Generation Next

Sunny FrazierReturning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, offers some suggestions to today’s emerging genre authors.

By the time this blog is posted, I will have returned from a trip to Southern California to speak to junior college students at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut (the largest junior college in the country). This is my 5th visit to the campus. I’m to lecture on genre fiction, do a workshop on platform building and take pitch sessions for Oak Tree Press (I’m acquisitions editor).

How did I find myself in the position of educator? Oddly enough, it started because I rejected the creative writing teacher’s mystery. Too literary, I said, give me a few corpses. Instead, he gave me an invitation to speak to the students on the merits of genre fiction.

For some time, educators have looked down on genre writers. Or, at least that’s how we felt, much like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Popular fiction isn’t so popular in the classroom. Prose and poetry aspires to be art. But, in the “real” world, it’s genre fiction that sells. Any writer who declares with a straight face that he/she doesn’t want to make money from their efforts is either exceptionally idealistic or plain crazy. Writing is hard work!

I hope I wasn’t too harsh with the truth this weekend. My message is that literary magazines are fine, but the readership is sparse. Nobody is asking young writers to dumb down their ideas for the unwashed masses, but it’s important to be accessible to the average reader. I plan to tell them to look at what people outside of college read. Or, better yet, what are their own “guilty pleasures?” If it’s fantasy, then write in that genre.

I’m sure I assured these college students they aren’t too young to have a career as an author. This is not a generation expected to “pay their dues.” Where Angels FearThese kids have had an electronic childhood and are far ahead of older writers who are stumped by computers and fearful of Face Book. If ever a group had the best tools available for writing, it’s this wired generation. What they need are mentors.

Working in their favor is their youth. I’ve just heard of a genre labeled  “New Adults.” It’s not Y/A but writing aimed at the 18-30 market and written by that age group. There’s no faking a youthful voice and contemporary jargon. I know I can’t write the stuff. Agents are on the lookout, scouring the self-pubbed manuscripts to find the next Twilight series.

I feel my role is to give students information they need to utilize the tools they have. To tell them how the game is played and open their eyes to the industry outside the classroom experience. To make the world of publishing less scary. To put a human face on a shrouded business.

And their teacher? John Brantingham’s next novel had a high body count and Oak Tree published Mann of War, much to the delight of his students. This mild-mannered poet jumped into the mystery genre with both guns blazing. I call him “Professor Jekyll” and I never know what he’s “Hyding.”