Hiya, peeps —
I was humming that song “Forever Young” by Alphaville and then, soon after, I read this cool blog by fellow author Rebekah Weatherspoon, posted over on the Bold Strokes authors’ blog about new adult fiction titled “We Didn’t Start The Fire: Why My Poor Millennial Self Needs New Adult Romance More Than Ever.”
“The clinical definition of New Adult fiction involves characters ages 18-25 or characters near that age who are going through a major life transition that leads to gains in maturity and life experience,” Rebekah notes, and she discusses her own dreams and hopes when she was in her early twenties, and talks about her latest release, Treasure, which deals with two young women struggling to figure out who they are and what they want.
I remember all too well what it was like for me in my early twenties, trying to figure out who the hell I am and what I want to do. I spent the entire decade of my twenties in grad school and I made shit-tons of mistakes in terms of…well, everything.
You’d think after all of that, I’d have some freaking idea by the time I hit thirty WTF I was doing.
Not really. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I felt I was finally getting things together and it took another few years before I decided that I did an okay job of it. I’m still a work in progress, and I think we all are as long as we’re on this earth, but if you make the effort, you do get better at dealing with things.
At any rate, I first tried to get some of my fiction published when I was in my early twenties. Didn’t work out. No biggie. I got more serious about it in my early thirties, when I’d finished grad school and written my dissertation. What was interesting was that I didn’t want to read about struggling New Adults because that was all too fresh in my mind and experience, and I still wasn’t settled in a career. Hell, I’ve worked in a few different fields since then, so I don’t think I’ll ever have a “career” as people think of it.
Nevertheless, my first published book, the mystery Land of Entrapment, includes a main character who is NOT settled in a career. She’s a post-doc, still tied to grad school in many ways, on a temporary contract. And yeah, I’ve worked a lot of contract jobs, too. She’s a little emotionally gun shy after a relationship went bad a few years prior, and she’s still not quite sure what she wants to do or where she’d like to ultimately end up. And for those of you who have read the book, you know what happens to shake up her world. In many ways, she’s a New Adult in her early thirties. Grad school does tend to stunt your adult growth in some ways…heh.
Another main character in my series is detective Chris Gutierrez, who is pretty settled in her career, though she, too, has some emotional baggage about relationships. She’s not sure what she wants from a potential partner or even if she does want one. She’s got some family issues and uncertainties, and then she’s confronted by a potential love interest who would probably be really good for her, but she’s not sure she’s ready for what that might entail.
Point being, yes, I totally agree with Rebekah’s assessment about reading and writing New Adult fiction. I enjoy it, too. But I do think that a character in fiction who is in their thirties or forties or beyond and has a career and is all settled and everything’s great isn’t a “real” character. There are transitions and changes and craziness at every stage of life. Hopefully, by the time you hit your thirties, you’re just better at dealing with it than you were in your twenties (though I know some pretty amazing people in their twenties), but that doesn’t mean you’re “settled,” and it doesn’t mean that you’re capable of dealing with crap, and it doesn’t mean you won’t be dealing with upheaval. And honestly, some of us don’t ever find that ONE “career” and instead have several over the years.
So I think that characters at any stage of life can resonate with anybody, if written “real.” That said, I like NA fiction, too, because I remember all too well those initial forays into adulthood and trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. And one of the other things NA fiction does for writers is it forces you to think about a different generation and ethos, and even if you don’t write the genre, it’s important to think about what your characters that you do write were like in their twenties, because that informs who they are as you write them in their thirties and beyond.
So yay for NA fiction! The more stories, seems to me, the better.