Monday, June 09, 2008

What I Like

(cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls)

While at the SCBWI Austin conference, I had a one-on-one critique with a woman who, as she was sitting down, said quickly, "I know what I wrote isn't your thing, but they said you had a slot open in your schedule and I felt like I had to grab it!"

She had written a paranormal YA novel, and I had actually quite liked what I had read of it (I think we had 10 pages submitted to us).

"Why would you think this wasn't my thing?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know, I've read some of your blog and have seen the kinds of things you've edited..."

Well, that was eye-opening. I don't want my blog to give in inaccurate picture of what I like, so I thought I'd write a post to expand on this subject (restricted to novels for this post) based on the books I liked to read as a child. Because although what I've acquired and edited in the past is certainly indicative of my tastes, there are so many other types of books that either I've acquired but haven't been published yet, and still more that I'm open to but just haven't acquired anything in that genre. The thing is, I guess it's a bit of a cycle--I tend to get submissions in a similar vein to the books I've acquired.

Two books that I've acquired that stand apart from the rest of my list are:

1) The Devouring by Simon Holt, the first in a YA horror series (we've signed up three books so far) due out this Fall. The Devouring is about a teenage girl, Reggie, who loves all things horror--she even works at a mystery/horror bookstore. While unpacking a shipment of used books, Reggie comes across a mysterious journal which describes evil creatures called Vours who can inhabit the bodies of fearful humans on Sorry Night, the eve of the Winter Solstice. Of course, she thinks this is just a harmless scary story, but when her younger brother Henry begins to act strangely, Reggie realizes that there’s some truth behind the journal, and needs to take on the Vours in order to save her brother. (by the way, if this sounds like your kind of thing, you can sign up for the mailing list here.)

2) Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (I mentioned this in my last post). This was just posted in Publisher's Lunch:
Alvina Ling at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers bought North American and U.K. rights to debut author Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead, a YA adventure novel about a teen who taps into a magical Maori world and races to prevent the destruction of her homeland in New Zealand. Barry Goldblatt at Barry Goldblatt Literary was the agent.
I remember Barry called me up and asked, "Do you like urban fantasy?"--I'm glad he asked rather than assume it wasn't my thing--I totally love it!

Both of these two books have horror elements. I loved horror as a kid. Stephen King was one of my favorite authors--I read every single book he had ever written by the time I was 12. One of my all-time favorite stories is the novella The Body (which was adapted into the movie Stand By Me) in his Different Seasons collection. I also loved loved LOVED Lois Duncan, especially Killing Mr. Griffin. I read every book by her in my local library as well. I read most of V.C. Andrews as well.

What else did I love? I loved mysteries. I loved the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Encyclopedia Brown, Phyllis A. Whitney, and especially The Three Investigators.

I loved fantasy and science fiction: Edward Eager, The Chronicles of Narnia, Piers Anthony's Xanth books, Anne McCaffrey's Dragon books, Terry Brooks's Sword of Shannara, Orson Scott Card's Ender series, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle and Time series, Susan Cooper.

I loved animals books: Black Stallion and Black Beauty, Watership Down, Rabbit Hill, Incredible Journey, Where the Red Fern Grows, Rascal, Bambi, Socks, Charlotte's Web.

I loved the commercial: Choose Your Own Adventure, Cheerleaders series (not the R.L. Stine horror series, but YA books about a HS cheerleading team), some Silhouette romances, etc.

I loved the contemporary: Judy Blume, Betsy Byars, Beverly Cleary, Patricia Hermes (You Shouldn't Have to Say Good-bye), Susan Beth Pfeffer (Kid Power), Robert Cormier, S.E. Hinton, Cynthia Voigt, Katherine Paterson.

And, of course, I loved classics (which perhaps is more obvious). I read all the Louisa May Alcott books (my favorites were Little Women and Jack and Jill), all of the L.M. Montgomery books (I especially loved the Emily books), the Great Brain series, Noel Streatfeild's books, A Little Princess, E. Nesbit, Tom Sawyer, etc. etc.

And now I'm realizing that this might not have been helpful after all, because basically I loved almost every genre. As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on, including my brothers' comic books (X-Men) and graphic novels (Sandman). But I hope this serves the purpose of having people not dismiss a submission for me based on genre. Of course my tastes have continued to change over the years and as an adult (I read a lot of narrative nonfiction now, for example), but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for books that remind me of the books I loved as a child. As an editor, I'm still open to every category. However, what I've come to realize over the years is that I'm more drawn to literary writing than commercial, and that voice is all important to me--there are probably a few books listed above that I wouldn't acquire if they crossed my desk now.

And I know some of you are thinking, "But you don't accept unsolicited manuscripts, so what good does this do me?"--well, I've noticed that many agents are asking their clients if there are any editors they would like to submit to, and so if you're in that boat and weren't sure if your manuscript would be right for me, I hope this helps clear things up a bit.

At any rate, this was a fun exercise--I remembered a few books that I hadn't thought about in a long time. What are some of your forgotten favorites?


jenny han said...

I had no idea you read VC Andrews! It's all making sense now... Or did you mention this at the party and I'm blanking on it bc of all the cosmos??

Anonymous said...

I remember you telling me you liked ghost stories at one of the Sterling Inn conferences (Pocono Mountains).

When I get an agent, I'll suggest you.


Lori O'Connell said...

Loved Trixie Belden, The Three Investigator's - all of that!! Let's not forget Lois Duncan. I loved her dark and mysterious side and when I was young I thought her books were really frightening!

Anonymous said...

My favorite is A Wrinkle in Time but it was great to see Trixie Belden listed. Also loved Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. If you love Louisa May Alcott, check out her mystery/thrillers, she was very proud of them even tho they didn't get as much hype. Behind the Mask has a few of them in there. I just read The Abbot's Ghost and really enjoyed it.
Have a grea time at ALA.
Angela Russell

Anonymous said...

Great list, and I share your love of many books, but...did you not read TUCK EVERLASTING, by Natalie Babbitt? The epitome of a children's novel, in my opinion! Please do! As a writer myself, I hold up TUCK EVERLASTING as my model of poetic prose and memorable world-making.

I enjoy your blog, by the way! Wish you were my editor (too).

Becky Levine said...

I just came across this post, and you're only the third person (other than me and Jen Robinson at Jen's Book Page who read Phyllis A. Whitney's teen mysteries. Those books are probably one of the biggest reasons I started to dream about being a writer.