Is the term “New Adult fiction” synonymous with “college romance”?

This week, I’m doing a three-part Q&A with six New Adult Fantasy authors. We’ll be discussing some great topics and spotlighting some terrific books. On Friday, I’ll give away a free book (winner’s choice from among the books featured in the series; format and delivery method will vary based on winner’s choice) and a $10 eGift Certificate to a bookstore of the winner’s choice. Want to enter to win one of the prizes or add your thoughts to the discussion? Please do by commenting below! Today, please welcome Sarah Harian and Summer Lane.


Sarah Harian
Sarah Harian

Sarah Harian

Sarah grew up in the foothills of Yosemite and received her B.A. and M.F.A. from Fresno State University. When not writing, she is usually hiking some mountain or another in the Sierras, playing video games with her husband, or rough-housing with her dog.

Summer Lane
Summer Lane

Summer Lane

Summer is the author of the national bestselling YA/NA Romantic Adventure novels, State of Emergency, State of Chaos, and State of Rebellion, the first three installments in The Collapse Series. She is a freelance writer, publicist and lover of all things feline. Summer owns WB Publishing, a digital publishing company devoted to releasing exciting survival and adventure stories. In her spare time, Summer is the creator of the online magazine, Writing Belle, a website dedicated to the art of storytelling. She works as a creative writing teacher and consultant, as well. You can find Summer at her website or on Twitter @SummerEllenLane.



Jill Archer: Do you feel the term “New Adult fiction” has become synonymous with “college romance”?

Summer Lane: For some, that’s certainly true. The market is saturated right now with college romance novels. When you walk into a store and see the category NEW ADULT, what is beneath the sign is generally hardcore, steamy romance novels. That’s not because there aren’t any New Adult novels out there that aren’t about romance, but because that’s now where the market pendulum has swung. There are lots of New Adult adventures and dramas – and even non-fiction books. You just have to look a little bit harder.

Sarah Harian: I do, and it’s very unfortunate. Do I think that New Adult can transform into something that goes beyond college romance? Absolutely. But it really depends on the readership and what they want. I hope it expands, but I can’t predict the future. All I can ask is that writers keep writing fabulous speculative New Adult novels and those who want the NA category to buy novels that don’t follow the NA mold.

Jill: Do you think the label “New Adult” is helpful to fantasy readers versus romance readers? If so, what do you think distinguishes New Adult fantasy from adult fantasy?

Summer: Yes. When I read fantasy, I like to identify with the main character as much as possible – and that’s more likely to happen if they’re closer to my age. A New Adult fantasy would feature a character that is in that age range – just in an imaginative environment. I think it’s helpful, not harmful.

Sarah: How I’ve personally been distinguishing New Adult from other categories is that NA reads a lot like Young Adult in terms of stylistics but has content geared toward people in their twenties. But despite what I think, it’s really up to the author how they want to categorize their book. If you feel like your novel speaks specifically to an audience of twenty-somethings, then categorize your book as NA.

Jill: Last month, a writer left a comment on my blog, which is paraphrased below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (You can see her original question and my answer here).

I am a writer who is currently working on a fantasy manuscript featuring an 18 year-old apprentice. There are romantic elements, but the relationship is not the focus of the story – her adventures are. I’ve noticed that most NA fantasies have a romance plot rather than a quest or mystery plot. Do you think there’s a market for a story such as this? What are your thoughts?

Summer: There is a market for everything. Books with a romantic plot and a quest or mystery subplot are increasingly popular. It combines fantastical elements that everyone enjoys with the romance of two people falling in love. My favorite type of story is the plot line that is situated the opposite way: an adventurous plot and a romantic SUBplot. That’s just my personal preference, and that is how I wrote The Collapse Series. Cassidy Hart’s quest to survive the collapse of North America is the main story, but the sub-story is her romance with Navy SEAL Chris Young. There is a big market for the type of book you’re talking about. Definitely.

