Gritty YA Fiction

GRITTY AND THE ‘MIKI RADICCI’ SERIES
Guest Post by M.E. Purfield

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Gritty is not always good. Traditionalists, fundamentalist, and Goody-Goodies do not like gritty. I’m not positive why. Maybe it undermines what dead generations taught. You see, gritty is a rebellion. It’s dirty, violent, and transcendent. In storytelling, gritty is the extreme setting and obstacle a main character may go through. And if you follow traditional storytelling where a main character reaches the light of change at the end, gritty can be a great dark tunnel.

Gritty is most commonly associated with the city, drugs, and crime. Before I came up with my Miki Radicci series, I had already written three stand alone Young Adult novels. Two of them took place in the city and all three had an element of crime to the story. So making a gritty series was a no-brainer. But why did I do it?

My background is vanilla. I grew up white suburban middle class. I was forced to do all the things my parents and society expects me to do. I hated most of my childhood. I hated being one with the crowd. Reality was a boring prison. To escape I immersed myself into horror and crime films and fiction. If I was born to be rebellious then writing gritty fiction is hardwired into my soul. I get off on it. I like to push buttons, upset the traditionalists, fundamentalists, and the Goody-Goodies.

Basically, I’m a dick.

Basically, I love my freedom.

The Miki Radicci series is a young adult, urban, noir, fantasy. The grit comes natural, but there’s always a conscious level I try to adhere. Primarily, my anti-hero main character is gritty. You can either love her or hate her. Based on reader reaction, that is exactly what people do. The funny thing is, they love her and hate her for the same reasons.

Miki is sixteen but an emancipated, self-sufficient artist. She doesn’t live under her parents’ roof or control. Miki is also an alcoholic. Her best friend is a former bum boy who now goes to school and lives with Miki. She is also a bit of a criminal herself. She makes fake identifications and is handy with picking locks.

All those traits are conscious and planned to make her gritty. She goes against the traditional teen girl who follows what her parents say and want; who has plans for college; who is dealing with a boyfriend or best friend or whatever.

Another conscious step for grit is her psychic ability. Miki can psychically feel another’s pain or death. Murder and violence is scary. I wanted to go against the norm that violence looks cool. When the reader experiences Miki’s pain or death, they should not enjoy it. The words should jumpstart a dread in their imagination that will upset them.

Her psychic ability also works on another level. It expresses Miki’s hero side. Because of the pain she feels from others, Miki becomes a vigilante and avenges the victim’s assault or death. Her ability defines her good core. I consciously try not to make it part of the plot or a thread in the series. You will not find out why or how she got it. There’s no final fight between good and evil.

So there you have it. Love me, hate me, that is the grit of Miki Radicci and I. It’s a rebellion. It’s a way of life. It is who I am. And I hope it is who you are too. Or I may piss you off.

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M.E. PURFIELD has done some script work for low low low budget films and even directed a few shorts. When it comes to writing novels, his strengths lie with Young Adult fiction, contemporary and noir fantasy. When not practicing the art of Potty Mouth, he spends his time raising his son, being married, watching horror films, and listening to punk music.

M.E. Purfield Online: Website | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads

Interview: Benjamin King

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I am pleased to present Author Interview #3 with Benjamin King: a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

BK: A thousand lives in one.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

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Excerpt: With the window sash scraping the skin off my back I finally wiggled my upper body through the small window and lay half­in and half­out of the house and sucked oxygen into my burning lungs.  And then, in the ghostly, musky quiet of the attic, I heard the heavy crunch of tires on gravel from the driveway in front of the house.  That’s when the stupidity that had brought me here to die like a criminal loomed like a billboard in my mind.  If they caught me, I had no doubt they would kill me.  How I wished I could go back to that night when I should have quit my job and left town.
When a Lady Lies, by Benjamin King

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“Every man has a religion or totems of some kind.  Even the atheist displays an enormous act of faith in his belief that the universe created itself, and the subsequent creation of intelligent life was merely a biological accident.”
— James Lee Burke

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

BK: Mystery/murder thrillers give an author the best chance to utilize the only two real plots for the genre: chase and capture and delayed revelation.  A good one is about a hundred chases and captures capped off with a surprise, delayed revelation.  It’s also a very inventive genre – you can get away with unusual characters – in fact they make for a better story.  My hero in my series is a young country singer who overcomes defeat and depression in each volume by losing himself in the soulful process of writing a new hit song.  I record the song in my studio and put a link at the end of the book to the MP3 file on a website.  When the mystery is solved and the heroine is rescued, the reader gets to hear the hit song inspired by the adventure.  I think I’m onto something unique.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

BK: The highest quality of any art form is its believability.  The best writers make the reader forget he is looking at a page filled with words and convince him he is part of the action.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

BK: Don’t give away your secrets too easily.  Don’t make your characters blabbermouths.  Make the reader follow your hero through hell to find the real answer to the puzzle.

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BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Guest Post

Interview: Tatiana Boncompagni

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I am pleased to present Author Interview #2 with Tatiana Boncompagni: a New York-based journalist and author of the Clyde Shaw mystery series!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

TB: Curious, Athletic, Impatient, Outgoing, Resilient.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

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Excerpt: People cheat and people lie. It’s a fact of life I never found particularly newsworthy, except when someone ended up dead. That’s usually where I came in, turning betrayal and blood splatter into TV ratings gold. No Emmys yet, but that just kept me hungry—hungry enough to pick up my phone on a Sunday morning in early November when I ought to have been in deep REM.
Social Death, by Tatiana Boncompagni

Social Death is a breathless thriller that takes the reader deep inside the worlds of television news and glitterati New York.”
— Stuart Woods, New York Times bestselling author of Unintended Consequences

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“The old saying that some people are ‘born in the wrong cradle’ applies to me. Early on I knew I wasn’t destined to spend the rest of my life in Oklahoma City, where I was born and raised. Still, my steady progression from student to restaurant hostess to salesgirl to collector and philanthropist and, finally, to one of the grande dames of New York is a pretty remarkable story, even if I do say so myself.”
Social Crimes by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

TB: My latest book, Social Death, is a mystery but my past novels, Hedge Fund Wives and Gilding Lily, were women’s fiction. What I like about writing mysteries is that there isn’t so much pressure to make the female protagonist likeable. You hear that word all the time from agents and editors, “Is she likeable?” And while it is true that there are good reasons for a main character to be appealing, I’m more inspired to create characters who aren’t straight-up nice. I like writing characters who are troubled and make flawed decisions, but whose reasons and behavior are still believable and, more importantly, relatable. I think there is more freedom to do that in the mystery genre than in traditional women’s fiction.

It can be very nice to be free from genre tropes and conventions. What is your definition of “good writing”?

TB: Good writing has two components. First are your sentences and second is how you arrange them. Some writers create sentences that convey emotions or atmosphere in a way that is beguilingly beautiful, poetic really. And other writers craft very good stories, often with an interesting or inventive plot structure. Really good writing has both of those components—sentence and structure—down. I think mysteries tend to be better plotted than they are written, but that’s just a generalization. I can name several authors that bowl me over just with their words. Megan Abbott and Lisa Unger are but two examples.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

TB: Everyone has a different process, so I think it is often hard to give advice. For me what seems to work is allowing myself to write freely just to get into the story and then take a step back to rework the beginning and hammer or plot out the middle and ending. But first, before chaining myself to any given ending or plot twists, I like to give myself the freedom to see where the story and characters take me.

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TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI is an award-winning journalist and the author of Social Death, Hedge Fund Wives and Gilding Lily. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three children. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Town & Country, InStyle and Vogue.

* Social Death is free on Amazon till May 2nd!

Tatiana Boncompagni Online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | The Book Designer