How do you think writing for the YA audience is different from writing for an adult audience?
I don’t think writing for a YA audience is that much different than writing for an adult audience. Actually, the "audience" I write for is not defined so much by age as by the type of fiction they like. (Plus, I always include myself as a member of the audience I write for.) The question for me is, who is the audience for The Arts-Angels Track 1: Drawn to You? I believe that it is one that likes fun, fast-paced stories, as well as stories about music and the arts, stories that take place in schools, stories that are about family relationships and friendships, among other things. Do I write for tweens? Yes, but not just tweens who are tweens at this very moment. I write for the tweens who are yet to be and the tween that still lives inside me and the inner tweens of other adult readers of the series! There are, after all, plenty of adults who enjoy juvenile and YA fiction.
What elements must be included for a book to be successful?
I think that depends on what you mean by “successful.” When you say “successful” do you mean “bestseller”? Or do you mean a book that receives critical acclaim? Or one that may have a small audience but has been greatly enjoyed by the majority of its readers?
The Arts-Angels Track 1 is not a bestseller (yet . . . :-) ) but a number of young people who have already read it have let me how much they enjoyed it. I love getting fan mail from real tween readers who tell me how much they love the book, how they finished it in two or three days, how they’ve reread it a few times, what their favorite parts were, etc. I also love visiting a site like Amazon and reading a really positive, five-star review from someone I did not ask to review the book! That feels like success to me.
So what is it about the book that is prompting this sort of “successful” reaction? Well, since the ideal readership is tweens and teens, and the situations in the book deal with issues that young people in those age groups really contend with (self-identity, self-image, self-expression, empowerment, competition, friendships, romance), I believe that readers finding they can identify with the situations and characters in the story is a contributing factor to its reception. As a writer, I had to actively remember what it was like to be that age to be able to write about it with any kind of authenticity. I think it helped that I wrote the first draft of Drawn to You when I was in college, because my junior high and high school experiences were still fresh memories for me.
I feel proper packaging is another helpful element, too. The book cover, for instance, should accurately convey the feel of the book. When I unveiled my cover to my fellow writer friends, they all said the cover "popped” and that it was fun and had energy. Some people even commented that it looked like it could be an ad for a tweens’ TV show on a kids' cable network. This is because it's clear by the cover that it's the first book in a series, that rock music and the arts are involved, and that the main character is a guitar-playing
teenager. So if you are a potential reader of the book, you should get what you
expect: a fun, arts-centered, escapist romp. Latina
In most cases, too, I think that in order for a book to be successful, its author should be able to write at a professional level (or at the very least have a very talented editor). I also think for a book to achieve commercial success it needs to get into the hands of that one reader who can get the word out to a large number of the most receptive readers (for the sort of book it is) in a short amount of time. Finally, for a book to be truly successful, I think a reader should be able to tell as they read it that the author enjoyed or even loved writing it!
Thank you for asking me these questions. I hope you enjoy the reading of Drawn to You the first book in the new series for tweens, The Arts-Angels.
I'm sure I'll love it. Readers, we need a blurb and excerpt, so here goes.
Gina Santiago is a thirteen-year-old "Nuyorican" with rock star dreams, so when she's accepted into the prestigious New York Academy of Arts and Talents for art instead of music, she's crushed. To make matters worse, the student body at the Upper East Side school is divided into "schollies" (students on scholarship, like her) and "dollies" (rich kids with "dollars"). But Gina discovers that there is one thing that brings schollies and dollies-and dancers, singers, actors, artists, and musicians-together: music! Maybe she can make her dreams come true after all....
“You know what’s weird?” I asked, turning to Michiko. “That girl with the short hair reminds me of a girl I used to be friends with back in the third grade.”
Michiko shuddered. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
I snorted a laugh. “But it couldn’t be—”
“I sure hope you don’t mean—” Michiko said.
And together we ended, “—Willa Burch.”
Michiko gasped in horror. “No way! You were friends with—with Willa?”
“We were just little kids…. It was the third grade. She was an artist, too.”
Michiko didn’t change her expression. She still looked like was standing upwind of a garbage truck.
“Maybe I should go over and say ‘hi,’” I told Michiko. “See if she remembers me.”
Michiko actually put out her arm to stop me from going back down the stairs. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I doubt she’d give you the time of day. People call her ‘Willa the Witch’ these days. Let’s just continue with the tour.”
“Are you serious? She can’t be that bad.”
But just as I asked the question, I caught Willa’s reflection in the mirror.
She seemed to be looking straight at me. Did she…recognize me? I smiled at her.
Willa didn’t smile back. Instead, her face darkened and her eyes narrowed into slits. She tilted her head as if to get a better look at me.
“Come on. I’ll show you where your locker is.” Michiko was already halfway up the stairs. “You can catch up with Willa later. She might be in some of your classes. She’s an art major, too, you know.”
“All right,” I said. But as I followed Michiko, I couldn’t help but think that Willa had seen me—recognized me, even. And, the part I didn’t get? She hadn’t seemed happy about it.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Like her main character, Gina Santiago, Janel is a Nuyorican who attended a Manhattan high school of the arts as an art major.
Unlike Gina, she isn’t very good at guitar and doesn’t have a rock band to call her own.
Truth be told, she never dreamed of becoming a guitarist. Instead, from the time she was a tween she dreamed of becoming a published author of a book series. And since you're reading this, you can see that her dream has come true!
Her first hint of an idea for the Arts-Angels series began way back when she received a pendant of St. Michael the Archangel for her sixteenth birthday.
She lives with her twin sister, Jennifer (who got a pendant of St. Joan of Arc that same birthday but hasn’t written any books about it), in New York City.
E-mail: janelrodriguezferrer (at) theartsangels (dot) com.
LINKS TO PURCHASE THE BOOK:
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