Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's Time For Something Real!

Writing Song of the Day: "Real World" by Matchbox Twenty

I just recently finished Judy Blundell's National Book Award Winner: What I Saw and How I Lied and I LOVED it!

Not only was the plot engaging, but the MC Evie was relatable yet mysterious, and likable. I read a few historicals before this novel, but I must say Blundell did a great job of weaving in historical details without spelling out- "Hey, this story takes places in the mid 1940's right after the end of World War II!" And I was in complete awe.

As a matter of fact, reading this made me want to go back to my baby, In Limbo. I'm re-plotting the novel and revising it now. And I must say, I am falling in love with it. I queried In Limbo and got a couple of bites, but no offers of representation--that made me think. I was getting response from the queries but not from the fulls or the partials. I guess that means I need to look at the actual WRITING. So, that's what I'm doing. But it made me think--what makes a realistic historical young adult novel interesting? Does it need mystery, romance, a love triangle, murder?? Why is steampunk (check out our blog post here on steampunk novels) gaining so much popularity when there are some fantastic realistic historical YA novels to be read?

This made us think--let's ask our bloggy pals! So, we take these questions to you: What makes YOU want to read a realistic historical YA novel (or adult novel)? Why would you choose a steampunk novel over a realistic one? If YOU could play agent, what would you look for in a realistic historical YA when considering to represent it?

***BTW- Steampunk novels are awesometastic. I am not saying they are not great--just saying I needs to know what to do with my realistic. Help!***


Meredith McCardle said...

I've always loved historical, since when I was a kid. There was this series of books out when I was growing up, and I can't for the life of me remember the title of the series, but it featured girls living at various times throughout American history. (No, not the American Girls stuff :P) I discovered them when I was in middle school and just devoured them.

It can be tricky to get historical right. There's so much research that needs to be done, and you have to walk a fine line between being historically accurate and yet still writing in a way that engages the reader, if that makes sense. I think that's part of the reason I write historical fantasy, not realistic historical fiction. Much easier to fudge the details in fantasy. ;)

Megan said...

Meredith, I think I remember that series! I almost want to say they were Harlequin Teen and I vaguely remember one taking place in Williamsburg. Something about the flowered wallpaper has stuck with me. Or maybe there were just a few series like that.

I think realistic historical is definitely difficult, but I think the thing is to make it relatable to a modern reader. The thing about THE BOOK THIEF (My favorite book of all time! Have you read it yet??) is that while it all takes place during WWII and terrible things are happening,the characters continue doing things kids do now. They play in the streets and fight and make up in the way kids do. The relationships between the characters (and the characters themselves) are so strong. (Seriously. This book will make you WEEP. In a good way. Great way. READ IT!) I think the success comes in making the story great so that even if you were to take out the historical aspect it would still resonate. The history should just kind of be the icing on the cake.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm not very familiar with steampunk but I enjoy historical fiction. It's fun to learn about history through fiction. What you said about WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED (a fantastic book!) is exactly what I love about YA historical novels - the story comes first and the historical setting/time period comes second. If I love the characters and what's happening to them, that's what matters. The historical element is a bonus.

Abby Stevens said...

I think steampunk has the allure of that unusual spark - to me, it seems to be the up-and-comer in YA, and everyone's kind of, "Ooooh, shiny!" with it right now. I love historical YA that transports me to that time period, gets the little details right, and, just like anything else, tells a great story.

And girl, you know I'm ready to beta IN LIMBO any time you are ready!

Alicia Gregoire said...

I'm not very big on historicals and I totally blame this on the overdose of Victorian literature and all the Holocaust stories I read in middle school. I do remember reading about What I Saw when I first saw it on the work portal and got pretty excited because of the premise. I agree with Ghenet that the story should come first, if we wanted history, wouldn't we just read a history textbook?

Alex Mullarky said...

I much prefer YA historicals to those aimed at adults ... what attracts me is a good title and a good cover, and a vague interest in the time period - or a blurb that makes me desperate to learn more about it! I haven't read any steampunk but it looks AWESOME. If anyone has any recommendations I'd appreciate them.

Racquel Henry said...

I try to read a couple books from each genre and I have yet to read anything steampunk. I MUST change that! It's good to see you going back to your manuscript, In Limbo. We are in the same boat. I too am making LOTS of changes!