Guest Post from Audrey Ryan
Ryan explains how New Adult fits Austen so well.
When I set out to write All the Things I Know, I didn’t plan to write a New Adult (NA) romance. Initially, I started writing it as a call back back to some of my favorite film adaptations of classics like “Clueless” and “Ten Things I Hate About You”. I hadn’t even really known NA was a thing until, the first draft completed, I realized that the story I had was something like coming of age 2.0: finding yourself in adulthood in the extended adolescence of your twenties. After exploring the subsets of contemporary romance and reading quite a few novels in the genre, I realized this very theme is one of the trademarks of New Adult.
New Adult fiction was created as a subgenre in 2009, so it’s fairly new. The main way to classify it is contemporary romance where at least one of the main characters is between the age of 18-25 and is working through issues that are pertinent to that age. There are also other trademarks of the genre that are easy to identity such as: a first person (often present tense) narrative, a healthy dose of “spicy scenes”, and Issues*(TM) to work through.
Without even realizing it, I wrote to fit into this genre. This genre also perfectly adapts Pride & Prejudice exactly how I wanted to tell it.
In the original, Elizabeth Bennet is 20 and looking for longterm stability (i.e. marriage) while staying true to herself. She is proud of her wit and mildly embarrassed by her family. The major turning point, after she receives Mr. Darcy’s letter, is the point of self reflection that brings her into personal growth; the moment where she says, “till that moment, I never knew myself.”
I wanted to stay true to this message when I adapted Pride & Prejudice to the present. The first question I asked myself is how, in the here and now, would a woman now feel financially unstable? What would she do about it? Since in modern days stability doesn't equate to marriage, I realized that I had to separate those themes out. For a young woman Elizabeth Bennet's age in our time, she would find stability through a good job. Romance is usually not as serious since we get married much later nowadays, but the fact still remains that an intelligent early twenty something self possessed woman probably also has a healthy dose of sophomoric wisdom and self discovery to journey through.
Out of the brainstorm monster of research and rewriting scenes to make sense in the hear and now, a plot started to develop. Recent college grad Lizzie's immediate pressure isn't "catching a man", but instead getting a good job. Although, you know, she is young and hot, so a romance would be nice too.
All the Things I Know is all about Lizzie's journey: how she matures and finds her way in the bridge from college to functioning adult. It's told in first person present tense, so as a reader you are tightly immersed in her head. This tense was important for me as she switches back and fourth between childhood memories that shape her prejudices now and the current sometimes not so smart decisions she makes. Even if you've passed that phase in life (I know I have!), I hope you give this book a chance. I think we can all recall the challenges we faced in our twenties. I have many memories I cringe when I recall, or laugh fondly at. A lot of what I did was stupid, but it also brought me to where I am now. I'm still growing, but thankfully past those adolescent issues I was shedding in those twentish years.
*Capital 'I' issues relates to something along the lines of mental disorders, childhood traumas, or something else of a dramatic nature. Admittedly, All the Things I Know is Issues(TM) light, but Lizzie does work through some internal obstacles from her childhood.
Audrey Ryan is the nom de plume of Andrea Pangilinan: daydreamer, wife and step-mother, and obsessive story consumer. She studied writing in college, dreamt about becoming a novelist and slowly forgot about it when real life took over. With a particular affection for contemporary retellings, adapting Pride & Prejudice to modern day has always been a dream. When she’s not reading and writing, Andrea is a marketing slave to the internet industry. She enjoys talking crazy to her weirdo cat, consuming copious amount of wine and coffee with her girlfriends, and record shopping with her husband. Oh yeah, and there’s that small Jane Austen obsession. That doesn’t take up any time at all.
Thanks for explaining NA, Audrey. Having a 25-year-old daughter makes it both harder and easier for me to read and write modern P&P adaptations, but it seems you’ve captured 21st century Elizabeth’s position in life quite well!
Thanks Jan! It helps that I’m technically in the millennial generation, though I am on the older end (if I was born 2 years earlier, I’d be Gen X)! The thing I love the most about NA stories is that it’s often the main character’s first love story. I’m a sucker for coming of age with a ton of romance :).