Monday, May 28, 2007

Guest Blogger - Rhonda Stapleton

Today I had difficulty posting to the blog (probably burn out from last week's party) but I was finally able to log on and post this wonderful article from Rhonda Stapleton who will be giving her opinions on writing paranormal YA. -- Lynda

Like peanut butter and jelly, like Bonnie and Clyde, like root beer and ice cream, it's amazing how well paranormal goes with YA.

I've always been a huge fan of paranormal writing-in my early twenties, Anne Rice whet my appetite for sexy, moody vampires...and the love grew from there. But it wasn't until last year that I really learned about the world of paranormal YA.

See, as much as I loved reading paranormal, I never, ever thought I could write one. After all, I didn't have a "dark" voice-my tendency was to write light and funny. Until a good writer friend of mine said, "Rhonda, you have GOT to write a YA." And she gave me Serena Robar's "Braced 2 Bite" (a YA paranormal chick lit about a teen who becomes a vampire) to read.

Well, I was hooked. I continued to read more and more paranormal YA, eventually writing my own YA chick lit ghost story (which snagged my agent-she's currently shopping the manuscript around to publishers). I also wrote a subsequent YA novel about a girl who becomes cupid for her high school, but bungles it badly.

What I love about YA is that it's accessible for adults, not just teens. So many writers, like Stephenie Myers (who wrote Twilight), are doing sophisticated, daring, funny, dramatic paranormal novels for teens...and adults are just as drawn to them.

These books are being gobbled up by readers!!

It's a booming market for YA paranormal right now, which gives lots of opportunities for paranormal elements to be blended with other genres: paranormal YA chick lit, paranormal YA mystery, paranormal YA urban fantasy-the list goes on and on.

So, here are a few tips for writing paranormal YA (this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does give you an idea of things to think about):

--Don't underestimate your audience. Teens nowadays are sophisticated and intelligent-most read adult novels, too. So don't feel like you have to drastically simplify/dummy down your writing. They appreciate stuff that makes them think.

--Don't be afraid to tackle more serious, dark subjects. I've read YA books that talk about suicide/death, kidnapping, abuse, alcohol, sex, running away, etc. As long as you don't come across as preachy or heavy-handed, you can explore different facets of real teen life within your story. In fact, it can be even more interesting for teens when a paranormal element is thrown in. In the novel my agent is shopping around, my main character actually dies on page 2 and is a ghost, so throughout the book, she deals with the struggles of watching friends move on, watching her family hurt over their loss of her, finding love but knowing it can't work because she's a ghost, etc.

--Try grounding your paranormal plot in reality (magical realism). My novel deals with being a teen ghost in a modern world, and I have fun exploring that facet-she snoops in houses, breaks into the library, scours through lockers-basically, she does those things kids long to do. haha. Teens like to see how magic can affect an everyday life, and how it can rationally be incorporated into what they already know....

--...but on the flip side, don't be afraid of world-building to create something unique and new. Just like adults, teens want to be submerged in the world you create.

What about you-have any tips, thoughts, questions, or ideas about writing paranormal YA? Please share them!!

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Rhonda Stapleton started writing a few years ago to appease the voices in her head. She has a Master's degree in English and a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. Rhonda works as a principal publishing specialist for a legal publishing company and enjoys freelance editing and offering editing workshops.

Because one writing group is never enough, she belongs to Romance Writers of America, several online and local writing groups, and Romance Divas.

Rhonda lives in Northeast Ohio with her two lovely, energetic children and fiancé, who are more than enough to keep her busy when she's not writing.

In the twelve minutes of free time she has each day, Rhonda enjoys reading, writing poetry, singing in the shower (and in the car, at work, or basically anywhere that provides oxygen), drinking chai tea, and playing on the internet.

Her chick lit novel, Stripped, and her short story, "Baring It All for Mr. Right" (in the Dreams and Desires charity anthology), can be found at Freya's Bower: .

Visit Rhonda at her website, Or, email her at


Rhonda Stapleton said...

Thanks again, ladies, for having me guest blog! I enjoyed it so much. :D


Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Great post, Rhonda! Thanks for coming over to play in our yard and best of luck with your stories. I love paranormal so much and I wish there had been more of them available when I was teen. I went from the Nancy Drew mysteries to adult novels because there was so little fun and exciting stuff to read for my age group. Kids today have a lot more to choose from thanks to authors like you.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Great article, Rhonda! And thanks for joining us!

What do you see as the main difference between writing YA and more adult oriented paranormal? (Other than sex, or is that the main difference?)

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Good question, Lynda! I think the only real difference in writing YA and adult paranormal is probably subject matter/what's relevant to the audience.

For YA, you're going to add those elements in to the concerns and issues that the everyday teen encounters--e.g., maybe in school, with boyfriends, etc.

And yeah, I guess sex may be a difference, though there are racy YAs out there which do address and contain sex...

So I guess the biggest difference is audience age and the concerns in their lives. Know what I mean? :D

By the way, I, too, love that kids have more to choose from. We want them to grow up being readers, too--so why wait until they're adults to give them cool stuff to read?

Lynda K. Scott said...

I've heard it said that YA are mostly coming of age type stories. Do you agree? What other kinds of themes does one see in YA? Typically?

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Definitely there are coming of age stories--about blooming sexuality, learning responsibility/juggling pending adulthood, etc.

Common themes I've seen include those above. Also, there are themes of family issues (e.g., dealing with divorce or a parent being homosexual), the realization that being an adult doesn't mean perfection/knowledge, etc.

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Oh, and learning about the flaws of others--e.g., especially adults, whom you may have seen as perfect before. It's a rough time...

Gwen Hayes said...

I got hooked on paranormal stuff from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"...and that was set in high you are right-Paranormal and YA go hand in hand. I think Joss Whedon paralled the high school/hellmouth brilliantly. Part of the draw is that teens are not as jaded as adults yet-so more things seem possible. A ghost seems just as likely as a good grade in chemistry-so why not?

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Yes, you're so right, Gwen--writing for teens offers the opportunity to write to a audience, I think. :D

Ansha Kotyk said...

Great article Rhonda! Thanks!

Skylar Masey said...

Fabulous post Rhonda!

I think one of the reasons paranormal/fantasy YA also works is because it's kind of a bridge between childhood fantasy and adulthood. The teen or tween gets to have a taste of reality filtered through something magical that stretches the day-to-day boundaries of life.

And I think it's a strong vehicle to help our readers. As you said a book can be comforting when a teen or tween is looking for a way to cope (or just a way to see that he/she isn't alone) while they're going through puberty, family issues and generally being initiated into the "ways" of being an adult.

Lord knows, my books were my lifeline many a time :0}