Author Archives: Kristin Luna

About Kristin Luna

Kristin Luna has been making up stories and getting in trouble for them since elementary school. She especially loves young adult literature, fantasy, Nic Cage, literary fiction, magical realism, and wouldn’t even be opposed to reading yeti erotica. She has written book reviews for Urban Fantasy Magazine, writes for this very blog your eyes are glued to at this very moment, and her short stories have appeared on Pseudopod and in anthologies about unicorns and dragons published by WordFire Press. She lives in San Diego with her husband Nic and eats way too much Taco Bell. Learn more about Kristin at her website www.kristinleighluna.com.

Into That Forest

17870105Boy, do I have a book for you! You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s spectacular. It’s called The Shining by Stephen King.

Just kidding! But seriously, you should probably read that one, too.

It’s a deal less popular than The Shining, actually. There are no alcoholic fathers, no boys with the shine, and no Overlook Hotel.

This book’s story elements are very simple: two little girls and the two tigers that raised them.

In college, as a sociology minor and overall sociology bum, I became aware and a little obsessed with the happening of feral children. There were cases of children who had been locked in one room for all their developmental years, knew nothing of language or social interaction, and later, either their remains were found, or they were rescued and the long process began of assimilating these children back into society. There were cases of children who were abandoned who later claimed to have been raised and reared by wolves or monkeys. These stories were and still are completely fascinating to me.

Perhaps the most famous mythical account of feral children is of Romulus and Remus, abandoned by their mother and taken in by wolves. Some actual historical accounts of feral children have since been proven false: someone elaborated a story for some sort of profit or gain. However, it was not uncommon throughout history for mothers to abandon children who had obvious mental or physical disabilities into the wild. This is a fascinating documentary digging deeper into more recent stories of feral children in the wild. I will warn you, it’s not easy to watch.

More commonly in the United States, there have been cases of children who have been abused and locked in a bedroom for their developmental years. Genie Wiley is one of the most recent cases in US history of an urban feral child. You can learn more about Genie’s story in this clip.

My interest in the subject is probably why I was destined to love Into That Forest by Australian writer and playwright Louis Nowra. Told in a rudimentary vernacular, Hannah O’Brien, now in her seventies, recounts when she and her cousin Becky were separated from Hannah’s parents during a flood in the Tasmanian outback. Hannah and Becky are soon taken in by a mated pair of Tasmanian tigers. The girls learn how to hunt, eat, and communicate like the tigers. Their harrowing tale includes run-ins with a tiger poacher, learning to live on all-fours, and a growing wariness of all humans.

tas-tiger_thylacines
Tasmanian tigers.

If you’ve read any of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ spectacular Tarzan novels, I can assure you you’ll feel a comforting reminiscence while reading Into That Forest, and you may very well love it just as much. And unfortunately like Tarzan of the Apes, I give you fair warning that this book might just break your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why First-Person is Popular in YA: A Theory

You may have noticed that many popular YA titles today are written in the first-person narrative. But why? Why is first-person so popular with the YA audience?

In her blog, YA writer and children’s book illustrator Ingrid Sunberg shares five reasons why authors choose to write in the first-person. Ingrid observes that first-person gives the reader a quick connection with the protagonist, makes the story believable, helps develop the protagonist, is somewhat easy to write, and creates an agreement with the reader of how the story will be told.

To help find the answer to why readers connect with first-person narratives, I decided to make a graph, because graphs are my jam.

First, I took thirty titles of popular YA fiction all the way from the mid 1800’s to 2013. These titles are or have been enormously popular, and a couple of titles are just a few of my favorite YA and Middle Grade books. Next, I went through and marked which stories are told in first-person and and which were told in third-person (limited, objective, and omniscient).

1st Person Year Published 3rd person Year Published
1 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1884 1 Little Women 1868
2 The Catcher in the Rye 1951 2 Anne of Green Gables 1908
3 To Kill a Mockingbird 1960 3 The Secret Garden 1911
4 Island of the Blue Dolphins 1960 4 Charlotte’s Web 1952
5 Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret 1970 5 Lord of the Flies 1954
6 The Perks of Being a Wallflower 1999 6 The Phantom Tollbooth 1961
7 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2001 7 A Wrinkle in Time 1962
8 Twilight 2005 8 Hatchet 1987
9 The Book Thief 2005 9 Number the Stars 1989
10 The Lightning Thief 2005 10 The Giver 1993
11 The Host 2008 11 Ender’s Game 1994
12 The Hunger Games 2008 12 Holes 1998
13 Divergent 2011 13 Eragon 2002
14 Incarnate 2012 14 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2003
15 Vampire Academy 2013 15 Inkheart 2005

The information I gathered already surprised me. I assumed that of the thirty books, at least 66% would be written in first-person. But of the thirty books I chose, exactly half were written in third-person.

