Back Porch Writer Interview

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Kori Miller of Back Porch Writer, which is  a site dedicated to podcasts about all things writing. We spent a half hour talking about Young Adult literature, my books, and writing in general. If you have a half hour in which you’d like to listen to my insight about what I write and why I write it, please do so. Kori conducts a great interview and if you’re an author looking for some exposure, contact her. I had a blast.

Enjoy!

Listen: here

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About that book ur hatin’ on…

Do you remember when you were a teen and you went online and found reviews of books before reading them? And you then blogged about them after reading?

Wait? What?

Forget what I just said, because if you’re roughly my age (35) or older, there was no internet until high school. Hell, there was no Internet; it was THE WORLD WIDE WEB. And we weren’t searching for book reviews.

However, today reviews abound. From the high-brow New York Times to the low-brow, one star, 20-word review on Amazon (that’s the minimum required), and all the blogs in between. In spite of all of the awesomeness that is the internet, this portal to, well, everything, do you know which reviews teens read?

None.

All right, not none, but I wanted to be dramatic. If any, they’ll read Amazon. Maybe, they’ll read Goodreads reviews, if a friend or parent has an account. And writing reviews? Sure. Some. But in comparison to the adults, not even a drop in the bucket.

Thus begins the paradox.

Reviews for YA lit are largely written by and for an adult audience. Now, I previously wrote about how I have no problem with having an adult audience. And I don’t, and I want them to keep reading and reviewing. My concern is this: when adults review from an adult perspective.

Young adult lit is first and foremost literature for teenagers. Adults read it as well. Great. However, imagine if we turned the table, and today’s teens read adult books, and then reviewed them. Across the board, not just here and there. Can you imagine how that would sound?

This novel didn’t really speak to me, because I don’t like have a mortgage or kids and really have no clue about a midlife crisis. Why should I? BTW, where’s the action in this story?

See how convoluted that was? And that’s my issue. So many reviews of YA lit (mine included) are written by adults speaking to adults, who don’t take into consideration that they are not the primary audience. YA writers move their words across the page and structure their stories in a fashion that is in step with the action, behaviors and beliefs of teens. Writers of adult fiction do the same for adults. Therefore, it only makes sense that the writing will not and should not be the same. How this gets lost is beyond me.

Yet it happens all the time. And I get angry and sad and frustrated, but know I am ultimately powerless. We as adults co-opt everything about youth culture, so I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am disheartened. Because teens don’t often find material on their own; they rely on adults (librarians and bookstores) to offer up selections.

And when those libraries and bookstores do not carry stories that may be the most suitable stories for these teens ever, because enough adults weren’t pleased, I feel like writing blogs like this and begging anyone who is about to review YA lit to remember what it was like for you as a teen.

Not the absence of computers and cell phones, but the feelings. The raw emotions. The randomness and lack of logic. The muddled world in which you lived and did your best to make sense of.

That world, the one that existed inside your head, and within your heart. It still exists. It looks different. It sounds different. And possibly it doesn’t fit you as well as it once did. But it’s not your call to say that it must. Because it’s not yours, it’s theirs.

Embrace and celebrate that difference. Don’t rob today’s youth of it.

From the UncommonYA blog, “F. This.”

UncommonYA – Blog.

F. This.

11/08/2013

 

Picture

by Eric DevineWriting should be more of a mirror to society than a portrait. I believe if we are writing well, then we are telling truths about what exists, not only how we want to see the world behave. These truths are often labeled dark or edgy or gritty, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with these adjectives. However, the problem arises when they become synonymous with controversial.The term controversial is a universal call for someone to get up in arms. And today, some people savor the whiff of controversy, so that they can use it as a platform to discuss their opinions, shoot others down in an online flame war, or even worse, twist the premise of the original controversy for personal gain.

And yet we wonder why authors tell stories about the darkness of humanity?

I am fortunate that I teach teenagers every day. Focusing on stories and structure and the power of words with adolescents reveals what every Young Adult author should know: they are real people with flaws.

Shocking, I know.

But considering how much adults talk about and write about and spend energy on keeping books with dark material away from teens, maybe it is. The premise of these well-intentioned adults is two-fold: 1. Teens don’t need to read about “this” (whatever inappropriate topic has been deemed such). 2. If they do, like those “gateway drugs”, they’ll learn things that will open doors down terrible paths.

