Friday, 25 January 2013

Raw, Gritty and Real

Guest Blog from Stephanie Lawton

“… seeking fresh teen fiction that is raw, gritty, and real.”
With those words, I knew I’d found a home for my latest novel, Shrapnel, a strange mutt of a story that didn’t fit nicely into any one genre, and that had been described as  “too gritty” for most teen romance publishers. Evernight Teen wanted raw and real? Boy, did I have a story for them!
“… stories should have real issues, a strong emotional punch, and a plot to keep the reader turning the pages.”
I scrolled through my manuscript and began ticking off the “real issues” I covered in Shrapnel: bullying, hate crimes, sexual orientation, stereotypes, survivor guilt … yeah, those are pretty darn real. Add in some heart-rending moments between a girl and her baby sister, a girl and her first love, and the emotional fragility that comes from years of being “different,” and Shrapnel packs a “strong emotional punch,” as well.
The final requirement from Evernight Teen was a swift plot. At just over 50,000 words, Shrapnel is a fast-paced ghost story that had all its beta readers frantically scrolling to see what happened next, who lived, who died, and to ultimately solve the mystery at the center of the book.
I’d thought about shelving it. Some of the themes and situations were pretty controversial, so much so that I had to tone them down before sending it out on submission. After all, this is Young Adult and teens can’t handle gritty and real, right?
Wrong.
I felt strongly enough about the issues addressed, and loved the characters enough to keep looking for the perfect home for them. I stand behind everything in Shrapnel, even though it’s sure to anger a few readers. I’m willing to take that chance because even more readers will be able to identify with one or more of the characters, their situations, and maybe even their darkest secrets.
I’m so pleased that Evernight Teen feels the same way. Like them, I fully believe teens deserve great writing that not only entertains, but challenges their beliefs and ways of thinking. While much of Shrapnel is paranormal, the issues are painfully real, and if it helps just one reader deal with some of the crap life throws at you, then I can give Evernight a big fist-bump for having the guts to publish stories like Shrapnel.

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