Friday, September 14, 2012

So what exactly *is* a Young Adult? The launch of Strange Chemistry

If you’ve ever heard of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Twilight’ you may have already caught on to the fact that many titles published originally for children are also rather enjoyed by a tremendous number of adults. These 'crossover titles' have become something of a holy grail for the publishing industry in recent years, but just publishing a YA 'list' is no guarantee of success in what is a fiercely competitive arena...


Well, a new UK publishing imprint Strange Chemistry launched this month, hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of the most successful titles of recent years and is focused solely on finding and publishing new reads for teenagers.
We were delighted to be invited to the launch of Strange Chemistry at the British Library in August, to see first-hand what this homegrown UK-based publisher had to offer. What is particularly exciting for us is that Strange Chemistry are part of Angry Robot, who have - in a very short space of time - developed a formidable reputation for contemporary science fiction and fantasy.

Can they repeat it for Young Adult?


Here's Strange Chemistry editor Amanda Rutter with launch authors Kim Curran, Laura Lam and Jonathan L Howard (thanks to Katie Allen at The Bookseller for this photo).

Being part of Angry Robot means they are also part of the Clonefiles initiative. This means anyone buying Strange Chemistry titles from us get the eBook for free. Discover more about Clonefiles here.

We were pleased to track down Amanda who very kindly has give us the low-down on what Strange Chemistry is all about..

MB. At the launch of Strange Chemistry you said how important you think books for young adults are and we wondered what you were reading at that age and what your favourites were that influenced you when you were a teenager?

AR. I was reading a combination of what we now call YA (but used to be shelved in a 12+ section rather than an explicit Young Adult shelf) and adult novels. Tamora Pierce was a very early favourite, but I would also find myself dipping into adult novels a great deal. I was sixteen when I read my first Charles de Lint book, and he has remained an absolute favourite author right up until today. I also tackled Wilbur Smith, Alistair MacLean and Jean M Auel, so I definitely was not worried about more challenging novels. I think my absolute favourite books during my teen years were 'Room 13' by Robert Swindells (I would fervently encourage any teen to pick this up, even now – it’s chilling and funny by turns) and 'The Silver Kiss' by Annette Curtis Klause.

MB. At a time when many publishers appear cautious and we are seeing lots of
US imports and series fiction, it's very refreshing to see the launch of an
imprint that seems to be thinking differently. Has it been your objective to
nurture some home-grown talent and debut authors?

AR. I was watching Angry Robot emerge over the last couple of years and I have been a great fan of the fact that they bring us exciting new authors (Lauren Beukes and Adam Christopher, to name but two) and also give us standalone novels. It seemed like such a good way of doing business, since you could pick up most of their books without having to worry about reading eight previous entries into a series! So I confess that I very much modelled Strange Chemistry on this idea. One of the things that can be a little annoying about YA fiction is that everything does seem to come in at least a trilogy, so I was delighted to know that 'Blackwood' was an absolute standalone. I have also experimented with the duology format, where there has been too much story for just one novel but the author would like to complete it over two.
Taking on debut authors is an absolute delight (both US and UK-based). It is fantastic to be able to offer an author their first chance, and some of my debuts are like old hands when it comes to promotion and chatting to teens, which has been brilliant to see.

MB. Teenagers in our shop can be interested in reading everyone from Cormac McCarthy to JK Rowling. Is it possible to define the perfect teen book?

AR. I don’t think it is! As I say, when I was a teen I read adult literature as well. I know that, if I were a teen today – with all the books available to me I could wish to read on the YA shelves – I would still be sneaking a look at adult books.

What I will say is that teens do not want to be talked down to or have it assumed that they prefer a simpler novel just because of their age. This is one of the reasons that I have pursued challenging, brave and intelligent fiction. 

MB. You are part of Angry Robot, which specialises in sci-fi and fantasy, but is going to be adding a new crime list. Is there a chance that Strange Chemistry will follow suit and extend its list for teens beyond science fiction and fantasy?

AR. Actually *ahem* we’ve started to make tentative plans in that direction. YA fiction is such a terrific opportunity to put out stories across all genres, since it is more of a category, and I certainly enjoy seeing thrillers shelved alongside contemporary romance alongside SF. Imagine how much more fun the adult section would be if it’s only categorisation was the author surname! So, yes, I will be opening up the list a little, but it won’t be for a couple of years and, since my first love is SF and fantasy, those will definitely not be sidelined by introducing other types of novel.

MB. What is the best thing about launching a new imprint? And the worst??

AR. The best thing has been watching the list take shape and introducing new authors to the world. That has *definitely* been the best part! Hearing people say that they want to read ALL the books you have on your list is a real highlight. The worst? Probably the amount of work I’ve had to put in during the first nine months – sixteen hour days and weekend work has not been unusual! It’s settling down some now!
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We now have our dedicated Clonefiles page up for the two book launch titles - including Nicki's review of 'Blackwood' - find out more here.

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