Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll — why too taboo for YA?

You know, I had a bit of down­time today (and when I say down­time, I mean early this morn­ing when I was able to con­cen­trate for a few hours on my books and mar­ket­ing) and I was tak­ing a look around the place. And by place I mean the inter­net. And I was look­ing at books in par­tic­u­lar. So I was look­ing at books on the inter­net (research, really, not pro­cras­ti­nat­ing — I swear).

There’s a lot of books out there, espe­cially Young Adult books. I mean, the mar­ket is just so over­sat­u­rated with them, yet they all seem to find a home in someone’s book­shelf. They all deal with a range of topics…some are straight for­ward high school. Some are para­nor­mal. Some are dystopian. Very few deal with a young adult out­side of high school. My series, Exper­i­ment in Ter­ror, does…I mean, just because you are 22-years old (as Perry Palomino is), it doesn’t mean you’re an “adult” adult. I mean, I myself turn 30 in, oh, 10 days and I cer­tainly don’t feel like one.

Any­way, that was one big dif­fer­ence I noticed with my books. Perry is a young, con­fused woman, not quite an adult but not a teen. She’s no longer in high school — hell, she’s no longer in col­lege either — but a lot of her hangups and her dicey past revolve around her vaguely described high school years. This com­bi­na­tion cre­ates a series of nov­els that have a decid­edly YA feel to them, yet aren’t writ­ten for high school­ers. The Exper­i­ment in Ter­ror Series is kind of an enigma, just float­ing around with com­po­nents that can be pulled into any genre…YA, hor­ror, adult, para­nor­mal romance, thriller, sus­pense, super­nat­ural, urban fan­tasy. I think it works, the fact that it can shapeshift accord­ing to the reader, but it also makes it very hard to clas­sify at times.

The other dif­fer­ence I noticed was…man, my char­ac­ters don’t make it easy on the reader. There’s no huge pay-off at the begin­ning. Answers aren’t handed to you. The char­ac­ters behave real­is­ti­cally but real­ism can drive you nuts. They aren’t per­fect and aren’t try­ing to be. They make mis­takes. OFTEN. If you want to look at my books from a YA per­spec­tive, you have to pre­pare your­self for the fact that A) there is no life les­son about reli­gion here (unless you can deduce one for your­self) B) there are no chaste teens here (there is sex…maybe not at first, but def­i­nitely later) C) there are no goody-goodies (my char­ac­ters have used drugs in the past, and par­tic­u­larly in Book #4 Lying Sea­son, use it in the present) D) they’ve done some morally con­tro­ver­sial things (see Book #3) and E) they don’t cen­sor their lan­guage (as one reviewer pointed out “who says ‘darn it’ when con­fronted by a ghost” — you say “Fuu­u­u­u­uck!” and run away).

A lot of peo­ple might tell you that it’s not the sort of book that’s con­sid­ered YA solely because of it’s con­tro­ver­sial con­tent. As if teenagers these days A) aren’t spir­i­tu­ally con­flicted B) don’t have sex C) don’t use drugs or drink D) don’t have abor­tions, shoplift or lie D) don’t swear. My nov­els in no way make any of the above look cool (except for the sex but that’s just my opin­ion) but I don’t believe in sugar-coating real­ism in order for it to appeal to a puri­tan­i­cal soci­ety that believes your char­ac­ters have to be per­fect role mod­els. Fuck that shit.

So there you have it. My books are scary, funny, sexy and ulti­mately real. And when faced with the super­nat­ural, with sur­real sit­u­a­tions, I think hav­ing an extremely real­is­tic basis with real­is­tic (imper­fect, badass) char­ac­ters is some­thing that’s impor­tant and — sadly — sorely missed. I know I’m not per­fect (I type this while swill­ing whiskey). Why should my char­ac­ters be?

PS the rock n’ roll part comes in because Perry and Dex have some kick ass taste in music. Also, how many books do you know are named after songs (Red Fox, Lying Sea­son and book#5 On Demon Wings are all songs by some pretty cool bands)? Music makes the world go round.

Bang on.

m / :) m /


  1. Emily says

    I love your books for pre­cisely that rea­son. In fact, even though I heard about them on FYA, I thought they were books for adults! I love them and can’t wait for the next 4!! Also, who are the ‘faces’ of Dex and Perry in the photo above? They look just the way I imag­ined them!

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