Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest post: Natashya Wilson of Harlequin Teen

Unless you've been living in a cave with no books, you know that paranormal romance has really taken off in the teen market. Of course, what every librarian knows is that romance has been popular with teens since the dawn of time. Every librarian also knows the Harlequin brand, even if he or she doesn't read or buy romance. So when I read articles like this one in USA Today, my personal reaction was, "Harlequin is doing teen books? Excellent." I may not know my romance as well as others, but I did know that Harlequin would take the genre seriously and I was very interested to see what they would come up with.

Normally, I never turn my blog over to guest posters, but it's a little different when that guest is Natashya Wilson, senior editor at Harlequin TEEN. I asked her to talk about some of the questions that librarians are frequently asked about YA romance and new series: What's the content like? What's the audience? What are the imprint's plans for the future? Here is her post. It's long, but worth reading.

Sex, Language and Harlequin TEEN

by Natashya Wilson, senior editor

Harlequin has a new YA imprint, Harlequin TEEN! we announced. And people speculated---what would it be like? Sweet romances? Steamy, sexy teen reads? Would adults buy a YA with the Harlequin name on it for their teens? Would teens pick up something from Harlequin? We at Harlequin TEEN are betting yes, and I would like to tell you more about the type of content you’ll find in our books.

Harlequin TEEN is a single title imprint focused on delivering a variety of entertaining, commercial reads targeted at teen girls, ages 13-18. Because it is not a series in the sense of our traditional romance series, we do not have specific guidelines about sexual and language content, and those elements vary from book to book and author to author. However, we are not seeking shocking, graphic reads, and you’ll find the content of our titles very much in line with many other popular single-title YA releases in the market today.

The majority of our list is relatively “clean,” as in sex and swear-word free. However, we do have the occasional title that includes or mentions sex and/or might contain a few swear words. If a story does include sex, it must be a natural part of plot and character development, not gratuitous, and not described in graphic detail. “Bad” language may appear when using a euphemism or alternate word would sound unnatural or out of character. We don’t seek out books that include profanity or sex, but if it works in context, we won’t insist an author take it out, either. Our goal is to deliver authentic, satisfying stories about memorable characters and situations. Just like most other mainstream YA publishers.

So what are our books about? My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent (August 2009) features a heroine who discovers she is a banshee. Intertwined by Gena Showalter (September 2009) features a teen hero with four souls trapped in his body. Elphame’s Choice by P. C. Cast (October 2009), a reprint of our 2004 Luna title, features a goddess-blessed heroine destined to leave her home and save a banished people. Elphame does include a sex scene, but it is a natural part of the plot and character progression and the book would be less without it.

Our 2010 lineup includes a girl who discovers she is half-faery, a police chief’s daughter on the trail of a mysterious graffiti artist, and a teen dating expert who gives her peers advice through her Web site. We’ve got a loner-turned-rebel-leader fighting for justice in a future world, more Soul Screamers banshees, a teen witch, the next Intertwined novel, and ghosts. And more! And sex and profanity are almost entirely absent.

The name Harlequin has become synonymous with romance, and we’re aware that many people (including many who have never read a Harlequin!) have preconceived ideas about what a “Harlequin” is. Unfortunately, those who aren’t familiar with our series tend to assume they are all about sex and titillation—I assure you, they are not. We’re proud of the power of our name, and decided to use it for Harlequin TEEN despite the potential challenge of getting past those preconceptions. We are certain our YA editorial will speak for itself, and will soon be as accepted as titles from any other publishing house in the general marketplace.

While all of our titles currently do include romances or romantic elements, all have a wider scope than a traditional relationship-driven plot. As with all books Harlequin publishes, it is important to Harlequin TEEN to publish books that will surprise and delight readers, stories that will resonate and be remembered after the covers are closed.So what about sex and language in YA novels? What do you think is acceptable, how do you gauge the appropriateness of a read for your purposes? How can we at Harlequin TEEN best inform you about the content of our books? We want to hear from you! And we hope to see you at the next stop on our blog tour, In Bed with Books on 8/19!


tanita davis said...

They're very clear on the guidelines for their line -- it sounds like it'll really sell.

ThePiedPiper said...

I pretty much agree with the guidelines in place, they're clear and reasonable. I don't feel like teen books should have to be squeaky clean, but there's no need for gratuitous adult material either. I'm very excited to see what this imprint produces

Anonymous said...

young girls and teens spend too much time trying to grow up fast. Miley Cyrus, 16, almost pole-dances on national TV. Vanessa Hudgens, underage, sends pictures of herself naked over the Internet. My six year old niece wants to be "sexy like Lady Gaga" but doesn't even know what "sexy" means.

From the line-up, one can trust HT to publish quality, editorial YA novels. Teens in our society are having sex, we can't pretend it's not happening. Teens and young girls need to get one message clear though-- they're allowed to be young-- they're growing up too fast. You only get one chance a lifetime to be a teen/tween, so do as those in the novels, enjoy your youth. In many edgy novels, we see boy meet girl, and bam, boy and girl have sex. It'll be nice to see a light and sweet romance-- showing how teens really are, confused, awkward, and naive. And if there is sex-- please have it be tasteful, pertinent to the plot, and please promote safe sex (even Harlequin's Spice Erotic line promotes safe sex!) Graphic? Why? As for swearing-- if you live in NYC, you probably hear teens swearing all the time. But it's such a turnoff. I'd prefer my MC not to curse like a sailor.

Kudos to HT, awesome line up! :)

LaurieA-B said...

Harlequin also publishes the Kimani TRU imprint, since 2007: "a ground-breaking African-American young adult fiction imprint from Kimani Press."

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Marie said...

I was JUST at a romance panel! My newest blog post is on the same topic! Although, of course, not as in depth and cool like this..