Interview (YA Style!) With Courtney Allison Moulton
Warning: Nicole has taken into her (slightly mushy) brains that Incredibly Inappropriate Things would make for great YA . . . so be forewarned. Earlier today she was overheard asking the werechupacabra, “Is felching considered middle grade?” --never a good sign.
Nicole: Hi folks! Nice to see you here, again, for our second and last installment of YA week. During the last interview, Victoria Schwab (an EXPERT, mind you!) said that I can totally fucking swear in YA as long as I have, and I quote, a “plot go to with my potty mouth.”
I’ve been thinking hard on Victoria’s words, and one of the plot devices I think I could successfully bring to the YA table is . . . sex! Gratuitous sex! I mean, how many books for teens have you read where the main character is banging everybody he or she meets? NONE, right? Totally original! The publishing world will fall to its knees and beg for more. . .
So I’ve brought in Courtney Allison Moulton, another debut YA novelist, so that I can run my ideas past her. Hi Courtney! Go ahead and introduce yourself!
Courtney: I’m a twenty-three-year-old YA author agented by the fabulous Elizabeth Jote of Objective Entertainment. My debut YA urban fantasy trilogy, beginning with MY SOUL TO REAP, has sold to Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. When I’m not writing, I’m riding my horses, horse showing, taking pictures of my friends at horse shows, drawing, and collecting 80’s My Little Ponies. When I was just a wee goblin, I harassed my mom into buying every single Goosebumps, Fear Street, and Animorphs book off the shelves and decided I wanted to be RL Stine when I grew up. I wrote my first 70k word book when I was 16. I’m also a member of the YA Rebels, a vlog chain group made up of the coolest and most courageous YA authors you will ever meet.
Nicole: Sounds like a super full life, lady! I loved My Little Ponies when I was wee, too. Now, why don’t you tell us about your project?
Courtney: MY SOUL TO REAP was my 2008 NaNoWriMo book. It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl named Ellie who is the reincarnation of an ageless warrior and the only one able to wield angelfire and protect human souls against the reapers, monstrous creatures who devour souls and send them to Hell to rebuild Lucifer’s army of the damned. She doesn’t remember her past lives or understand exactly what she is, but her soul remembers one thing: her Guardian and sworn protector, Will. As she uncovers the terrifying secrets of her previous lives and of Will’s mysterious past, a powerful reaper has discovered a weapon which may be able to destroy Ellie’s immortal soul forever, ending her reincarnation cycle and unleashing Hell upon Earth.
Nicole: That sounds like a fabulous book! But let me ask you . . . do Ellie and Will have The Sex at any point during the book? Is it hot and raw and nasty?
Courtney: Haha! Oh my, you aren’t forward at all, are you? Sorry to disappoint, but there is none of The Sex in *this* book. Oh yeah, see what I did there with that ambiguous response? What are you going to do about it?
Nicole: I like it! You’re leaving yourself open to anything! Maybe a Great Big Immortal Orgy for book four . . . who knows? Well played, lady! Now, why did you want to write YA?
Courtney: When I wrote my first book, I didn’t know there was a difference between fantasy books for teens and adults, so I just wrote about characters my own age. It wasn’t until I tried to get published that I learned about the young adult genre. I still write for teens these days because it’s a lot of fun and I think it's what I'll always write. Teens are full of so much passion and there's so much going on in their lives that I still relate to, being only a couple of years out of the teens myself.
Nicole: Exactly! They’re full of passion . . . and hormones! So I think they’d LOVE some sort of Barbarella for teens . . . but with better outfits and orgies! Maybe some couture sex toys! I bet Ed Hardy would make a totally fresh strap on. Why are you looking at me like that? Whatever. Moving on . . . how is writing YA different from writing for adults?
Courtney: Teens are just now discovering themselves and the world around them, whereas most adults have already experienced first love, high school drama, experimentation, parental angst, ect. There’s something exciting about discovery, and I think that’s why writing and reading YA really pulls at our heartstrings. My books tend to be a lot edgier in terms of action, romance, and violence than most YA, but they don't go as far as many adult urban fantasy books go.
Nicole: See?! They’re discovering themselves! Experimenting! Sometimes with blowing the football team! So I think it’s time books reflected reality . . . I will not only bring an edge, I’ll bring a razor’s edge! Use it to work in some blood fetish stuff! Okay . . . maybe blood kinks are too much . . . society has to have limits, after all, right Courtney?
Courtney: Uh, in your case, I suppose society can be flexible. *mutters* crazy person…
Nicole: Crazy like a FOX! But I haven’t even written my runaway success YA story yet, and already I’m setting limits for myself . . . no blood sports . . . or water sports, realistically. What are some other special considerations you have to remember when writing YA?
Courtney: Never automatically equate youth with immaturity or lack of intelligence. Many teens are very mature and understand complicated issues. They also love twisted, intricate plots, so authors should never “dumb down” a story in order to make it YA. Another thing to remember when writing YA is voice. A character’s voice has to feel honest and authentic, and the hardest thing about accomplishing that is keeping the voice current. Every generation of teens is different and so heavily influenced by pop culture. Your teen characters shouldn’t talk like how teens did when you were their age. They’ll see right through it.
Nicole: Very interesting. Keeping slang current is obviously important. Do kids these days still say, “tap that ass?” Yes? Good. Now, how do you think your voice “shifts,” or does it, when you write YA?
Courtney: My voice doesn't shift for YA, it shifts for each character. For example, Ellie in MY SOUL TO REAP is very down-to-earth and quirky, and she and her friends talk like my friends do. But not every voice is like that, just like not every real person is like that. I have other narrators who are the same age as Ellie but are more serious in nature, and I'd like to think that they wouldn’t be considered "adult lit" voices for that reason. They just aren't the kinds of girls who would name their first cars after sugary confections and that doesn't make them any less YA.
Nicole: Ellie sounds great! Can’t wait to meet her. And your last question . . . besides hot, orgiastic sex (which is my idea! Don’t steal it!), what do you think the next new thing will be for YA?
Courtney: Reapers, duh! In all seriousness, 2011 looks to be the year of angels. I would advise against writing for the current trend, because by the time you finish that book, find representation, and sell that book, the trend will have come and gone. Write something different. When I wrote MSTR in 2008, there were no books about reapers in YA and very few about angels. It is harder than ever to get published these days and if you write about the same thing everyone else is writing about, you’ll never stand out.
Nicole: Words to live by, Courtney. When my agent receives my Sadean take on high school, she’s not going to know what hit her. Ka-ka-ka-ching! And thank you, Courtney! That was a great interview, really inspiring, and I’m very grateful for your time. I really appreciate you coming over to League headquarters and talking with me. But if you steal my idea to bring hard-core sex into YA I’ll slit your throat with a rusty nail. Air kisses! Buh bye!
And that, my friends, concludes Nicole Peeler’s portion of YA Week at the League of Reluctant Adults. For the love of all that is pure and holy, may she never put pen to paper to write real YA, ever. In case of emergency, contact the League. They have already set aside the “Rumpus Room,” (it’s padded) for incarceration purposes. And do give a huge round of applause to Victoria Schwab and Courtney Allison Moulton for being such tremendous good sports.