Next, I charted how many books from both POV’s were published in ten year increments from 1800 – 2013.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 8.12.39 AM

 

You may or may not be surprised by my microcosmic, pedestrian research. What surprised me was that technically, third-person isn’t any less popular as a whole. In fact, according to my chart, it’s been steadily increasing in popularity through the years. Note that while I only took the first books in popular series, keep in mind how popular all of the Harry Potter books were (third-person), with the last book published in 2007. Third-person YA stories aren’t going anywhere. They’re steadily increasing in popularity, according to my small-scale study.

First-person narrative YA and Middle Grade novels increase sharply in popularity according to my chart, especially in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. First-person narrative is trendy, but it has also steadily grown in popularity as well.

But why has the first-person narrative become so popular recently in YA and Middle Grade fiction?

This brings us to my theory: chicks and their diaries, man.

 

Chicks, man.

In this article from The Guardian, Vanessa Thorpe summarizes a 2009 study in which researchers interviewed 2,000 people about their reading habits. Researchers found of the women interviewed, forty-eight percent could be considered avid readers, while only twenty-six percent of men could be considered the same. Thirty-two percent of men admitted to only reading two books per year, while eighteen percent of the women interviewed said the same. According to this article on NPR, surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada, and Britain concluded that men account for only twenty percent of readers in the fiction market.

While it could be argued that maybe many of the study’s participants were adults and did not read YA fiction, an article in Publisher’s Weekly claims otherwise:

“More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. According to a new study, fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 — known as YA books — are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44, a group that alone accounted for 28% of YA sales. And adults aren’t just purchasing for others — when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78% of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids.”

 From this evidence, we can conclude that women read more fiction novels than men by a wide margin, and that plenty of those women are reading YA.

 

Diaries: The Missing Link to First-Person

For as long as I remember, I’ve kept journals. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to my journals, one dating back to fifth grade. According to this January 2013 article by Carolyn Gregoire, I’m not the only one. According to a study, eighty-three percent of girls aged 16-19 write about their lives in a journal.

Let’s examine common characteristics of the female diary entry.

Disclaimer: these characteristics may or may not match your own diaries. These are typical characteristics I’ve noticed from the diaries I’ve snuck into (Okay, only once, and I feel awful about it. The saving grace was that the entry I flipped to talked about wanting mango ice cream instead of vanilla, and then I stopped reading immediately), have heard fellow females talk about, or have read as published works.

  • Almost always (I can’t imagine otherwise, frankly) written in first-person.
  • Focus on emotional reaction to situations and events.
  • Chronicles important events.
  • Marks events that have just happened.
  • Divulge true feelings and secrets.
  • Examine secret longings.
  • Heavy on self-evaluation.
  • Usually written in a stream of consciousness fashion.
  • Has voicing specific to the person writing the journal

Now, let’s compare those characteristics to a YA first-person story with a female protagonist:

  • Focused on one central character who tells the story
  • Emotionally charged
  • Has voicing specific to the protagonist
  • Tells important events through the protagonist’s point of view
  • Lets the reader peek into the mind of the protagonist, viewing her longings, desires, and emotional reactions
  • Usually follows as steady span of time without skipping through time.

Seeing the strong connection between the two? Now think about the target for most YA fiction. Research shows that most avid readers are women. Research also shows that many young women journal. When you combine the two facts, it makes a compelling case.

My theory is this: girls aged 12-18 who read regularly can and do connect quickly with a first-person narrative because it is reminiscent of their own journaling behavior. That is to say, how young girls process important events in their lives through journaling is very similar to a protagonist’s process of self-evaluation and self-discovery in a YA first-person narrative.

When a young girl picks up a YA first-person story, she is looking into the mind of the protagonist, almost the same as reading that protagonist’s own diary. As the young girl grows into a woman, whether or not she decides to continue journaling, she will understand the connection of first-person narrative because she has already written it.

Third-person in YA is in no way dying, but it may not have the strength of connecting so immediately with its audience as YA first-person storytelling does.

 

What do you think about the connection of girls who journal and girls who read first-person YA novels? I would love to know if you agree or disagree! Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

I stared blankly at the “30 before 30” list that my friend posted on Facebook. Run a marathon, go skydiving, visit 5 foreign countries, meet Dolly Parton, and buy a house are all popular choices that I have seen on many “30 things to do before I turn 30” lists, and these items were not excluded from my friend’s list, either. As a fellow goal-setter, I decided that I should sit down and make my own list.

