YA Guy and The YA Gal talk books

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy
Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy

Did you know there is also a YA Guy? No, we are not Internet-married, but I do consider Joshua David Bellin to be my agency sibling since we are both authors represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.

Josh’s first book, Survival Colony 9, is a thrilling cli-fi read that’s Ashfall meets the desert. In a post-apocalyptic world turned to dust, Querry Genn’s amnesia is either his greatest strength–or his downfall–depending on whom you ask. The sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, comes out in summer of 2016. My own book, GENESIS GIRL, will be published fall of 2016.

The YA Gal and the YA Guy thought it would be fun to chat this summer and share our completely unsolicited opinions about reading, writing, and publishing with the rest of you.

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal
Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal Thank you so much for talking books with me Josh! I was a fan of your blog long before your book came out. You’re never afraid to tell the truth even at the risk of ticking someone off. I love it when you start ranting about crazed Little League fans.  So, tell me honestly, when you found out I had totally ripped off your blogging idea and dubbed myself “The YA Gal” what did you think?

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy
Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy Hi Jenny! Glad we’re having this conversation.

My initial reaction to finding out that you’d dubbed yourself YA Gal was rage and a phone call to my lawyers. You’ll be receiving the “cease and desist” order shortly.

No, seriously, I was flattered! I dreamed up YA Guy one day when I thought it would be fun to try out a new online identity–nothing secretive or anything like that, but just a tongue-in-cheek way to identify myself more closely with YA literature. So I think it’s really cool that you’re doing something similar (except, you know, without the guy part).

Which leads me to the question, what do you think about the various debates that have been going around the internet about gender in YA? (There are so many debates, just pick one!)

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal
Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal That was really nice of you, especially since I started my webpage and launched my Facebook page all in the course of 24 hours and then thought, “Duh! I should probably ask Josh about this in case he’s annoyed.” What’s the saying? Act first; ask permission later? 🙂

That’s a great question about gender in YA. I’ve been thinking a lot about the different beauty standards between guy and girl main characters in YA fiction.

There are a lot of great books out there where the female main character is average looking, and that doesn’t seem to change the storyline at all. But there seems to be a lack of YA books where the male lead is not “hot.” The only average-attractiveness male main character I can think of at the moment is Vee in Lindsay Tam Holland’s The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong.

But it’s been a while since I read your book, Survival Colony 9 so I can’t remember–was Querry Genn hot or not? And, can you think of any YA books featuring guys who aren’t described as “god like” with “chiseled abs?”

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy
Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy Interesting question. I don’t think of Querry as being “hot”–in fact, the one time I describe him in the book, he’s just an average-looking teen, pimples and peach fuzz and all–but you may have noticed that on the cover, the figure who appears there is pretty chiseled and muscular. It’s a silhouette, so you can’t see the face, but still, it seems to conform to a certain standard of male “hotness.” Don’t get me wrong–I love my book’s cover–but it’s just an interesting observation in light of your question.

One book I read recently and liked that had an unconventional male lead was Fat Kid Rules the World
by K. L. Going (which I heard was turned into a movie). As the title indicates, the protagonist is overweight. But there’s no romance in this novel (which was another thing I liked about it), so maybe part of the issue is that YA novels feel the need to have a “hot” boy in the romantic-lead role.

And while we’re talking about YA books we love, I should ask you why you decided to write YA. I don’t think we ever had that conversation, and I’m always interested in learning what attracted YA authors to the genre.


Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal I love the cover of Survival Colony 9! Profile shots are really popular right now, for YA, like with Martina Boone’s “Heirs of Watson Island” series.

I started to write YA because I like to read YA, and I felt like I had stories to tell. Unfortunately, the first YA manuscript I wrote featured a fourteen-year-old protagonist, which was a real novice move on my part. At the time, I didn’t know that teen readers like to read up in age. A ten-year-old might like to read about a fourteen-year-old in high school, but a fourteen-year-old likes to read about teens that are older.

The only YA book with a freshman main character that I can remember reading this past year is Ryan Craig Bradford’s Horror Business which gives readers such an inside look into the hormone surged minds of fourteen-year-old boys that I’m terrified of my own son turning teen.

