Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Top Ten YA Heroes / Love Interests

My Top Ten YA Heroes / Love Interests

As our theme this month is heroes, I thought I’d indulge in one of my favourite past times – thinking about fictional men. So, here’s my top ten heroes/love interests from YA. You might notice most of these are from SFF novels, so I apologise for the lack of genre diversity, but it’s the genre of which I read the most. Also, anyone who knows me knows that Snape will forever be my favourite male character invented, so for purposes of giving other characters a chance, I’ve left him off this list.  (Snape, my love – “Always.”)
Let me know if you agree with my list or not in the comments below, and add your own favourites!

10. Raffe - Angelfall - Susan Ee
A personal favourite, Raffe is on his own mission in Angelfall and doesn’t become so completely eclipsed by his love for the main character that he forgets his own agenda. He’s strong but not invincible, and has no objections to Penryn saving him once in a while. Go get them wings, Raffe!

9. Jack – Blood Red Road – Moira Young
Although at first introduction it may seem at first that Jack has popped up to provide the romance element of Blood Red Road, by the end of the novel Moira Young has made it clear Jack has his own path, which doesn’t necessarily follow the same of that of our main character. He resists a system which very possibly could treat him well because of his morals, which is a great hero quality.

8. Peeta – The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Ah Peeta, I still remember falling in love with him for the first time during Hunger Games, and somehow even the thought of him covered in cake icing hiding in a ravine was cute (not so much in the film though eh?) His thoughtful, caring nature was so out of place in that cruel world that he became an unlikely hero. His love for Katniss is a quiet, unassuming love, and doesn’t try to dominate to book. Ten out of ten points for Peeta the perseverer.

7. Jace - The Mortal Instruments - Cassandra Clare
OK, so Jace is typically good looking and with sculpted cheekbones and great mouth, but everyone knows it’s not physical looks which make a hero. Jace has a troubled past and a hard relationship with his father, making him more than just a 2D love interest. He’s powerful, strategic and his wit is as sharp as dem face bones.

6. Simon – Carry On - Rainbow Rowell
Simon is the perfect way to invert the Chosen One trope. All his life he’s been hailed as the hero to save all others, but Simon feels like a failure most of the time. Despite that, and all this unsolicited responsibility heaped at his feet, he keeps going - that makes a true hero to me. Add to that a killer sense of humour and a riveting romance, and Simon more than deserves his place on this list.

5.  Micah – Pantomime – Laura Lam
I don’t want to say too much about Micah in case I give away any spoilers, but they are talented, clever and totally motivated by clear goals. The character development in Pantomime is sublime and really takes the reader alongside the hero’s journey.

4. Otieno – Shadows on the Moon - Zoe Marriott
Shadows on the Moon is one of my favourite books. It shows that heroes and heroines come via all personality types, and don’t have to be unflinchingly brave or with all the right answers and actions. Otieno is not just a loyal, long-lasting love interest, he has also had to deal with his own tumultuous past and an uncertain future. He supports the main character but doesn’t try to take over her story or alter her quest. I’d love to read a book just about him!

3. Valek - Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder
First of all – Valek has a beard! Yey for love interests with beards! Secondly, Valek again has his own agenda and moral compass that exists outside of his love for Yelena (can you notice the common theme here?). The fact that Yelena knows his loyalty to the Commander will always come first makes him more than your standard do-anything-for-my-love love interest. He also can climb down buildings like a spider in a black catsuit – awesome.

2. Jaz – Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
Cunning. Clever. Deadly. This is one guy you don’t want to be on the wrong side off, and that makes me want to be on the right side of him. (Minds out of the gutter, please.) His backstory is poignant and you can realistically see why he is the way he is today. He also cares about those who are in his inner circle, despite not trusting anyone. Jaz is a brilliant example of a complex character who can want and chase after conflicting ideals.

1. Akiva – Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Akiva has all the assets I would list as a MUST HAVE if I were to place an ad in the lonely-hearts column.
a)       A killer backstory
b)      Undying, loyal love
c)       Complicated familial relationships
d)      Can fly
e)      Made mistakes but wants to rectify them
Seriously, Akiva makes a brilliant hero. As lots of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is from his POV, he is as important as the main character to bring us through the action, and subsequently we really get into his head. His story is mesmerizing, and I love a character who has their own family and friends to deal with, instead of living in isolation as a love interest to the main character.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Releasing September 11, 2017 Entangled Teen - Crave
Pre-order today!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble (coming soon) Add it to Goodreads
About the book ...
One strike will bring them together.
Stevie Moon is famous...at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again. As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster's been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter. Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she's not willing to give him even the time of day. He'll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie's defenses than the demi-god of thunder? "Every page brims with captivating Norse mythology and deliciously creative worldbuilding." Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author

