I’m getting questions from writers curious about why I’d specifically say I’m weary of paranormal romance and dystopian, so let me explain.
By the time a book hits the shelves, it’s already old hat for agents and editors. Most fiction is acquired 1 1/2 to 2 years before it is published. So that means when The Hunger Games hit theaters, the acquisition of dystopian books has been going on for the past three or so years. Even longer, if you start with publication of the first Hunger Games in late 2008. Now, three years in, there have been dozens of dystopian published, with quite a few more slated for future seasons. The point to start writing a dystopian has passed. Oh, I’m sure there will be a few more of the acquired, but interest has largely gone elsewhere.
Consider, for instance, the phenom that created modern YA: Twilight. The genre is popular now because of what Stephenie Meyer’s books started. There wasn’t much of a distinction prior to that. It was all “children’s literature” lumped together in most stores. Now, the young adult section is becoming the most prominent area of many bookstores. My local Barnes & Noble moved it to the very front of the store, with new releases overshadowing the new adult books.
So answer me this: For those who liked/enjoyed Twilight, how many of the subsequent vampire stories did you enjoy? When did you interest start to wane? True, the focus of paranormal romances quickly shifted to other creatures, so when did you feel over-saturated by werewolf stories? Mermaids? How about fairies? Angels?
The thing is, often the first big book or two (or possibly more) within a trend are pretty good. But from my experience as a reader, I’ve noticed that the originality of the stories begins to decline, sometimes rapidly, as the trend wears on. I won’t name titles, but there are several PNR I read that felt like Twilight with a different creature thrown in. Or a watered-down version of Buffy. Some of them I even stopped reading halfway through because there just wasn’t anything new to grab me.
When I refer to “new,” it can mean a host of different things: a new and twisted take on the genre/concept; a different way of portraying the protagonist or point of view; a style of writing that transcends tropes or clichéd. The subject or topic doesn’t necessarily have to be new, but the delivery/voice/plot/events do.
Some recent examples: There are only two PNR within the past year or two that I’ve really enjoyed. The first, Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, takes traditional ideas about paranormal creatures and flips it on its head and butt, and then tosses it across the room. Darwin stumbling upon paranormal creatures when he discovered evolution? Can I just say: awesome. It was an original, creative version of a tired trope.
The other won’t be out until September (I know I’m so mean, being such a tease). First off: Redemption by Veronique Launier is about gargoyles.* Then toss in some witches, and add a dab of Mohawk tribes. It’s a recipe for a unique story, yes, but more than that, it’s well told.
So when I say I’m weary of certain genres/subgenres/trends, it means that I’ve seen so many other examples that didn’t make me rethink my perception of the trend as a whole. Basically, if you want to query me about a PNR or dystopian manuscript, you have to make me believe that this is not just another watered-down version of Twilight** or The Hunger Games. Just a warning: it takes a lot to convince me, though it is possible. So I’m really not the best one to query about these books. I’m sure there are numerous other agents who would love to find a book in these genres.
*Random aside: I’ve been in love with gargoyles since the cartoon of the same name aired during the nineties. Please tell me I’n not the only one who remembers that show with quite a bit of fondness.
**A brief mention here, though it’s really a topic for another day: girls who are dependent and weak and don’t go through a character arc that gives them confidence or power or at the least self-respect? And related to that, the Bad Boy love interest? No. Just no. Not for me.
(I will offer the caveat that angsty contemporary stories are a whole ‘nother issue, so this comment does not apply.)