Today's guest post and giveaway is by agency-mate Adi Rule - take it away Adi!
Teenagers and opera go together like . . . peanut butter and jelly? Steak and cookies? Strawberries and garlic? I guess it depends on the teenagers and the opera. My new YA novel is set at a classical music academy where more than one teenage character is studying opera, and there was some doubt early in the process about the marketability of a story like that. Some people just don’t see an art form like opera resonating with teens.
I disagree. Opera stories are larger than life; the characters triumph and despair. Opera is the embodiment of the kind of passion, hope, and misery that young people can experience so acutely, so I think it’s a great backdrop for a YA novel.
Luckily, my fantastic agent never doubted, and sold Sing (now Strange Sweet Song) to a great editor at St. Martin’s Press. Now that the book is out in the world, I’ve been asked a few times about having a classical singer protagonist, and I realized that a lot of the things I’ve learned during this process can be pretty universally applied.
First off, the characters’ experience is what’s important. The question of whether or not readers (of any age) will connect with an opera singer protagonist is different from the question of whether a specific reader is a fan of opera. Sports Night happens to be one of my favorite shows but I’m not a sports fan (except for being a rabid citizen of Red Sox Nation, but that’s not a choice, it’s genetics). I just love the characters and the storylines.
One facet where I did have to consider the readers’ real-world experiences, though, was in deciding which real pieces of music to reference, or whether to reference real pieces at all. The danger was I’d be writing about the nature of some piece or the effect it has on the listener and if the reader knew the piece and had a different opinion, the scene wouldn’t work anymore. But if the piece is made up, then everything I write about it is true. I ended up incorporating a combination of real and invented music.
Ultimately, getting Strange Sweet Song to work was all about character. It’s good to keep in mind that readers connect with characters, not actions, and certainly not jargon. Having real-world experience with the nuts and bolts you're writing about -- whether it’s opera or Formula 1 racing or investment management -- will lend an easy authenticity to the story, but at its heart, most stories are about someone who faces a difficulty and undergoes a change. And hopefully readers will connect with the emotional arc of the main character regardless of the environment or field she's in.
St. Martin's Press is generously giving a free copy of STRANGE SWEET SONG to one of my lucy commenters. Adi will also send a signed bookplate! Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.
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