Dealing with Abuse in Young Adult Fantasy

Pull2b webFrom Home is Where the Monsters Are:

“David started asking if I could come over. My dad didn’t care what happened to me at that point, so he would take me over there, drop me off and then leave for the afternoon – probably to get wasted in a bar somewhere. The first time I came over, David acted really nice at first, but not a good kind of nice. David was nice like a snake. He gave me ice cream, and I think there was something in it. It made me sleepy. Still awake, but kind of…out of it, and then he slipped a black bag over my head and carried me downstairs.”

Stacy put a hand over her mouth. None of them were sure if they wanted to hear any more but knew that, for Melissa’s sake, they had to.

Abuse of any kind, particularly child abuse, is among the hardest topics to deal with in literature. Making that topic fair game in Young Adult literature has been a controversial but increasingly common development in the literary world. When most people – particularly non-YA readers who are mostly familiar with the Harry Potter movies – picture the Young Adult Fantasy genre they picture happy child wizards on flying broomsticks, facing down the occasional troll the heroes always seem to get away from.

The truth, however, is that children aren’t always smiling. Kids aren’t always loved the way they should be. Sometimes abuse happens and keeping that topic OUT of the books we read is being disingenuous to the true experiences of childhood.  

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in her Salon Article: “Has Young Adult Fiction Become Too Dark?”:

“That ‘adult’ aspect of reading is scary for many of us. It’s our job as parents to protect our kids, even as they slowly move out into the world and further away from our dictates. But there’s something almost comical about raising them with tales of big bad wolves and poisoned apples, and then deciding at a certain point that literature is too ‘dark’ for them to handle. Kids are smarter than that. And a kid who is lucky enough to give a damn about the value of reading knows the transformative power of books.”

As a fantasy author who writes for teens as well as adults, I understand that I will likely face some backlash for including the topics of abuse in Home is Where the Monsters Are and The Pull. I cringe a little inside when I tell a parent that the book is suitable for ages 14 and up because I’m afraid they’ll go home, read the book and then start a campaign to get my book banned from their local library. It’s happened to some of the best books in literature, but for an up-and-coming author, the prospect of backlash is a scary thing.

But I think of the very first person I wrote these books for: myself as a 14 year old. I was dealing with a different kind of abuse then: bullying, but it put me in the kind of place where I could relate to children who were victimized. Hearing their stories and how they overcame being a victim and started being a survivor gave me hope that I could do that too.  

The character of Melissa in Home and The Pull dealt with her personal tragedies by becoming a stronger person. So strong, in fact, that she became feared, herself. Not all of us can become warriors. Some who have faced abuse will become poets and painters, doctors and teachers, but to become aware of not only our own demons but the demons our children face can make us that much more equipped to deal with them. 

Home is Where the Monsters Are

The Pull

Has Young Adult Fiction Become Too Dark?

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A Great Halloween Read

ImageThe Pull vol 2: Home is Where the Monsters Are is live on Amazon Kindle today! This book was started in 1998, 4 years after I began work on The Pull series. This has always been my favorite entry in the saga and its even more jam packed with action, mystery and excitement than the first one. Epic battles between colorful heroes? Check. A monster so scary even fearless canine warrior Blitz runs away from it? Check. Magic? Romance? Motorcycle chases? It’s got all that and a heck of a lot more. Pick up a copy of Home is Where the Monsters Are (only $2.99) and join in on the fun.

AND between now and Halloween, the first book in the series, The Pull, is available for download ABSOLUTELY FREE!!! You have no excuse not to get in on this action! Unless you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle-capable device, in which case you have a perfectly valid reason. Paperback coming later this week! Yeah! Here are the links to both Home is Where the Monsters Are and The Pull!

Home is Where the Monsters Are on Amazon Kindle!

The Pull for FREE!!!

Follow Me and I’ll Follow You: Social Media and Self Promotion

The other day I decided to perform an experiment. See when I first started to self-promote on Twitter as an independent author, I received a tidal wave of followers. “Oh cool! Another self-published author is following me! Oh look, another one! Now three more! Now ten more! Whoopie!!!”

In that initial rush of perceived popularity and to show my gratitude, I followed each and every one of them back. I also followed a few celebrities I liked and some non-profits I supported, local restaurants I frequented and bands I listened to. My wall, however, quickly became a pulsating mass of nothing but, “Shadows of the Dawn: Available now on Amazon!” “Betsy looked at her vampire prince and could think of nothing but his cold embrace *amazon link*” “Don’t miss out on the most talked about book of the summer! Buy Colton Darkholme: Werewolf Hunter today!”

As I sat there and watched advertisement after endless advertisement by my fellow independent authors roll by, I began to lose that rush of enthusiasm. Why did Twitter feel more like Craigslist than Facebook? But I persevered. These were authors like me. They deserved my support, right?

Out of curiosity I began looking at some of these people. Most of them had enormous follower counts. 5,000, 10,000, 30,000 followers or more! And then I noticed something else. Virtually all of them were following the same amount of people. Each of them had performed the act of, “Follow me and I’ll follow you.”

Most of these authors weren’t responding, favoriting or retweeting my tweets. Many of them weren’t retweeting anyone else’s tweets at all. They were simply using Twitter and their followers as an advertisement board.

Smacked in the face with disillusion, I decided to perform my experiment. I would unfollow 90% of these characters and see what happened. Truth was, I wanted my wall back. I wanted to see the posts I wanted to see, not advertisements by other indie authors who had (in a backdoor way) blackmailed me into following them.

Within a week, almost all of those I unfollowed have unfollowed me back. My follower count was cut in half. That sealed the deal for me. They were never interested in what I had to say to begin with. They just wanted another potential sale.

So right now I’m rebuilding my Twitter following from the ground up. If you follow me, I hope its because you genuinely are interested in me, The Pull, my blog or my random blurts of comedic nonsense. If I follow you, its because I want to witness you travel your path to accomplishment as I travel mine. What I will not do is Follow, Like or Pin you because I want something from you.

Now I realize that puts me at an extreme disadvantage in the social media landscape. The fact that some of these virtually unknown authors have 30,000 Twitter followers (and are following just as many) tells me how many people are fighting tooth and nail and using every tool at their disposal, moral or not, to make a buck. Or in our case, to sell a book.

I didn’t get into this business to sell my soul in order to make money. If I’m going to build something around my passion of writing, I’m going to build something genuine. I’m going to post things I believe in or are interested in, not empty advertisements. I’m going to follow people I like, not people who have something I want. I’m going to go to conventions because I want to meet fellow fantasy and sci-fi fans like me, not because I want to meet potential dollar signs with arms and legs. If I sell a few books while sharing what I love with these people, so much the better. If I never sell another book again…I’m already happy. The Pull had a good launch because people believed in me. I believed in me. I’ll keep believing in me as I release the rest of the series and each one will mark off an accomplishment no one can take away, even if the whole world thinks my work sucks.

Please don’t come away from this thinking that I’m talking down to you or to anyone who uses the “Follow me and I’ll follow you” technique. I’m not. I know you believe in your work too or else you wouldn’t be working so hard. What I am trying to say is to try to stop looking at social media as a numbers game. What matters isn’t the number of likes or followers you have, it’s the number of those you have real, genuine connections with. That’s how you make a difference, and that’s how you can leave your mark on the world.