Friday, November 1, 2013

PRETTY DEAD ~ What Happens When Publishers Tell Authors What to Write #Oct #ASMSG

The dollar store is now a wonderful place to find a small selection of hardcover books normally valued at $20+. Bookstores are going out of business, and its liquidation time.  So, I find cool deals there once in a while, and come out with an armload of hardbacks for less than the $20 it would have cost for a single novel.  

I recently picked up PRETTY DEAD by Francesca Lia Block:

I absolutely love the cover art. Very eye-catching, very unique.  It gave me a sense of sexy, youthful decadence and vampires, kinda snarky... 

Maybe that's just my own perverse nature wishing the book would have been something like that.

But, PRETTY DEAD is a Young Adult vampire novel, by an author who writes with an ADULT literary fiction style.  So, why would an author like this attempt to give the world a whiny, apologizing-for-being-evil, self-depreciating vampire and another vampire who is basically a needy-obsessive Peeping Tom stalker?  

Yep, those are the two main characters, and neither of them act or think like teens (even though Charlotte is technically 16-17 in physical appearance).

Well, adult literary fiction is all about existentialist stuff, contemplating the folly and bittersweet truths of the human condition.

But why write Young Adult in this style?  Do teens really care about existentialist crap?  I'm 40, and I still don't care.

The only reason that comes to mind, Francesca's publisher and perhaps even her agent said something like, "Hey, the latest trend is YA vampire fiction. So that's what you should write."

I am not one to bash authors, and Francesca has a smooth and emotionally evocative writing style, subtly drawing us into her characters.  The main character Charlotte, is a hundred something year old vampire teenage girl, and none too happy about the condition. We felt the girl's plight. We felt her lost life, her lost humanity. And towards the end, as she begins to regain that life spark, she transforms more and more into a young woman, rather than the tired, jaded old bitch in a teenage body.

Francesca can write, very well (she teaches workshops on writing).  But she is not a YA author, not in this book anyway.  This book was not about teens.  It did not address teenage issues or lifestyle.  No issues with school, parents, homework, grades, social pressures, dating, or any of the gazillion things that plague teenagers today or even teens in a dystopian/fantasy/horror setting.

This is adult literary fiction pigeon-holed into the YA teen vampire genre by a publisher who is forcing their author to write something to meet a trend.

This is what happens when publishers tell authors what to write.


  1. Personal opinion here: I don't think good YA authors every really "grow up." They just learn how to behave properly. Don't ever grow up, Mr. Luedke.

    1. My wife would agree with you, I never really grew up. She might not agree that I have learned how to behave properly, that's still up for debate.


    2. LOL well said Patricia. YA authors kinda have to stay in the ungrown up state, don't they?

  2. I agree. Even though you write some very adult novels, you're still able to tap into the YA subjectmatter and vibe in The Shepherd. That's something you never want to grow out of.

  3. I loved the cover of Pretty Dead, as well. Very unique and eye-catching. I thought the story was all right. Not one of my favorites, but well-written. I read another of her books called 'Echo'. Didn't care for it at all. A bit confusing. However, 'The Frenzy' was really good.