Stress Relief for Me, You, & Micol Ostow

How do you deal with stress? Because for me, I read — YA fiction. Today is a big day for me as I confess all on Babble.com in Percy Jackson is My Therapist. Will you visit my true confessions and show me some comment love?

I’m so happy to interview the talented Micol Ostow, an amazing YA author, Contemps blogger and Readergirlz Diva.  You’re going to enjoy what she shares about YA fiction. If you’re not already a fan, I think she’ll convince you to give YA fiction a try.

1.  As an author of fiction for all ages, what makes YA unique to write?

Actually, though I’ve dabbled in fiction for different ages, as you say, young adult is definitely where my heart and my talent lies, and it’s because it *is* such a unique time of life.

Adolescence is a time of extremes, of emotional highs and lows, of urgency and authenticity. Teenagers experience things in the most immediate way. I can’t explain why that time of life resonates so strongly with me, but it’s a perspective that I’m never very far away from. That roller coaster is something I can access very easily, which makes it appealing to write about. Teens don’t pull punches, and it’s that honesty of point of view that draws me in as a reader and as a writer. 

2. Who reads YA fiction? What are some of the reasons adults read YA fiction? (based on your experience as writer, reader, blogger)
The good news is, it seems like readers of YA fiction really span the gamut, demographic-wise! Many of our readers are younger middle or high school students reading “up,” but the genre is certainly as popular as ever with adults, from what I see online.
As to what draws the adult readers in, my guess is that with YA fiction, you get the best of both worlds: moody, atmospheric emotional undercurrents, but more focused, self-contained plot lines than in typical adult literary fiction. Young adult fiction generally likes to get to the point.

3.  Do you think YA fiction is becoming more popular with adults? And, if yes, to what do you attribute that?
It certainly looks that way! And in large part, I think that has to do with the efforts to class up the genre, making a transition from “young adult,” to “teen,” in the past decade or so. In the past ten years, many publishing houses have launched edgy new imprints like Scholastic’s PUSH or Puffin’s SPEAK, which moved away from the very straightforward, very commercial “series” of my own adolescence. Books were published in more adult-like formats, such as GOSSIP GIRL, which was priced to compete with adult fiction and shelved alongside adult books in many stores. Between a fresh, honest approach toward subject matter and a rebranding of the inventory, I think young adult fiction benefited from a serious industry makeover that trickled down to consumers. And you see that with series like the TWILIGHT books, too – packaging that looks very “adult.”

It didn’t hurt that at the same time, teens themselves were coming into more purchasing power and driving the media. The re-emergence of teen fiction coincided with all of that teen-centric WB programming like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dawson’s Creek,” and suddenly purveyors of media were interested in appealing to a more sophisticated generation of media consumers. It’s no surprise that so many of today’s new movies and television shows are based on young adult book properties (“Pretty Little Liars,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Gossip Girl.”). Synergy!

4.  Sometimes I think that I enjoy reading YA lit because it’s a good brain break — it’s so not Naberkov, no challenging vocabulary. What about you? Why do you like reading YA lit?
There are plenty of YA novels out there that provide a nice brain break, as you say, but then, that’s true of lots of “adult” fiction as well! At the risk of sounding defensive, there’s a great deal of young adult that’s incredibly nuanced, well-crafted, and challenging, and I’d urge anyone interested to check it out. Off the top of my head, Adam Rapp’s PUNKZILLA, Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME, Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE, Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF. *Not remotely* easy reads!

Do I always go for the meaty stuff when I read? Not at all. My tastes are varied. I read YA because the storylines are, on the whole, more poignant, more intense. And the voice, regardless of storyline or genre, is usually so fine-tuned. And maybe there’s a nostalgia factor in there, as well – reading YA is probably more pleasant than re-living our own teenage years…

5.  Can you remember a situation where you escaped into a good book to relieve stress and if so, would you share it?

Pretty much every day. Reading is my number one favorite hobby, and I’m so incredibly lucky that I’m able to read as part of my job! But if you want specifics, I really am all over the place in my tastes. Helen Fielding is genius, and I like to return to BRIDGET JONES when I’m feeling frazzled or overwhelmed. I think I read that book at least once a year. But my absolute favorite form of escapism is anything dark or scary. On a bad day, I’ll turn to Stephen King’s THE SHINING just as quickly as chick lit (if not more so). More obvious examples of stress release would include any day I’m not feeling up to my own writing, when I duck between the covers of a colleague’s work and call it “research.” Nice work if you can get it!

BIO: Micol Ostow published her first novel under a pseudonym in 2004. Since that time, she’s published over 40 works for readers of all ages, including the award-winning SO PUNK ROCK (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother). Her next novel, FAMILY, will release in April 2011.

Note from Melissa: Thank you so much, Micol! Readers, isn’t she awesome? We love our YA and YA authors!


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