Kristin’s 30 Before 30 List
1. Write 3 books
2. Read 500 books

… And that was it. I’ve visited Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and spent a semester in Yosemite. I’ve run a few 5K’s (and that was enough, thank you very much). I’ve owned two houses. I’ve met a few personal heroes. Okay, I haven’t met Dolly Parton yet. But I’ve driven by Dollywood, and I think that counts for something.

I lamely tried at a less ambitious #3 (like cook and memorize 5 “go-to” recipes), but realized that I didn’t really care about any other goals other than #1 and #2. I realized that, unlike some of my friends, my goals are not age-reliant. I can continue to write whatever my age, whereas some may choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro while their knees are still relatively creak-free.

What a great freedom to know that I can do my loves (reading and writing) whatever the age!

Right?

Well. Not exactly.

Knowing that you can continue to work on your passions no matter your age comes with it a kind of comfortability. You find yourself in situations like: “Hm. So-and-so invited me to his board game day… I guess I can skip writing today for that.” Which eventually turns into: “This is a really busy month. I’m going to have to take a break from the novel until this month is over. Hell, I have the rest of my life to write that novel!”

Truly, you should enjoy the moment. If you are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I will be the last person to say you shouldn’t because you should be at home writing. (Hey now… I see those cogs working. “Well, isn’t everything technically a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?” NO. I have to add that in because if you’re anything like me, you’ve told yourself that excuse.) But the trap always set: Sure. You can put off writing, reading, painting, or whatever your true passion is. And it’ll sit quietly, very patiently (way too patiently). It won’t make a fuss or demand attention, while everything else around you bangs pots and pans for every minute of your time and attention.

In 2014, I’m gonna turn up the heat a little. This year, I’m going to get myself into the habit of putting my passions first. I don’t want to finally feel like I’ve had enough experience as a writer at 40 when I can have enough experience by the time I’m 30. Because I don’t want to have a book published eventually. I want to have a book published as soon as possible.

I’m all about “30 Before 30” lists. And “40 Before 40” and “90 Before 90” lists as well. Whatever list or other motivation helps you develop the sense that if I don’t do it now, then maybe I never will.

 

A Good Mentor is a Gift from the Gods

I tend to be a stubborn person. When I think I have the right answer, or have a certain strategy planned out, it takes a lot of effort to get me to budge. But when I don’t have an answer, and have no idea which way to turn, I am all ears for suggestions and guidance. I ask those I love and respect what they would do and what they think I should do. Ultimately, I lay my own path, but it helps to know how others would handle something or have handled something before I make my move.

I’ve mostly gone to my father for advice. I consider him wise, knowledgeable of the world, caring, and kind. He is both ethical and moral, and not to mention understanding. In a lot of situations, Dad’s got the answer.

Except when it comes to becoming an author for the simple reason that he is not an author.

In most cultural pasts, apprenticeships were the chosen method of learning a specific craft. With the steady and knowledgeable hand of an expert, a young apprentice learned the skill by spending all day in the shadow of his mentor. Now, a more equatable term would be internship, although the learning is not quite as exhaustive (and “apprenticeship” sounds a bit more shiny, doesn’t it?).

When learning a specific craft now, we have a few options. We go to college or a trade school, intensive seminars, or procure an internship position. Or, we might be blessed with a gift from the heavens: a mentor.

A mentor is someone who has great knowledge of a specific item or skill and has accepted the responsibility of passing that information on (hopefully to you). Some famous mentor/mentoree relationships of note include: Mahatma Gandhi mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela; Ralph Waldo Emerson mentor to Henry David Thoreau; and probably the most famous, Socrates mentor to Plato. Some mentors have already passed, and their writings are used as a means to mentor others. One of my favorite accounts of a mentor/mentoree relationship is captured in the book Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

The best part of having a mentor, for me at least, is that I have someone in my life who is living the life that I want to eventually live. They have put in the hard work, and it is a truly inspiring thing to see. I met my mentor at Superstars Writing Seminar, knowing I needed a mentor but wasn’t actively seeking someone out for the role. Fate delivered (Thanks, fate!), and I met and connected with one of the instructors. He is not only my mentor in writing, but he is a best friend, a confidant, and someone with whom I look forward to sharing my successes, my failures, and my hopes and dreams.

There is a caveat. Oh yes, always a caveat. A mentor can only guide you and tell you where he or she has been. A mentor cannot tell you exactly what you need to do and where you need to go (that’s a dictator). While this is the caveat, let it also be your comfort. Your journey will not look like your mentor’s. There are many roads to success, and yours will not look like anyone else’s. However, it sure is nice having someone holding your hand along with way, giving advice and care when you need it most.