea for a vampire story, you’re going to have a much more difficult time getting it published because the market was flooded with those about eight years ago. You almost have to be able to see into the future to know what will be selling well in two to three years because that’s about how long it takes to get a novel from query ready to out on bookstore shelves. I’m by no means saying give up on that vampire story, but lets say you have an idea for something new and fresh, you may want to put your writing time into that and save the vampire story for later in your career. After all, sub-genre trends do come back around eventually. L.J. Smith published The Vampire Diaries in 1991 and it didn’t become a hot TV series until 2009. (I’m crossing my fingers that in the next 15ish years YA stories about art students with unusual talents will be the next hot thing.)


So, since I’m not good at ending these posts either, I’ll just insert a shameless plug for Canvas Bound, my YA fantasy about a girl whose paintings come to life, and for the book I co-authored with Erica Lucke Dean, Ashes of Life, a woman’s fiction novel about a teenage girl and her young step-mother. (And if you do buy them, which I hope you do, please leave an honest review.)


All the best!


About the Author

Laura M. Kolar lives with her husband and daughter in a one-stop-light town in northern-lower Michigan. Though she didn’t discover her love of books until she turned thirty, as a self-declared hopeless romantic, she has spent the past few years reading and writing stories with mostly happy endings. If she’s not at her day-job or with her family, you will find her sipping a cup of chai latte while sitting in her favorite rocking chair, hunched over her laptop writing or spending entirely too much time on Twitter.

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