GENREALITY


October 26th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
Reflections on the Long Haul

Yesterday, I was down for the count with what I hope was a bout of food poisoning (and not stomach flu that I can pass on to the rest of my family). As I was curled up on the couch, nursing my mug of green tea with lemon, watching Gossip Girl, I saw a familiar name pop up on the screen:

“Written by Natalie Krinsky.”

There’s a blast from the past! Krinsky, for those not in the know, made waves in the early aughts for running a Carrie-Bradshaw style sex column in the Yale Daily News as an undergrad. As soon as she graduated, she put out a chick lit novel called Chloe Does Yale along the same lines. A quick check of IMDB revealed Krinsky now writes in Hollywood, and aside from the above Gossip Girl episode, also has a Grey’s Anatomy episode and a screenplay or two on her resume. Good for her!

When my first book, Secret Society Girl, came out in 2006, she was one of the authors I was most often compared to. There were a bunch of us “Ivy League chick lit” types floating around at the time, and it’s interesting for me to reflect, now, on the many directions our careers have taken us. Krinsky is still writing, and from her work in soapy contemporary dramas, it seems like she’s still writing the same kind of stuff, albeit for TV.

Another “comp” of mine from that era, Kaavya Viswanathan — well, we all know what happened to her. The plagiarism scandal that rocked publishing soon after her book hit stands (and directly before mine did) ended Viswanthan’s literary career, though she has apparently gone on to find success as a lawyer.

The final “comp” who often appeared alongside mentions of my books in articles and reviews was Robin Hazelwood’s Model Student, a bildungsroman that closely mirrored the former model’s own life as an Ivy League student. (This book was set in the 80s, though, unlike the rest of our books, which were contemporary.) She hasn’t published any more books, though, which makes me wonder if what she really wanted to do was write a memoir. I enjoyed Hazelwood’s book, and wonder what she’s doing now (her website doesn’t go into it).

Then there’s me. I wrote four books in the Secret Society Girl series, then went on to write two contemporary YA fantasy novels (Rampant and Ascendant), a movie tie-in (Morning Glory), and two YA sci-fis (For Darkness Shows the Stars and the upcoming Across a Star-Swept Sea). I’m the only one of us who is still writing books (and until I saw Krinsky’s name pop up on Gossip Girl the other day, I thought I was the only one of us still writing.) I wonder if that would be the case had chick lit not crashed the way it did. (Well, Viswanathan was definitely out, but that’s a special situation.)

I did not know any of these ladies personally. I never even exchanged emails with them. One of the nice things about working in genre, and specifically in YA, is that now I’m far more likely to personally know the writers I’m “comped” with. I’ve probably met them at events or interacted with them on Twitter. Or maybe it’s just because we didn’t have Twitter in 2006.

But then again, the comps aren’t the be-all and end-all. For instance, if someone loved Secret Society Girl and writes to me asking for what else they should read in that vein, I’m likely to point them toward E. Lockhart’s excellent The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks for secret society shenanigans, or Tammara Webber’s Easy for college romance. (Also, I think only the Hazelwood is still in print, and that book, despite being set in a college, is very very different from mine.)

A few weeks ago, I was on a panel at Capclave called “How Many Years in the Business Before I Stop Being A New Writer?” — in many ways, I still feel like a new writer, especially when I meet writers whose books I read when I was a teen myself, or read in the RWR about folks crossing the 100-book mark (yay, Rebecca York!). At the same time, when I look back over 7 years in the business, with my ninth book going into production as we speak — and more, when I reflect on all those names I used to hear constantly that have moved on to other fields –I guess I’m not as new as I thought.

They like to say this business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So I just keep trucking.

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