Is there a market for #NewAdult Fantasy?

This week, I’m doing a three-part Q&A with six New Adult Fantasy authors. If you missed yesterday’s post with Sarah Harian and Summer Lane, click here. Tomorrow, I’ll interview the last two authors. 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 Juliana Haygert and Karen Duvall.


Juliana Haygert

Juliana Haygert
Juliana Haygert

While Juliana Haygert dreams of being Wonder Woman, Buffy, or a blood elf shadow priest, she settles for the less exciting—but equally gratifying—life of a wife, mother, and author. Thousands of miles away from her former home in Brazil, she now resides in Connecticut and spends her days writing about kick-ass heroines and the heroes who drive them crazy.

Karen Duvall

Karen Duvall
Karen Duvall

Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series in 2011 and 2012, and her post-apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013. Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.


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

Juliana Haygert: Unfortunately, it has, though that’s not all that NA is. I like to refer to characters of NA books as college-aged, because they don’t necessarily need to be in college. And romance is also not required. Like any YA and Adult books, the NA category can and should have any genre – romance, drama, thriller, fantasy, paranormal, horror, etc.

Karen Duvall: I think that’s how it started. Writers and publishers wanted to cross the boundaries of innocence required by the YA genre so that characters could be free to have sexual experiences, which often happens in college, and to shed the restrictions of childhood. But what appears to have happened is many of these college romances just took teenage children with teenage issues, added a year or two to their ages, and plopped them into a college setting so they could have sex. I heard of one agent who labeled NA as “college f— fiction.”

The college romances I recently read were infused with YA tropes like sports jock heroes, mean girls, petty jealousies, juvenile gossip, unfair teachers, meddling parents, cheating boyfriends and girlfriends, pubescent tirades and other issues faced by children on the cusp of adulthood. Those stories hadn’t evolved to the next level of becoming a grown up.

YA is about the transition from child to adult. NA is about finally getting to be an adult. There’s a big difference, different enough to warrant a whole new category of fiction.

Thanks to college romances, my agent has no interest whatsoever in NA fiction.

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?

Juliana: I think NA fantasy distinguishes from Adult fantasy, the same way NA distinguishes from Adult fiction, in general. Adults are focused on other matters in their life (like paying bills, succeeding on their jobs, starting or providing for their families) while college-aged characters are still trying to find themselves, to choose what they will want to do for the rest of their lives, having their hearts broken and mended. There’s more angst, more indecision, more instability. Only, with fantasy, you got magic and other supernatural elements along with all the other problems. 🙂

Karen: I think it’s too soon to tell. Go to any bookstore and walk down an aisle in the fantasy and science fiction section, then ask someone browsing if they like New Adult fantasy. I bet nine out of ten won’t know what the hell you’re talking about. New Adult is not yet in the mainstream. Not enough readers know what it is.

I think what would distinguish it is if the story incorporates the challenges faced by characters who have recently crossed the threshold into adulthood. In adult fantasy, aside from the older ages of the main characters, the plot’s focus is on the magical elements and the story world rather than new awakenings within characters who are new to adulthood. They have other challenges to face, and though the characters grow and change during their journey, their story arc doesn’t depend on what they learn from growing up. It’s assumed they are grown up.

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?

Juliana: I think romance is a big seller, yes, but there are readers for all genres. On my fantasy trilogy, there’s romance, but the focus is on the story, on the adventure the protagonist goes through. Some readers complain that there’s little romance in it, but I have other books with more romance if they want that. It may take some time until NA expands to other genres but I believe it’ll get there. Especially if we keep writing non-contemp or non-romance NA books. 🙂

Karen: The New Adult category is still something of a slippery fish when it comes to defining what it is and isn’t, but one thing it’s not is romance. It can be romance, but it can also be mystery, or historical, or horror or science fiction. New Adult doesn’t focus on any one genre, but neither does it relate to the adventures of an 18-year-old in her apprenticeship unless those adventures are directly tied the challenges of new adulthood. Those challenges might include: financial independence, self-empowerment, loss of innocence, living away from parents for the first time, military enlistment, friendships after high school, first jobs, new marriage, wedding engagement, starting a family, and so much more.

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

Juliana: I’m writing the third book of my NA fantasy trilogy, The Everlasting Circle. The first book, Destiny Gift, tells the story of a girl who lives in a dark world and has visions of gods and demons—and clues. She has to follow the clues and succeed in her quest to bring light back to the world.

Karen: I’ve always written NA even though there was no such thing at the time. The problems and challenges faced by this age group have always been important to me so it’s what I like to write. In answer to the question, however, I’d have to say no. My Knight’s Curse series, published by Harlequin Luna, featured a NA character facing NA issues, but it’s categorized as adult urban fantasy.

I’m currently working on a new fantasy romance series that features NA characters in a NA situation, but I don’t know if it will be marketed as New Adult. It’s not yet contracted and only the first book is written, the second book now underway. I’m on tenterhooks while I wait for my agent to start the submission process. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

This is the blurb for my (possibly NA) fantasy romance, Mirror Reader:

Alice Dodgson, a descendant of Alice from Wonderland who possesses a psychic ability to read the past in mirrors, faces a painful past when a dangerous god abducts her little girl out of revenge for a crime Alice didn’t commit. She is forced to ask for help from the man who broke her heart eight years before… the man who fathered her child and doesn’t know he has a daughter.

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

Juliana: The Crescent Chronicles by Alyssa Rose Ivy, The Collapse Series by Summer Lane, The Mark of Nexus series by Carrie Butler, Eldaen Light Chronicles by Victoria H. Smith, Wasteland Trilogy by Lynn Rush, Moonsongs by E.J. Wesley.


Kinght's Curse

A skilled knife fighter since the age of nine, Chalice knows what it’s like to live life on the edge—precariously balanced between the dark and the light. But the time has come to choose. The evil sorcerer who kidnapped her over a decade ago requires her superhuman senses to steal a precious magical artifact…or she must suffer the consequences.

Desperate to break the curse that enslaves her, Chalice agrees. But it is only with the help of Aydin—her noble warrior-protector—that she will risk venturing beyond the veil to discover the origins of her power. Only for him will she dare to fully embrace her awesome talents. For a deadly duel is at hand, and Chalice alone will have to decide between freedom…and the love of her life.

Soul Oath Cover

It’s been three months since Nadine last heard from Victor, Micah or Ceris, allowing her to concentrate on her own life. But until Victor and Micah find the scepters that will restore them as true gods, their human bodies will require her healing touch and it’s only a matter of time until they wreak havoc on her life again.  As if to prove that, Victor shows up at the hospital dragging along with him a swarm of demons. Nadine is forced to flee to safety. Despite her attempts to keep her loved ones protected, the demons find her, and they bring her to Imha, the goddess of Chaos. Now, confronted by her greatest fear, Nadine finds a new motivation. Vengeance. And when seeking revenge, no risk is too great, including her own life.

So, everyone, how about you? Have any other questions for either Karen or Juliana? Interested in winning a copy of KNIGHT’S CURSE or SOUL OATH?

We’d love to hear from you so please add your thoughts in the comments! Let us know what you think about new adult fantasy, what you’re currently reading, where you live, what your favorite color is…

Thank you to Karen and Juliana for participating in this Q&A series! Don’t forget to stop back tomorrow for Part 3 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.

16 thoughts on “Is there a market for #NewAdult Fantasy?

  1. While I like NA I do hate that it is so over packed with romance/erotic fiction which sadly often isn’t necessarily good fiction (the books not the genre). I do believe NA can expand and will. But I disagree with Julianna’s statement that adult fiction differs in adults having to pay bills and etc., I never read an adult fiction book where the main issue was paying bills unless there was something deeper. Sadly I find this typifying of adult fiction offensive. Adult fiction can be just as wide as any other genre.

  2. While trying to learn all I can about NA, I stumbled across a statement. It said that NA is not a genre, just an age identifier. Other have said that it is definitely a genre. I wonder if either case would make the NA label more or less palatable to agents and publishing houses?

    On that note, maybe it’s time for someone who only represents NA. There was a time when children’s books were not taken seriously, but A.R. (after Rowling) there are people who only represent and/or publish YA and MG. Is NA just a crossover hit away from becoming mainstream or do we need someone to see its potential first and market the hell out of it in order to make that mainstream appeal possible?

  3. Great interview, all! Absolutely think there’s a market for fantasy NA–just like there’s a market for fantasy in other categories. Has there been a HUGE NA fantasy title yet? No. But there will be eventually so long as authors keep writing them. There are NA thriller and horror authors doing very well already.

  4. Love the interview and love the branching out of NA. Sometimes I think the romance genre gets so much attention in NA b/c the line b/w YA and adult romance is more distinct. As a writer, I found YA was too little and adult tended to leap past those critical early years. As Sophie Jordan said, “YA is when you fall in love for the first time. New Adult is when it matters.”

    Watching new adult change and flow with the readers is exciting, and I hope there’s room for a lot of us.

    1. I agree. Romance has a huge readership so it’s not surprising that NA gets lumped in there. Fifty Shades of Gray is often touted as NA just because of the age of its characters. I think that’s where people often get confused, that NA and YA is defined by age, which we all know is not the case.

  5. Great post! I find myself struggling with the slippery genre of NA – because I’ve definitely found that, when I describe my WIP that way, people assume it’s, as you say, “college f—-fiction,” which it isn’t at all. I like to write about the year or two post college – when the heroine or hero is confronting “the world,” for the first time – it’s a time of intense excitement but also of intense disillusionment. I feel like NA has the potential to be modern coming-of-age stories – however, I’m not sure if I should pitch my novel as being NA, for fear of the “college f—-” fest prejudices people seem to have about it.

    1. I hear ya! 🙂 My agent is in the prejudiced camp and she claims the more senior agents and editors are in there with her. They all talk about this stuff and share the same views. So for now, NA is a genre or category that’s going to take a while to catch on. Remember when the first urban fantasies weren’t labeled as such, just called fantasy in an urban setting (eg. Charles DeLint). Paranormal romance started out as gothic romance. It took years for these subgenres to become recognized for what they were. I think it’s the same with NA.

  6. Since I write New Adult Speculative Romance I find it interesting that you all are separating out romance and fantasy. Just like there are fantasy romances for YA and adults, there are NA fantasy and paranormal romances as well. Since I see NA as that transition from YA to adult, I think it does cover all the genres, fantasy romance included. It just makes my fantasy a little more angsty, the issues more about gaining confidence and yes, sometimes they are about separation from family, but not in a YA way. After all, those early twenties are about learning to stand on your own two feet.
    It has made it a struggle because the publishing world does typify NA into contemporary romance only. Luckily there are sites like NA Alley that also have room for the speculative branch of NA, because I think there is a demand for it. And just as the readers of YA are all over the board, the readers of NA are not confined to one age group, so confining it to only college issues is a disservice to the genre.
    Here’s to exploring all the nooks and crannies of this new genre!

  7. […] week I interviewed six new adult SFF authors. (Tuesday: Sarah Harian and Summer Lane; Wednesday: Juliana Haygert and Karen Duvall; Thursday: Rebecca Hamilton and Carrie Butler). We discussed some great topics and showcased some […]

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