And this is when I get irate.

Teens swear, make bad choices, get in fights, have sex, do drugs, and experience such inhumanity from one another, it makes my soul cringe. However, this has been the case since I was in high school, close to twenty years ago, and I doubt it’s a new development. The speed and intensity of ithas changed, via social media and technology. Yet, do you know where this, and the aforementioned issues are dealt with, where lessons are learned by characters, so that others may vicariously learn? You guessed it?

And if that source material, the handbooks for how-things-might-go-down, is shot through a rosy lens, what has been taught? That these events are fine. That doing these things is okay. That treating one another like dirt leaves you feeling awesome.

I understand the premise of the adults. I sincerely do. But they are wrong. I have never seen a child “break bad” because of a book he or she read. I have never heard a teen interviewed by an administrator for something heinous he or she has done and claim a book as the source of the idiocy.

It doesn’t happen.

Teens learn from one another, from the internet, from their parents, from their teachers––probably in this order. If a teen is reading books, hoping to find something to help navigate these rough waters, we should applaud them, give them a medal and then beg them to pass the stories on. Because many teens do not read. They spend extensive time watching Vines and YouTube videos and on Twitter and on Facebook. And they cut one another down from the safety of the keyboard, and unless no one or no story jars them from this, they grow into adults, who make decisions about content, hear the word controversial and fall into the loop society––not books––has created.

Want to see if I walk the walk? Check out either Tap Out or Dare Me.

Find fearless author Eric Devine online:


Website
Eric Devine Facebook
Eric Devine Author Page, Facebook 
Twitter
Buy Eric’s books:
Dare Me, Tap Out, This Side of NormalAmazon US, Amazon Canada: Dare MeTap OutThis Side of Normal; Barnes & Noble: Dare MeTap Out;  IndieBound

“A boy who knows only grinding despair finds hope within the walls of a gym. . . . This is bound to have huge appeal.” School Library Journal Teen
“Devine instantly captures your attention and holds it until the very end. . . . The storyline, the drama and the characters were all thoroughly put together.” Publishers Weekly

“Devine doesn’t pull any punches.” http://foreveryoungadult.com/2013/10/09/whats-the-matter-mcfly-chicken/

Tap Out: a 2013 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers AND a 

2013 Top 10 Sports Book for Youth: Booklist

My “Other” Audience

I have come to the realization that I don’t write for teens. I mean, I do, but let’s consider this: the majority of you reading this post are adults, and you are here primarily because you’ve read my work. Therefore, it stands to reason that as much as I envision my audience as under eighteen, I could be completely wrong.

And I’m okay with that.

Recently, the topic of adults reading YA books has received heavy consideration. If you’d like to read more deeply about this, go here, here or here. I find the issue intriguing for a number of reasons, but mostly because from my perspective, at signings and promotional events, I don’t see a lot of teens. I see adults of various ages, buying for a friend, a cousin, a niece, a nephew, a son, a daughter. However, they ALL say they same thing, “I’ll read this first to see how it is.”

It’s difficult to hold back a smirk. I sincerely appreciate that my novels will eventually make their way into the hands of teens––if those teens exist­­––but I have to wonder if this purchase, ostensibly for someone else, is a ploy, and if these adults are purchasing what they deem guilty pleasures.

Now, I hate the term “guilty pleasures.” Like what you like, especially when it comes to reading. Don’t let someone knock what you read because it isn’t in line with what they want you to be reading. The mere fact that you as an adult are reading is wonderful, because it’s not the standard.

I’ve talked to enough adults who haven’t read a novel since high school. I’ve talked to plenty of adults who stopped reading for pleasure in college because the classics bored them to death, and the suggested contemporary, adult lit, was more of the same. These same adults will say to me about my work, “I haven’t read a book that I was unable to put down in so long, I’ve forgotten that feeling.”

And that, right there, is everything.

The nature of this issue boils down to one point: storytelling. I don’t care if it’s a classic from the canon, a children’s picture book, some chic new adult genre, or YA, if the story grabs you and won’t let go, that’s awesome. And as I’ve said before, the goal for my work is for it to be awesome. Sure it can be other things, too: deep, intriguing, dark, gritty­­––but it has to be awesome. Because that is the hallmark of good storytelling. You want it to go on. You’re angry when it’s over, but also elated because it was such a thrill. And you know you’ll recommend the story to others, and you’ll think about it for days and weeks to come. It will become a piece of you.

