MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 21, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Two award-winning Young Adult novelists—both of them faculty members in Southern New Hampshire University's low-residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction program (www.snhu.edu/mfa)—announced lucrative new book deals this month. Both, moreover, involve novels that will mark their authors' debuts in the adult fiction market.
"It's a risk, sure, to alter a winning formula," said novelist/essayist Benjamin Nugent, director of the Southern New Hampshire program. "But taking risks and altering formulas are things a developing artist does, and Diane's and Robin's publishers obviously think these are very good risks. Both books were snapped up in pre-emptive deals."
Robin Wasserman is the author already of sixteen books for young adults and children. These include several popular trilogies and an acclaimed series—The Seven Deadly Sins—that has been adapted for television. Her 2012 novel "The Book of Blood and Shadow" was an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and an item on many of that year's best-of lists.
Her most recent novel, last year's "The Waking Dark," was hailed by Booklist as "'Lord of the Flies' on steroids." Wasserman's stories begin in the universal fears of adolescence, which are then lent terrifying scale and substance. In their dark hues, these are stories that often strain at the boundaries of YA fiction.
But "Girls On Fire"—the brave and brazen book she will publish with Harper in 2016—was not written in a conscious attempt to escape those boundaries. "It's a story about obsessive friendship, and a contemporary look at what it means to be a girl," Wasserman said. "Three young women are locked into a sort of love-hate triangle, and the novel explores the lengths each will go in order to feed the hate and pursue the love."
This time Wasserman gave herself entirely to the story, regardless of its audience. "I wasn't even thinking about whether it was Young Adult or not as I set about writing it," she said. "I just wrote the book I needed to write. And I've never before started in on a novel knowing so little about where it would go. This one was a terrifying and kind of wonderful adventure for me."
Meanwhile Diane Les Becquets' previous novels, three of them, represent some of the genre's best naturalism, resting comfortably within the YA universe but daring to tackle challenging themes: racial prejudice in "The Stones of Mourning Creek," sex in "Love, Cajun Style," and bereavement and grief in "Season of Ice."
These have reaped a harvest of awards, including a State of Maine Lupine Award, ALA Best Book of the Year, Foreword Independent Bookseller Gold Winner Book of the Year, and—for "Season of Ice"—a prestigious PEN American Fellowship.
But Les Becquets knew from the first spark of "Wild Spaces" that this fourth novel—which will appear in 2016 from Berkley Hardback, an imprint of Penguin Random House—would be written for adults.
"A lot has happened in my life in these last several years, and I just found myself in a different emotional place, with a different sense of my voice, a different sense of my characters," she said. "I became more reflective about what it was I wanted out of life, and more heedful of Henry David Thoreau's advice to 'live the life you always imagined.'"
Had she imagined herself an experienced bow hunter and outdoors woman? In either case, she became these, and has funneled that first-hand knowledge into a taut, riveting story about the female bow hunter who goes lost while stalking elk, and the forest ranger, also a woman, determined to find her. The novel ranges through the wild spaces not only of the Colorado Rockies, but of both these characters' troubled souls, and shares with Wasserman's novel a dark fascination with love and obsession.
A pre-emptive deal is one in which a publisher makes a generous enough offer on a manuscript to persuade an agent to take it off the table before other interested houses bid on it.
"Nowadays there is overlap anyway between the Young Adult and adult literary readerships, aside from the fact that over time one turns into the other," said Richard Adams Carey, assistant director of the Southern New Hampshire MFA program. "It's quite likely that many of Diane's and Robin's old fans are ready for these, and also likely—or I'd say inevitable—that these books will find many new fans as well."
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