Harlequin Young Adult: CONTEST and Interview with Editor Natashya Wilson
Earlier this year, Harlequin announced it would be launching a Young Adult line. The line is officially called “Harlequin Teen” which can be found at HarlequinTeen.com. The line launched yesterday with My Soul to Take by New York Times author Rachel Vincent in trade paperback. A hardcover from another New York Times Bestselling author Gena Showalter, Intertwined, which will be available in September.
Natashya Wilson, editor for the Harlequin Teen line, was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our Dear Author audience. Drop a comment or question about the Harlquin Teen YA line and be entered to win one of copy of either Gena Showalter’s Intertwined or Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take. International readers are welcome to enter but I will order that book via Book Depository so Showalter’s book would not be mailed until September. Contest will close at midnight July 30, 2009 CST.
Your target age group is 12-18 year old girls. Do you expect than older readers will pick up the teen books?
NW: Definitely. While our books are acquired with our target audience in mind, the YA market has an ever-growing crossover readership, pulling from all age-groups, including people such as myself who have always read YA as well as those who are rediscovering it through popular series such as Harry Potter and the Twilight saga.
I understand that you do not require a romance to propel the story and that the line will feature a “spectrum of genres including fantasy, contemporary, historical, science fiction and romance.” Will readers be able to distinguish which books are more romance in nature?
They will be able to tell as much as they are able to from looking at covers and reading copy of any other YA release on the shelves today. And at this time, although a romantic relationship is not a specific requirement for a Harlequin Teen book, all of our stories do include romantic elements, to greater and lesser extents. There’s enough there to satisfy those who want romance, combined with intriguing characters and storylines for those who don’t care about romance as much.
How do you see Harlequin’s YA as different as other houses? What do you feel is unique about the Harlequin YA line?
I see the Harlequin Teen program as competitive and comparable to many of today’s YA publishing programs. The type of stories we’re doing would fit in at Little, Brown; Razorbill; HarperTeen; Simon Pulse; Flux; and many other houses.
Our program is currently fairly small, and we have many unique authors with fresh storylines. Our books will prove themselves on a case by case basis, as we feel each is a unique and refreshing addition to the current marketplace while still fitting in perfectly with what readers are looking for in YA.
Given that Harlequin is a publishing house targeted toward female readers, will the line always focus on the girl narrator? Has the girl narrator changed since the inception of the first YA Harlequin line?
A girl narrator is not a requirement–in fact, our September title, INTERTWINED by Gena Showalter, features alternating male and female protagonist points of view. However, given that our target audience at this time is girls 12-18, most of our stories are naturally told by teen girls. We’re staying focused on appealing to that audience at this time, but will consider branching out as the program grows in titles and in scope.
What defines a YA book for you?
A story told primarily from the perspective of a young person, with all the observations and new life experiences that entails. However, there will always be exceptions to any definition, and I’m always up for being surprised!
Will the participation of popular adult line authors in the YA line delay the adult line books by those same authors?
That’s unpredictable and is unique to each author’s inspirations, writing schedule and speed, as well as the other half of the equation, just how many adult titles the publishing schedule and audience can support. It’s hard to say.
What guidelines will you have for sex and language? YA books can be very provocative such as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist which focused a great deal on sex and had the f word sprinkled on nearly every page.
At this time, our guideline is that language and sexual content must not be gratuitous–it should be natural to the situation and appropriate for the characters and story. We’re not particularly looking for graphic content, but we don’t want a story to feel stilted or unrealistic either. It’s up to the individual author and editor to gauge what’s right for the book.
One press release indicated that you will release books in trade, hardcover and digital publications. How will you decide which books will launch in what format?
For the most part, we’re doing trade releases, but that is based on factors unique to each project, so it’s hard to generalize. Gena Showalter is our hardcover author at this time, and we expect others may grow in that direction, but with this dicey economy, I suspect our trade books will be in a perfect position to appeal to cost-conscious readers. We may also have some mass market releases in the future, though nothing is planned in that format at this time. All of our frontlist titles will be simultaneously released in multiple digital formats for downloading.
You’ve reached out the teen community. Is there anything about the feedback you have received that would help aspiring authors to submit books that are in line with the Harlequin YA philosophy?
Narrative voice is so important–it must feel authentic and it must draw the reader in to the characters and story. Many teens have told us they do like some romance in their stories. Mostly we’re getting the sense that they are wonderfully open-minded and will embrace a story that is well told, whether it is specifically targeted at this age group or not. They like good books!
I understand that you accept both agented and unagented submissions. How would an unagented submission find its way to you?
Because I do receive so many e-mailed submissions from agents, in order not to lose track of all the e-mails, I ask that unagented authors snail-mail their query letter, synopsis and first chapter to my attention, c/o Harlequin Teen, 233 Broadway Ste. 1001, New York, NY 10279. I look forward to hearing from anyone who has an appropriate project, and ask that the author be patient in awaiting my response. While I would like to respond personally to each query, with the number of submissions we’ve begun to receive, I’m afraid that I do sometimes revert to a form letter for rejections in order to respond as soon as possible.
Many thanks for your interest in Harlequin Teen! http://www.HarlequinTEEN.com