Reverse-Engineering YA Success: by Aaron Galvin, author of Salted
Reverse-Engineering YA Success: by Aaron Galvin, author of Salted
Industry professionals advise aspiring authors not to attempt predicting the next trend. After all, trends are here and gone before you know it.
While I believe that a fair assessment, I also feel there is something to be said for reverse-engineering success. With all the options available to readers, what are the necessary ingredients for a successful YA and/or MG series?
That’s the question I asked myself when beginning my Salt series, just as I’m certain countless other authors, publishers, and other industry professionals have done before me and many ask themselves now.
Rowling and her school of witchcraft and wizardry, I’d think. Is it not similar to T.H. White’s ‘The Once and Future King’? Both Harry and the Wart are more powerful and important than they realize. Each also trains under a kindly, elder wizard with lovable but odd peculiarities.
Meanwhile, I also marveled at the genius of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. She essentially took the core of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None mystery and blended it with the idea of Roman tributes and gladiatorial fare.
Ugh! Why didn’t I think of that? I’m such an idiot!
Even Stephenie Meyer. Oh, yes, I’m bringing up the sparkly vampires. Much as I might regret this admission, I read all four books. What can I say? She had success. I needed to understand how and why. Many argue she’s not in the same class as the previous authors I mentioned. While I don’t necessarily disagree, I will say I’ve learned much from Ms. Meyer. Vampires were a hot ticket before she came along, thanks to Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, so what did Meyer do to set her series apart from others?
I puzzled over how each of these authors earned their success many a night. (Notice I used the word earned, not lucky, nor a phrase like lightning in a bottle. Doing so demeans both the talents and efforts of the aforementioned authors).
In the end, the answer I arrived at was simple: each story offered a unique take/twist.
Not only is Rowling’s prose updated for a new generation of readers, her witch and wizard universe is both grander and more fun than T.H. White’s, (whose work I also love).
Collins modernized her story with themes representative of a reality show audiences could relate to, Survivor. Even better, she amazed yet again by making her sequel a collection of all-stars, just like the show did with the return of veteran players.
And Meyer? She made daywalkers out of vampires. While I prefer mine to be night stalkers and decidedly less romantic, I applaud her fresh take.
So there we have it, fellow newbies. Create a different take/twist on former classics and you’re off to the races. Easy, right?
Schyeah. That’s why we’re all bestsellers.
Most of us have heard this phrase: There are no new stories, only retellings. While I believe the heart of it is correct, I also disagree. If you’re a new reader, perhaps brought to books on the success of those three wonderful storytellers, chances are you’d never heard about the other novels I related above. In that case, the things Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, and even Bella Swan experience is new.
You’re on a ride through uncharted waters, experiencing said storylines with fresh eyes. Even those of us who might see the similarities can’t deny following the new tellings with excitement.
Creativity aside, there’s also something to be said for the business side of it: Find a need. Fill it.
These three have done that as well. Rowling made even adults believe in magic again. Meyer, AKA Ms. Love-Triangle, told girls they had the power of choice rather than hoping a guy would choose them. Seeing as Bella Swan pretty much had the damsel in distress thing down, Katniss Everdeen came around to remind girls they could kick some tail and choose which guy they wanted.
All of which begs the question: what does a male author who enjoys writing about mermaids and selkies do?
New take/twist: Hmmm. What would happen if I changed mermaids from having the traditional fishtail, commonly painted as glittery and scaled, to a different sort of tail? Ooh, and maybe mine aren’t so concerned with romance. Maybe they’re dangerous and can morph their tail into legs at will. And what if selkies weren’t prey to some fishermen looking for a wife…what if they came ashore to hunt?
Find a need: YA male readership is in stark decline. Seriously. It’s like they’re expected to go from Rick Riordan and jump to George R.R. Martin. There’s practically no in-between series an average male teen that only reads books already adapted to film could tell you about.
Clearly I’m onto something, right?
Schyeah. That’s why I’m a bestseller.
Life isn’t better under the sea.
Lenny Dolan is all too familiar with this reality. A Selkie slave in the realm beneath the waves, he has no choice when charged with leading a crew ashore to capture an elusive runaway. If unsuccessful, the loved ones kept behind will pay for his failure with their lives.
But when their target leads Lenny and his crew to deeper, darker secrets, the Selkies are faced with a moral dilemma. Secure their own freedom at the expense of others, or return empty-handed to face the grisly consequences?
How Lenny and his crew answer the question will teach them the harshest truth of all. Only through the loss of innocence does one become Salted.
Find out more about Aaron and Salted
Salted is Aaron Galvin's debut novel. He first cut his chops writing original stand-up comedy routines at age thirteen. His early works paid off years later when he co-wrote and executive produced the 2013 award-winning indie feature film, Wedding Bells & Shotgun Shells.
He is also an accomplished actor. Aaron has worked in Hollywood blockbusters, (Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers), and starred in dozens of indie films.
Aaron is a proud member of SCBWI. He lives in Southern California with his wife and daughter.
It's always hard to find a unique novel on mermaids. I've seen a spin or two from time to time, but nothing really original, and certainly nothing I'd really describe as 'cool'. That was until I got the chance to read Salted.
I totally bought into the Salted world Galvin created. Not an easy read but a unique one, I would recommend Salted by Aaron Galvin for people who are looking for something beyond the typical mermaid and selkie tales.
Salted was an intriguing read that kept me hooked. It is a different spin on the underwater world and creatures, which I found brought quite a bit of originality to the genre.
Salted is sure to grab your interest at the onset.