So with my second YA manuscript, I decided to write about an eighteen-year-old. I also developed what I hope is a really intriguing concept, this idea of there being a future where lack of a digital footprint makes you valuable, and teens who have never been on the Internet get auctioned off to the highest bidder. That’s the manuscript that sold to Month9Books with the tentative title Blank Slate.

Speaking of tech, there are so many ways for authors to connect with prospective readers on social media that it can become overwhelming. How do you decide where to invest your time?

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy
Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy

Joshua David Bellin / YA Guy The concept of Blank Slate sounds amazing! It’s one of my top “to-read” books, and I haven’t even seen the cover yet!

I wouldn’t worry overly much about the protagonist’s age, though. Querry is fifteen, and he seems to appeal to both older and younger readers. I think the key is to have a character and story teens (and others) can relate to, and Blank Slate sounds like it does just that!

Okay, social media. I don’t think I’m that much of a genius with it, probably because most of it’s new to me. I tweet occasionally, but I tend to invest most of my energy on blogging and Facebook, I guess because in those formats I’m not limited to a certain length of post, so it feels more like writing to me. There are other social media platforms–Pinterest, Instagram, etc.–that I’ve barely begun to explore. Maybe I will with my next book. But I think each writer needs to find the platforms and the time commitment s/he is comfortable with, and stick with them. Kristin Cashore, whose Graceling series is wildly popular, doesn’t do much social media at all–and if you read her blog, she’ll tell you why. Again, it’s a matter of writing great stories and great characters, not of being a social media guru.

Speaking of which, what are your all-time favorite YA books? And what are your favorite from the past couple of years? (You don’t need to say Survival Colony 9. I won’t be insulted!)

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal
Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal My all-time favorite YA books? That’s a great question! I’m going to start off old school and say The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables. I love The Blue Castle because it has a big reveal in it, which is something I love in books.

But if we’re talking fresh YA, then I really enjoyed all of the twists and turns in Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, and of course, I loved The Hunger Games, along with a million other people.

The more I read the more I realize how many books I haven’t read. Right now I’m working on a summer reading list of seven popular books that are really big in YA, but that I have yet to read:

IMG_20150628_131316Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, Book 1) by Cassandra Clare
Paper Towns by John Green
If I Stay Gayle Forman
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

What about you, Josh? What are your favorite YA books? And for a final question, are there any teasers you’re allowed to share about your new book, SCAVENGER OF SOULS? It’s definitely on my TBR list for 2016!

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy
Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy

Joshua David Bellin/YA Guy Wow, my favorite YA books? I wish I hadn’t asked you about yours, because I should have anticipated you’d want to know mine! I love so many–including The Hunger Games (Book 1)
and The Maze Runner (Book 1)
and other blockbuster action/sci-fi series–but let me name a few lesser known works I’ve loved in recent years:

There are many more, but that’s a start!

Concerning SCAVENGER OF SOULS: it continues the story of Querry Genn’s quest for his past and his family, but it takes him into a very different and even more dangerous part of the post-apocalyptic world. There, he learns the origins of the Skaldi–and he encounters people who have been traumatized not only by monsters but by their own fateful choices. The book also features a new character who’s got to be my favorite of all time: Mercy, a girl whose tragic secrets lead Querry into the mystery of his own forgotten past.

Sounds like a back-cover blurb, doesn’t it?

desert panorama

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal
Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal

Jennifer Bardsley/The YA Gal Can’t wait!

Wow, I feel like I have a whole new reading list to tackle this summer. I always like to hear your suggestions because they could be titles my son might enjoy too in a few years. I wouldn’t want our home library to be too “girly.”

 Let’s end with a final shout-out to a book we’re both really excited about, It’s a Wonderful Death, by our friend and agency sib Sarah J. Schmitt.

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll.”

It’s a Wonderful Death doesn’t come out until this fall, but I’m hoping Amazon sends it to me early.

Thank you so much to YA Guy and author Joshua David Bellin! You can find Josh on Twitter, Facebook, or his webpage, and you can discover Survival Colony 9 at your local bookstore or library.


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