Blurred lines: Stuck in limbo between Young Adult and General Fiction

When you are preparing to release a new novel to the public, it’s easy to become plagued by doubts.

Is the action exciting enough? Is there enough action? Is the dialogue compelling? Are the characters well-developed? Are they relatable? Will anybody care what happens to them?

This list goes on . . .

These transient type worries tend to replace each other day by day until you resign yourself to the fact that there is no ironclad way to dispel them. You will only get your answers once the book is in the hands of readers. Until then, you have to work largely on faith.

If you are extra fortunate, your book will also give you one good underlying concern that haunts the back of your mind throughout the process, even as your transient worries jockey for position at the front of your mind.

With A Housefly in Autumn, my super-duper awesome underlying concern has been hitting the right target audience.

I always envisioned A Housefly in Autumn as a Young Adult novel. It’s themes and tone were tailored to younger readers from the beginning, and from the beginning this categorization had the potential to be problematic.

There is a large cohort of literary-minded people who adhere to a rule about Young Adult fiction, mandating that the main character in such works must be no older than 18 throughout the story. I broke this law half way through the first draft. My main character ages out of this statute at about the 60% mark. Then, he does something even more illegal: he continues to age.

Accidents of youth

My main character, before he joined AARP and applied for a reverse mortgage. (Art by Jessie O’Brien)

I decided early on I would have to take my chances by breaking this popular maxim. I sailed full speed ahead.

Then, something else began to happen. As I started getting feedback on the manuscript, I realized that the things I was attempting with the narrative style and word choices were distracting readers from the story. I needed to adjust the tone.

In making the tone more conventional, I have sacrificed what to me is some of the youthful flavor of the narrative. This change was necessary but it was not done without some regret. The novel reads more like General Fiction than I intended.

Still, I could not see marketing it as General Fiction. The themes are too youth-oriented for that. Hence, my nagging concern: is this novel stuck in limbo between youth and adult fiction?

Maybe. But in this age of crossover and overlap, maybe limbo isn’t a land of the lost anymore. Maybe “youthful flavor” is a relic of a simpler time. Maybe youthful theme, coupled with a not overly youthful tone, is a budding sweet spot.

Pigeon-holing is still a useful concept in marketing, and leaning toward Young Adult is not exactly a clear-cut niche. Yet, it is just the spot where this book rests.

In the end, this dilemma will be resolved in the same way the “Will people like my characters?” question is. Readers will decide.

I’ll live with that.

4 thoughts on “Blurred lines: Stuck in limbo between Young Adult and General Fiction

    • I’m really hoping to have it out by March, but I am relying on other people for help on the final cleanup, so if they have a delay, I have a delay. Believe me, I am as eager to have this published as anybody.
      And thanks for asking.


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