The New Adult category is moving, and more authors are producing books with main characters between the ages of 18 – 26.
One of them is Deborah Nam-Krane, who will be publishing her first book in a few weeks. Born in New York City, but raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Deb has had a long love for writing and is excited her novel, The Smartest Girl in the Room, could soon be read by book lovers like her.
MC: What was the big moment for you when you realized you wanted to be a writer, particularly a novelist?
DNK: I always looked at the really sweeping sagas that were in bookstores- and made into television movies!- and thought, “I really want to do that.” But it was when I was thirteen that the story I had to write came to me. All of the things I’d been reading- Judith Krantz, Nabokov, Austen, Bronte- percolated into something that just wouldn’t let me go.
At the age of 35- 22 years after the initial thought came to me- it still hadn’t let go. My characters just kept tugging at me until I got it right.
MC: Where did the idea for “The Smartest Girl in the Room” come from?
DNK: Shortly after that first story idea, another one came to me. Both sets of characters spent so long in my head together that I realized- fifteen years later- they belonged in the same universe. Then things started getting interesting; the main characters gave each other a strength they hadn’t had before.
But I still couldn’t quite get it. I kept thinking about the phrase “write what you know”. Well, there were snippets of interesting things I’d been witness to, particularly in college. I went to Northeastern, which back then was a mix between a commuter school and a place with a lot of international students. There was much more socio-economic diversity than there is now, which might explain why there was also an undercurrent of tension around class. That aspect I really ran with here.
It was easy for me to put that story in Boston, and it was easy for me to write about that setting- I’ve lived here for over 22 years! That world took on so many contours so quickly, and I thought it was just the right setting for “my old friends”. Once I put those characters in with my new characters, it was as if the story wrote itself. Is that a cliche? Well, maybe we use those for a reason.
MC: Do you believe NA/New Adult is just a passing fad, as some say, or on it’s way to having it’s own space in a bookstore or online book store?
DNK: I didn’t think there was anything extraordinary about setting a story in college, or making a main character nineteen years old. I also thought that since the character would be what I thought was the older side of “young adult” it wouldn’t have trouble finding some interest in the market. But when I first started looking into publishing about two and a half years ago, the categories were really rigid. Eighteen was old for the young adult market, and romance and women’s fiction seemed to be interested in people that were already firmly “adults”- unless it was a historical romance, but mine wasn’t.
When I poked around and started asking agents informally about my character’s age, two recommended that I make the character eighteen instead. While I was willing to make some changes to get published, that just seemed silly.
I think New Adult is here to stay because I’m not the only writer- or reader- that wants to read about people that age. Having said that, while I think it’s going to continue to do really well online, I think it’s going to be a couple of years before the bookstores get around to displaying them in their own section, if they ever do. I think it’s more likely that they’re going to be included into general fiction or whatever other genre they fall into. And that’s fine, as long as booksellers can talk about them and readers can find them.
MC: You say that you much prefer to hold a book and turn it’s pages. How do you feel about the increasing popularity of eBooks?
DNK: I don’t object 🙂 Believe me, there have been plenty of times that I’ve carried around a heavy library book- plus a notebook- and thought, you know, maybe I should have looked for the eBook. I don’t object to anything that makes it easier for people to read.
I’d say I’m more worried about what eReaders can do, whether you have a dedicated device or you’re reading from your phone, tablet or computer. I don’t think people realize just how much information is being tracked when you use them to read. The most popular eReaders know whether you’ve finished something, how long it took you, where you stopped, how long you stayed on which page and what search terms you looked up. That information is then used to figure out what else you’re likely to buy.
As an author, great! It is now that much easier to find and sell to someone. As a reader… I don’t know if I want that much information about me in anyone’s database.
MC: What other plans do you have in your writing career? What can readers expect more from you?
DNK: The Smartest Girl In The Room is the kick-off book for The New Pioneers series. I have three more full-length sequels already written, and those are coming out as soon as I can get them spiffed up by my editor (and as soon as my fabulous designer can come up with something that’s as gorgeous as this cover). I also have a number of short stories that fill in some of the time gaps between the novels and delve into some of the backstories of these characters. This is definitely romance/women’s fiction, so expect a strong female focus, but there are a couple of fascinating male characters who inhabit this little universe too.
I might delve out of this universe eventually, but everything that follows is probably always going to have a connection to The New Pioneers, if only in my own mind.
Find out more about Deborah Nam-Krane: