March 8, 2012

"New Adult" Niche: Interview with Callie Kingston (Undertow Blog Tour)


I'm pleased to be able to welcome Callie Kingston, author of Undertow, to the blog today for an interview! Since I'm hosting the "New Adult" Reading Challenge, I focused my questions on that aspect of the book.

First, a bit about Undertow and author Callie Kingston:

"Marissa is nearly eighteen and can't wait to leave behind her traumatic past. With long time boyfriend Drake, she thinks she has her future all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain, where, overcome with emotional and physical exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea.
Somehow she survives, and now each night she dreams of a creature who rescues her. Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she once again risks her life in the frigid ocean. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from drowning in the abyss?

UNDERTOW is a contemporary novel in which a young woman finds a terrible choice thrust upon her: overcome the pain in her past and the dangers which lurk in her mind, or succumb to these and be lost forever inside a beautiful dream.
" (from Goodreads)

Callie's bio:"My home is in the Pacific Northwest, where I live with an assortment of furry creatures (husband included). I have a masters degree in Psychology. When not writing or working, I like to explore the outdoors, especially the forests and beaches along the Oregon coast. I also enjoy a great cup of cappuccino, which happily is easily found in this part of the world."

And now for the questions...

1.) Why did you decide to make Marissa an early high school graduate, thus fitting Undertow into the New Adult category? Did you set out to tell a New Adult story from the beginning?

From the beginning, I knew Marissa was a young woman on the brink of independence. She was also a bit precocious, which masked her vulnerability. While I didn’t intend to write a New Adult story (when I began writing Undertow, I honestly had no idea that college-age protagonists were verboten in YA), I’m glad it falls into that category now.

2.) How do you think Marissa's story would have been different if it had been set during high school instead? Do you feel that setting it during the college period is essential to the storyline?

When I began querying agents and editors, I discovered that Undertow would be a tough sell because the main character and her friends were in college. I considered rewriting the story and let Marissa be in high school, perhaps a senior. It just wouldn’t work. Marissa needed to be on her own, trying out life as an independent young adult, for her story to unfold. Otherwise, her mother would see what was happening and intervene before she reached a critical stage.

3.) Ages of characters aside, how would you say YA and New Adult differ (e.g. thematically, maturity levels, etc.)?

The primary difference, as I see it, is that the crucial challenges of launching into independent adult life present such rich material for an author: first live-in relationships, whether as roommates or boyfriend/girlfriend; supporting oneself financially and emotionally, or negotiating terms of on-going support with parents; facing the great unknown of a wide-open future. It’s such a fragile and critical time in a person’s life. New Adult literature can mine these issues and also assume a higher level of maturity in the reader. While it’s true that many, if not most, readers of YA are actually adults, thanks to cross-over appeal, writers still need to be cognizant of the developmental level of their target audience.

4.) Currently, traditional publishers seem to be leery of New Adult books, preferring to bump the protagonist either down to high school level or up to adult. Why do you think that is? Do you see a place for New Adult books in traditional publishing in the future, or will they stay primarily the domain of indie publishers and self-published authors? 

The truth is, I see publishing shifting toward independent and small presses as we move more deeply into the digital age and niche marketing. The takeover might be gradual or abrupt, depending on what technologies and markets evolve. At the same time, I sense that traditional publishers are operating out of fear of these inevitable shrinkage of their business and taking on fewer risks.

5.) What was the most challenging aspect of writing Undertow? How did you tackle it?

Time. There are still only twenty-four hours in a day, and as a writer, you know how much time you pour into not just drafting a manuscript, but critiquing, revising, editing, polishing, and, if you choose the indie path, formatting, publishing, and promoting. It’s a lot of work, and I have a very demanding job and family as well.

After my mother passed away unexpectedly, I decided my creative life is a priority and have found ways to carve out time.

6.) Could you list a few New Adult books by other authors that you'd recommend?

 I’m always on the lookout, and there are many listed on the Goodreads New Adult Reading Challenge list that I’ve added to my TBR pile. I’m especially excited to read Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.

Thanks very much, Callie, for sharing your thoughts on the New Adult genre! 

Readers, what do you think about the category of "New Adult" and its place in the publishing world?

Also, Callie is offering up a Kindle copy of Undertow at each stop on the tour! This is open internationally, just leave a comment on this post (if you'd like, you can answer my question above) and your e-mail address. The giveaway ends Mar. 15, at 11:59 pm EST, after which a winner will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail. Also, everyone who comments on any of the tour stops will be entered into a grand prize giveaway! Here are the rest of the stops on the tour:


  1. Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. Let's hope the New Adult genre gets more attention in the coming years.


  2. Great interview. Thanks, Dayna and Callie!

    I think new adult stories will be a growth area in indie publishing as tech-savvy teens grow up and set up their own bank accounts.

    There's a real need to tell women's stories at every major transitional point in life. Humorous chick lit and dramatic women's fiction fill some of this need for twenty-somethings and beyond, but it's also true that there's a big difference for most of us between being twenty-six and nineteen. Life can feel much more intense and raw at nineteen and twenty, and compared with the worries and responsibilities we start to experience in our late twenties, starting out an adult life can feel like a wonderfully exciting--and terrifying--blast into the unknown.

    Can you tell I'm feeling a little nostalgic?

    Here's looking forward to more women's stories that explore life as a new adult.

    1. I love the point you make about the relevance of women's stories throughout their lives. And college, or an alternative post high school path, is definitely one of the most important transitions a young woman will experience in her life.


  3. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful blog on an interesting topic. I love the concept and feel of the New Adult genre that is missing in traditional publishing for the most part. I have specifically seen agent/publisher blogs saying they are not pursuing this area right now. How unfortunate. Like you said, this is really were the "coming of age" stuff happens. High School is cool but post HS is even more exciting.

    I've written a book (not published yet) that has an 18 year old protagonist and 20 year old love interest. I was warned this may be too "old." The problem is, these aren't arbitrary ages. They fit the plot and point of the story. You can't just slap ages on someone and decide to make it YA.

    Anyway thank you for discussing this topic!


    1. Good luck with your novel, Angel. I agree with you about needing to remain true to your characters and plot. In fact, after visiting Danya's blog this week, I decided to follow up with a post on my blog about this topic. You can read more at


  4. Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Victoria, and good luck in the giveaway,


  5. Thanks for doing this interview! I agree with the point about needing more independent protagonists. As it is, we see so many books in the YA genre where teenage protagonists are living independently, and it seems to me like you might as well do the more realistic thing and bump up their age by a few years.

    1. Yael, you make a great point. It is strange to see all these high school kids somehow living without adults guiding their lives much. How many teens do you know who live so independently?



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