Monday, September 17, 2012

Mentor Monday: Research Reading

I'm on vacation this week, and with two trans-continental flights, I brought research in my carry-on – not materials about some specific subject, but a diverse collection of novels. How is this research? Well they're all historical fiction, middle-grade or young adult; so they are examples of the kind of book I'm currently revising. Most important, they were all published within the last decade.

You see, I love historical fiction. I read a ton of it as a kid – in fact, before I studied history at university, almost everything I knew about history, I learned from historical fiction (this is why I am so passionate about the accuracy of the background – setting and characterization as well as plot – in my historical fiction). But the fiction I was immersed in as a child and a young adult is OLD now (some of it was old then, truth be told). And as I said a month ago, what is being published today is quite different from what was being published then. So it is important to read more recently published books.

This is harder than it sounds. My local bookstore, awesome though it may be, can't possibly stock anything like a complete selection of ten years' worth of MG/YA historical fiction. So I was forced to (and grateful for) the internet.

To begin with, I did a search (using Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as publisher's sites and such sources as Verla Kay's bulletin board) and compiled a list of YA/MG's classified as historical fiction and published since 2001. And yes, that's more than 10 years. And it doesn't account for the fact that a book published in 2001 was probably sold y the author in 1998 or 1999. I even included a few that are widely acclaimed and still being reprinted even though they're a little older (Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793*, for example). 

Then I went through and eliminated fantasy and magical realism, which in the post-Harry world, reduced my list dramatically. Much as I may enjoy historical fantasy (and I do) I think that my book does not compete with and also will not be helpfully informed by elements of magic. I also eliminated a few books that looked like self-published titles or those that were super-specialized (true stories based on family history and published by local history or university presses) because I am hoping to sell my manuscript to a trade publisher.

Next, I wanted to try and do this without spending too much money. This meant finding the books in my local library or the consortium to which my library belongs. My library is pretty good for a small town, but like every library these days, they're counting pennies. So only a few of the books on my list were on the shelves. A few more turned up scattered across the consortium. These form the first and second round of my research.

My next step will be to purchase a select few of those not available through my library, particularly some that have been published in 2010-2012. And I'm open to suggestions! Given my criteria, what would YOU recommend?

*and would someone explain to me why Fever is shelved in the YA section, even though my library does have some authors who have some books  "upstairs" (in YA) and others "downstairs" (with the MGs)?

1 comment:

Mur said...

Let's see if I'm allowed to post a comment this time! I like the step by step way you presented this topic, Sally. As for "Fever" in YA, maybe the concept of a plague-type disease is complicated for the MGers?