Sarah: I think that you need to write the story that you want to write and not worry about what genre/category it falls into. So many people get caught up on categories—such as New Adult and Young Adult—that they end up not writing the story that’s in their heart. If your story is a fantasy story about an eighteen-year-old girl who has adventures and it isn’t focused on romance, WRITE IT. There is a market for young people who go on adventures. If it ends up not being published as New Adult, then who cares?

Jill: Are you currently writing, or have you recently published, a New Adult Fantasy? If so, can you share a little bit about it?

Summer: I’m currently writing the fourth installment in my bestselling Collapse Series. My books are a cross between adventure and post-apocalyptic fantasy. They’re both New Adult and Young Adult. There’s really no group that is excluded from what I write. It’s an old fashioned adventure story with romance. I wrote a LOT of fantasy and science fantasy stories when I was growing up, and I love reading them to this day.

Sarah: I published a NA science fiction novel with Penguin. The process was really exciting, as I was the second NA speculative author to be published by a Big Five house. The book is about a bunch of twenty-somethings–who have committed terrible crimes–entering an experimental prison to be judged. The novel is dark and carries elements of horror, but at its heart, it’s a coming-of-age story about human nature.

Jill: Besides yourself, which authors and/or books can you recommend to readers who are looking for New Adult fantasy?

Summer: I’m actually pretty new to reading NA fantasy, so my recommendations list hasn’t even been compiled yet! I’m really hoping to get some reading done this spring and summer and discover some great new authors.

Sarah: Jamie Grey has an amazing scifi novel called THE STAR THIEF that you should absolutely buy, and Karina Halle’s EXPERIMENT IN TERROR series is also badass.


State of Rebellion

Everything has changed.

After a devastating ambush that left the militia group Freedom Fighters struggling to survive, Cassidy Hart has been lucky to escape with her life. Along with her Commander and former Navy SEAL Chris Young, she has made a shocking discovery concerning the whereabouts of her father. The militias have moved further into the mountains. And the secret that is kept there will come with a price.

But when the National Guard arrives, Cassidy is faced with a choice that will force her to decide between her friends and her family. Omega is getting stronger. The fight for freedom looms on the horizon.

It’s all or nothing.

And Cassidy has no intention of giving up.

Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

So, everyone, how about you? What do you think of my questions? Have any other questions for either Sarah or Summer? Interested in winning a copy of THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE or STATE OF REBELLION? I’d love to hear from you so please add your thoughts in the comments! Thank you to Sarah and Summer for participating in this Q&A series. Don’t forget to stop back tomorrow for Part 2 of 3.

Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

9 thoughts on “Is the term “New Adult fiction” synonymous with “college romance”?

  1. I think both writers made good points. Writing the story you want to hear is very important and worrying about its label is secondary. However, now that I have my book written I have to think about the marketing and agents want to know if it’s YA, NA or something else. Publishing houses like molds. What is a new writer hoping to be discovered to do?

    1. Assuming you’ve already researched each agent on your list and what they represent, then…

      In the querying stage, present your novel as something the agent would be interested in. If they rep NA, mention the novel could be marketed as NA. It’s okay to draft individual query letters for each agent you want to approach – although, of course, you would never say the novel is something it isn’t. (You wouldn’t call a mystery a memoir just to try to get an agent to look at it.)

      And remember, as you and others have pointed out, though writers should know what their work is (the label), what you’re really pitching is THE STORY.

      Good luck with your queries!

      More Q&As soon…

  2. I think that after the book is finished and revised, then you should decide how to market it, And I think it’s a hard decision and there isn’t a correct answer. Currently there is a very small market for NA fantasy, although there are some agents looking for it. You have to decide if it’s worth the risk of querying it as a NA fantasy and possibly getting no bites, or if you want to self-publish, pitch it as a different category (YA or adult), etc.

  3. Informative interview; have noticed a lot of books being labeled as new adult when they’re really not

      1. probably after high school to early twenties; a couple approaching 30 should not be labeled as a new adult read

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