About the author ... Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2), and Thunderstruck releasing September 11, 2017. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). She’s represented by Peter Knapp at The Park Literary Group. Save Save

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Real Talk About Heroes

The theme for this month is heroes. It’s a topic I have already thought about in writing. Writing a good hero in YA fiction is challenging. It’s important for characters to feel real and be complex even if they aren’t actually real. However, writers also have to ask themselves how strict of a moral code a hero has. Some writers might be comfortable with having their hero always being a perfect citizen while other writers might have their hero be morally ambiguous. But the most important thing for a hero is a happy ending. Because there’s nothing worse than the audience being cheated.

Sure. Life might not always be fair. But there’s no law that says pop culture must be realistic. This is a television example, but I’ll write about it anyway. YA writers can still learn from it. One example of a hero from television is Stefan Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries. The show fell flat with its series finale. Stefan sacrifices himself so his brother Damon Salvatore can get a happily ever after with Elena Gilbert. The Vampire Diaries ultimately gets it wrong. Stefan should have gotten the happy ending; not Damon. People talk about villains needing to be complex and not caricatures. Well, it’s the same for heroes. They should be able to make mistakes without losing their hero status. That’s why it baffles me when fans complain about Stefan’s flaws, but ignore Damon’s flaws to prop up the misogynistic and toxic ship Delena. Stefan even props up Delena by saying Damon is the better/right man when having his goodbye with Elena. The point is, there’s an implicit promise to viewers. Stefan is the good brother and Damon is the bad brother, and the show did not deliver. And that’s one mistake I’ll never make in my writing. The bad boy trope ceases to be impressive if the bad boy keeps acting like a jerk over and over again-like Damon-without learning anything from the behavior.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What a pitch!

Yippee, hooray, darn, and drat. It's pitching season. As much as it inspires excitement and hope, it can also be a frenzy of panic. Whether you're aiming to pitch for a contest, a query letter, to an editor, or at a conference, the end result's the same: You need a good pitch, or you're going to lose out. Sorry, them's the breaks, folks.

I know that might sound harsh, but it's super important that writers understand that this is a business, and that the industry expects certain standards and a degree of recognizable professionalism. And what is that exactly? It's knowing your business, your preferred career. There are a million and one websites and blogs out there about pitching. You can find all you need and more on how to craft the pitch you need.

But let's face it. You want to know what's going to make you stand out more than anyone else, don't you? Well, if you want to make it in this business, this is something you should be thinking about before you even pitch. Why are you and your story unique? This is a hard question. A really hard one. So rather than trying to dash off a pitch in a day, or circle it around frantically between friends for weeks on end, I suggest you do something first to prepare: go and sit in a quiet place. Think. Work out in the very core of who you are as a writer why this story should be out there in the world. Just because it's a good yarn? Because it popped into your head? Or does it have something to say? What will it give the world that wasn't there before? What can you give the world that it needs to hear?

Now, will you write this all down in your pitch? No. But will it influence how you write your pitches? Yes. Remember, you're selling yourself as an author, too, not just one book (well, unless you only intend to sell one book, and that's fine!).

So, in short, before you run around trying to form a pitch, get into the mindset of a professional. Not a neurotic, under-confident person terrified of your industry. You chose to be here. So you're worthy. You're reading this post. Which means you're serious. So take yourself seriously, too. You're learning your craft, doing your "internship", learning the ropes of your business. Like in any other business, decide what you want as your career. Then, once you know what you want, and how you want to say it, then the pitching of your books will come a lot, lot easier!

Good luck!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Agentopia: Alyssa Jenette

Welcome to the August edition of Agentopia. This month we have Alyssa Jenette in the spotlight.

About Alyssa

Alyssa joined Stonesong Literary in May 2015 after interning at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. She has a background in art and trained as an illustrator before she joined publishing, and therefore have unique insight and expertise when it comes to design-heavy or illustrated works. She is a very editorial agent, and she finds a lot of joy in shaping stories alongside the author.
She recently enjoyed I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, THE GHOST NETWORK, WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY, SLADE HOUSE, and WHITE CAT. Some of her favorite authors are Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett, and Holly Black.

What is currently on your wishlist?