Young Adult lit does that. It has that power. So does adult lit, and children’s lit. But YA is unique in that it has the power to wake up something inside of you that has lain dormant. All those intense teen emotions. They haven’t gone away. You haven’t really grown up. You’ve only gotten older.

And once you’re comfortable with that notion, once you abandon the idea of guilty pleasures, because of age, the reading landscape will open to you. And it is full of capital A, awesome.

Go, read it all. And if you need suggestions, I’m here for you. 

DARE ME Countdown Giveaway Challenge #3

If you are familiar with the dashing dude above, then, yes, you guessed it, today’s challenge is all about Newton. No, not the fig kind. But first, yesterday’s winner.

For her account of Dairy Queen disaster and being called “Butterscotch Girl” (see the comment section), Stephanie Rosch wins a signed copy of Dare Me. Send me your email, and thanks for the great story!

And so, back to Challenge #3 and Newton. Surprise, surprise, Ben the kid who does crazy stunts, considers the implications of the physics to them as well as the Natural laws, as they defy them. Therefore, there are the excerpts below from Dare Me. You’ll need them to understand the challenge, as Ben does a good job of summarizing the three laws.

The challenge:  Which law most applies to life?

Answer that with an example, and you’re entered to win. Do so here, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Enjoy Ben’s ruminations below, and remember, Newton’s watching you.

Excerpts:

Law #1

I head to physics and learn about Newton’s First Law. Who knew that it took a genius to figure out that objects at rest or in motion stay that way unless acted upon? It seems rather simple: The beginning of something, or the lack of beginning, is up to the individual, unless someone else forces the issue.

Law #2 

I read Newton’s Second Law: The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

Right. So, positive things continue in a positive direction, negative, well, negatively; the acceleration matches the force applied, and the larger the mass, the slower the acceleration. Hmm. Was Newton also psychic?

Law #3

I step into physics, and it seems as if we’re continuing a theme here. On the board is written: Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The words are more like something out of a fortune cookie than a scientific law. Still, maybe I should pay more attention.

Full Kirkus Review of DARE ME

Kirkus Book Reviews

I know I previously teased about the Kirkus review of Dare Me, but here is most of it, below, in its full shining glory. Please follow the link and share this bad boy. Then feel free to tell people that you know an author who is “astute and riveting.” You know, cuz Kirkus says 🙂

DARE ME

 
Age Range: 12 – 18
 
 

KIRKUS REVIEW

Fully attuned to the adrenaline-fueled appeal of dares, Devine deftly conveys the dire consequences that can ensue once the first step is taken.

Ben, a perfectly normal high school senior, and his buddies Ricky and John pull an amazing stunt, which they post anonymously on YouTube, hoping for “weblebrity.” What comes their way is a contract promising them money if they continue to do ever-more-dangerous dares. When not filming dares, narrator Ben works as a pizza-delivery guy and longs for popular co-worker Alexia, who’s attached to a bad boy. His reflections on physics, English class and math become more penetrating as the ante ups with each completed dare. Adding in cameraman Trevor changes the equation only a little. Trev is a nerd and a target for bullies, but he’s also exceptionally smart and a quick thinker. As the stunts continue… (Read the rest here).

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Tweets from the road: First Signing for DARE ME

On Saturday Market Block Books held my first signing for Dare MeIt was a gorgeous day with lots of foot traffic from the Troy Farmers Market. I met teachers and parents who snapped up copies of both Dare Me and Tap Out for their students and children–and even one man who admitted Dare Me was going to his daughter, once he’d had a chance to enjoy. There was even a guest appearance by the world famous author, Dennis Mahoney, who was in for a copy and to talk to the incomparable Stanley from Market Block about Troy Author Day. Below are tweets from Saturday, including a screen shot from a baffling Amazon image. Even better is my super awkward pitch to Stanley about Dare Me. I try to stay poised, but it’s been a while since I’ve been out promoting.

If you didn’t have a chance to come out, check my schedule at the bottom. Thanks.

How could I not suggest this?

You have to love the ornate feel of everything in Troy.

Like I said, Dennis was there. Here’s proof:

And Amazon. They don’t want to release the pre-orders yet. However, during this window of time, Dare Me was on sale, and only one copy was left. No clue.

Good times trying to figure out what to say: