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Rachel Caine, author of the Morganville Vampires, the Weather Warden series and numerous other novels spoke at my RWA chapter meeting a couple of months ago. I found her discussion of the young adult genre, how to market to it and how to write it very interesting. While I wouldn’t classify anything I write as young adult, I am definitely interested in the genre as a writer, a reader and a parent.

When I approached Rachel and asked her to do this interview, she was extremely gracious about it. Little did I know what a great interview it would be. I learned even more about the young adult genre including the use of romance and of course, the parables present in urban fantasy. I’d like to thank Rachel for taking the time and without further ado, enjoy your coffee and Rachel Caine.

How would you define young adult romance?

I don’t really define what I write as romance — I just think that romance is important to balance the story. But what I really write is romantic adventure. I would think that the easy definition would be a romantic story that features characters who are under the age of 18, but that might be a little simplistic! I think YA romance also requires some kind of larger problem to solve, rather than just the romance itself.

What elements of storytelling are specific to the young adult genres versus what might be written for adults?

I don’t think there are any, specifically. Your goal is to tell a good story. The important thing that makes it YA is, once again, the age of the characters … and the age of the characters means you have a different life experience to work with, which influences your story.

Sex is a big factor in adult romance novels, how should sex be handled in YA books?

I absolutely don’t want to speak for anyone else, but for me, I felt it was important to handle the issue with responsibility and realism. I don’t think it’s realistic to ignore it, but I don’t want to make it too idealized, either.

Does writing YA fiction, particularly YA romance, require the author be responsible and sensitive about the issues they explore? (i.e. sexual experiences, drug experiences, hazing, bullying) How do you handle that responsibility?

I believe that there is a grave responsibility there, and I take it pretty seriously. But it’s all part of the human story, and we all face it in some way or another. So it’s important to address the issues that we all remember, whatever our age, whatever our situations. Universal themes are very powerful. But that’s also why I don’t like to write easy wish-fulfillment stories; the characters have responsibilities, and when they make mistakes, it costs them. I think that’s realistic.

How do you make coming of age stories fresh for each generation?

I think you have to tell universal stories that aren’t overly dependent on popular themes, or what’s hot right at the moment — you can date your book very quickly by being too specific about technology, music, that kind of thing. If you do it right, your story can stay relevant for a much longer time. .

Vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures are an obvious metaphor for sexuality and isolation in the teen experience. How do you use vampires and their interactions without talking down to the audience?

I could argue equally that they’re metaphors for secrets — for alienation. Sexuality is part of everything, because it’s part of the human experience … but I use vampires in a different kind of way, I think. Mine are more of a metaphor for the adult world, with all its frightening uncertainty. The sexual component of vampirism is mostly off screen for mine.

What type of books do you read? (Do you have time to read?)

I love to read all kinds of books. I just read Kelley Armstrong, two books by Preston & Child, and another SQPR book by John Maddox Roberts. I’m wacky like that!

What types of YA romance novels would you recommend to aspiring authors to read?

There’s so many choices, and none of them are going to appeal to everyone. But my person recommendation would be Maria V. Snyder, Scott Westerfield, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Rick Riordan, Melissa Marr … I could name dozens, but that will get you started!

Writer to writer, what is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you got started?

Be patient. This isn’t going to happen overnight, and you have to understand just how long the path will – or CAN be. You never lose in this business. You only stop trying.

Learn more about Rachel Caine via her website.


  1. RKCharron says:

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for a wonderful interview Rachel!
    And thank you for having her on your site Heather.
    Great advice and knowledge imparted here.
    I cut & pasted this interview into my permanent Writing folder.
    All the best,

  2. Mandi says:

    Great interview….I have Ill Wind sitting atop my tbr.

    There has been a lot of discussion recently about what should or should not be in YA – but I agree – as long as you do it responsibly and realize you are working with their "life experience" it all works out.

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