Faith and Good Works: MAYNARD - Julie Berry's first novel is a fairy tale with a prince and a witch and love and despair. But there's no swearing, and no sex. The novel is, she grudgingly admits, wholesome.
And that's what links Berry, of Maynard, and other Mormon writers, many of them young women, who are surging into the genre of young adult literature, finding a happy marriage between the expectations of their religion and the desires of a burgeoning publishing niche.
It caused me to pause for thought as I considered my own short career as an author. I was published for the first time in 2004, so it's only been five years since I've become a professional writer. Prior to that, my absolute favorite genre, for reading and writing, was romantic suspense. Still is, as a matter of fact. The biggest dilemma to someone who wanted to write romantic suspense and still maintain her personal values and standards . . . and be able to look her bishop in the eye, was writing a book in that genre devoid of sex.
I began researching to see what avenues might be open for me in the national market. Very little, as you can imagine. As I perused one national publisher website after another I discovered that they all had their own submission guidelines. The deal breaker for me was the line: "ABC Publisher requires a minimum of 2 to 3 sex scenes in each romantic suspense manuscript." So I cast my dream aside and continued slogging away at work every day wondering what in the world was available to me as a writer without betraying my God, my family and myself. The only line of fiction available to me was Harlequin's Love Inspired line. Sweet, in and of itself, but lacking any teeth in its fiction.
I looked at the Christian market, but it was made very clear that as long as I was a Mormon no Christian publisher would publish anything I wrote. So I finally turned to the LDS market to see if it was even a viable option for me.
My sister suggested I look at a few authors, who shall remain nameless, and check out the competition. I did. I bought a number of books, checked more out of the library and went on a marathon of reading. At the end, I reached the conclusion that I could definitely take a shot and see if this market would enjoy what I wrote. I was lucky. They did.
I find it very exciting that one of the quickest growing markets in book sales today is the national YA market. That definitely was jump started by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. What she did to galvanize reading in a wide range of ages, from the earliest readers to the aged, was miraculous. Everyone was anxious to know what would happen to Harry and his friends in the next book. Harry Potter mania ensued and grew with each newly released book and movie.
And now, an onslaught of new YA fantasy writers are on the scene, and they are taking it by storm. Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Mull, J. Scott Savage, James Dashner, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, R.D. Henham . . . the list goes on and on. Outside of the YA fantasy, author Janette Rallison has a huge career in YA fiction as the writer of teenage romantic comedies . . . and they are completely clean. And each author is finding success and readership of their own. In December of 2008, sales in the YA market jumped 142%. Isn't it interesting that stories can be clean, fascinating and flying off the shelves. While every other genre slumped in varying degrees, YA fantasy jumped in sales.
This is wonderful news to all authors, of any faiths or lack thereof, to know that they can write a good, clean, fun story and still get it published in the national market. So my suggestion to all writers who have yet to be published, don't give up. There's a market for your work, your just have to find it. If any agent or publisher gives you any flack about the lack of sex then just quote the numbers. Clean fiction is growing by leaps and bounds and so is its readership.