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  • Writer's pictureSydney J. Shields

Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult?

I am probably not the best person to ask, but I'll talk about it anyway.

I wrote my first book, Where The Water Burns, last year over the course of 5-6 months. I debated for a long time whether the book should be YA or Adult (it's really New Adult but most agents don't take books queried as New Adult). At first, I kept it fairly clean so that it could be either YA or Adult, but that just wasn't the right decision. This is an ADULT book and it needed grit and spice and blood and betrayal and torture and allllllllllll the fun things you want in a dark fantasy book. I am so happy with that decision, and while WTWB could still go up a few notches in my opinion, it's in a much better place than it was when I wouldn't let myself write the gritty stuff.

So, cue my next book, The Honey Witch, where I had the SAME problem. YA or Adult? To spice or not to spice? First love or rekindled flame from years ago? SO MANY CHOICES!

The story follows a young witch who is cursed so that no one can fall in love with her, but she finds herself enamored with a notoriously grumpy girl who thinks magic is a whole bunch of "mythcraft." It's f/f, grumpy/sunshine, historical fantasy set in regency London, with a magic system built around beekeeping and honey.

I talked to Meg (follow her @megsmitherman, she's better at this than I am), and she basically let me brain-dump on her until I answered my own question: the book is a YA book, and it is extremely important to me to see more magical queer JOYFUL stories in YA.

SO decision made: YA book time. The book is currently undergoing its 2nd round of edits. I am IN LOVE with this story. It's whimsical, magical, even a little weird at times. It displays a magic system that I've had in my head for years, ever since I started beekeeping and I learned all the absolutely WILD things that the bees do for us and our environment! Enjoy this photo of me with my first ever beehive installation* a few years ago. My ba-bees. *No, I'm not wearing protective gear. No, they didn't sting me. They are little cuddlebugs!

The point is, I have wanted to write this for YEARS. And I'm so happy to see it coming together. It's a great fit for YA, in my opinion. I'm thrilled to have taken my shot, and I am incredibly proud of the work. I am SO excited to share it!

But....I don't think I'll ever write anything else YA.

I like exploring strange and complex characters with dark histories and perilous secrets. Those characters DO exist in YA books, but I often find that with age comes wisdom, and I like characters that teach me a thing or two about life. Maybe it's because I'm old and jaded, and I have been old and jaded since the ripe age of 11.

My next book idea is an adult book, either a standalone or a duology, and it is downright spooky. The ghost story of my dreams. But I won't start it until I am fully done with The Honey Witch and the queries for that book have been sent out. I'm specifically looking for agents that represent both YA and Adult Fantasy. Now, if these edits could just finish themselves, that would be divine....


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