These are very specific requests, but I would love a picture book about logic concepts, YA/MG about supportive found families, a Craigslist Missed Connection rom-com, and a YA epistolary novel told through chats, emails, and texts about the decline of a best-friendship (or about getting Catfished!). A great place to check my interests is on my Manuscript Wishlist profile or my #MSWL hashtag on Twitter.

Overall I find myself drawn to literary voices, strong plotting, and cleverness. Make me laugh or sigh or get excited and you're well on your way to winning my heart!

What's a personal turn-off in a query which is guaranteed to get the author rejected?

Queries that are too long or ill-researched are pretty much always a no. Authors who are serious about getting published MUST do the work required to show agents that they're committed, thoughtful, and making the effort. That means brief queries targeted at the agents that are actually interested in and represent your genre. That means you've IDENTIFIED your genre. That means you've read up on agents and aren't going to send them things that they don't represent or aren't interested in. I still get queries for romance novels when I explicitly state across multiple platforms that I don't represent romance. Don't be that author! 99% of the time you aren't going to be the exception that changes an agents mind about a genre or a premise, so I would say stick to the agents who already want to see what you do.

Do you google authors and if yes, what are you looking for?

Sometimes I google authors! But most of the time I'm too busy keeping up with my queries to think about the author's personal life. I do tend to get curious and google when the book is either REALLY out there or, of course, a book that I'm super-enjoying. I'm not looking for anything specific when I google--I've never *not* signed someone whose work I love because of something I saw while googling. That being said, it's always a good thing to see what comes up when you google your name--you want to put your best foot forward in case an agent gets the itch to search.

Alyssa is closed to queries during August but submission guidelines for September can be found on the Stonesong website.

Alyssa's wishlist: MSWL
Twitter @alyssajenette

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Qualities of a Hero

PSA: MY BOOK, BETRAYAL OF THE BAND, RELEASES THIS MONTH! Just had to get that out of the way before talking about this month’s theme: Heroes
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. A geeky teenager (Spider-Man), a wealthy playboy (Iron Man), a highly trained orphan (Black Widow). (Can you tell I’m an Avengers fan?) But even the most ordinary person can be a hero (or heroine). So what makes a hero heroic? The ability and willingness to save the world? If that were necessary, we’d all be writing superhero or save-the-world stories, and we’re probably not. At least, I’m not. Everyone in Betrayal of the Band is an ordinary—though musically talented—high schooler. But that doesn’t make them any less heroic.
So how do you take an average, everyday protag—or even an unlikeable protag—and turn them into a hero (or heroine)? I’ve composed a short list of a few of the qualities, but I’d love to hear some others!
  1. Sacrifice. In most stories, the hero (or heroine) is making a sacrifice. This doesn’t need to be a huge, life-or-death sacrifice like Harry Potter makes at the end of The Deathly Hallows. This sacrifice can be an ordinary, every day giving up, such as turning down a college scholarship to stay home and assist a disabled parent or coaching a younger sibling in soccer instead of hanging out with friends on the weekends. In Into the Fire, by Kim Vandal, the hero (or heroine), Kate, sacrifices dating and most of a social life to appease her mother’s fears. While these aren’t life-or-death sacrifices, for the hero the sacrifice is a death of a dream or a desire and also the willingness to put someone else ahead of those dreams or desires.
  2. Love. Often a hero (or heroine) is motivated by a strong love. This doesn’t need to be romantic love. Think Katniss in The Hunger Games. She volunteered out of love for her sister, and she never saw herself as a hero for doing so. Even Iron Man, who mostly only loves himself, is spurred on when Pepper is threatened. This is probably related to sacrifice—because who’s going to make a sacrifice for someone they don’t care about?—but caring for someone more than for themselves is a quality of a hero.
  3. Fight. A hero (or heroine) is willing to fight for what’s important. Again, this doesn’t have to be a huge, “oh no, the evil villain is going to destroy the whole world unless little old me stands up to him.” This is the boy willing to stand up to bullies in defense of an almost stranger. Or the girl refusing to let the loss of an athletic scholarship destroy her college dreams. In The War that Saved My Life, Ada is the least likely hero. She has a club foot and can’t even walk when the story begins. She’s been so abused, both physically and verbally, that she truly believes she’s worthless and useless. Yet she never quits. She continues to care for her brother and pushes herself to learn things like riding a horse, because the hero (or heroine) always keeps fighting.

These are only three qualities that define a hero. What would you add to the list? How can you use these elements to make your protag even more heroic?

Sarah Tipton is a writer of Christian Young Adult fiction. Her debut novel, Betrayal of the Band, releases in August 2017.