Sinnet of Dragons is written for a young adult audience. It’s the prequel to Murder of Crows; book one in the Pillars of Dawn series.
There’s a distinctive voice and content difference between the YA prequel and the rest of the series. Why?
I could blame it all on my Write Club buddy, Loey, as writing a young adult novel was her idea, but the truth is I had gotten so much feedback from young readers after Murder of Crows that it made want to write something they could begin with, that would allow them to grow into more adult content in the Pillars of Dawn series.
To be even more transparent, I received so much hate mail from parents who hadn’t vetted their children’s’ kindle downloads for Murder of Crows that I realized; I needed to make an effort to reach the younger readers prior to the opening of the series. Then they could choose to continue the series or not as they were able to select their own content.
Sinnet of Dragons, the prequel to the Pillars of Dawn series is YA content friendly
Murder of Crows, book one
Scold of Jays, book two
More books to come.
I considered a lot of feedback and advice from writers of the YA genre, and readers. I also listened to a lot of advice and feedback from parents, writers, storytellers, and the target demographic of 12 to 18 years of age.
Lots of ideas were thrown around about how best to communicate the age and content acceptability; many even suggested a universal grading mark such as those used on video games and movies. It breaks my heart that we’ve come to that too-easy metric of content value.
My personal feelings as a writer and storyteller are very much influenced by the fact that I had to escape from a strict religious upbringing in order to gain a better scope and understanding of human diversity, general acceptance, and freedom. Movies were rated, thus controlled in my home. But books were not rated, so I had free license to read anything I wished.
It was this freedom of story, of the discovery of my world through books that allowed the universal questions burning me alive with curiosity to be answered. There was no YA genre designation when I was a kid, so I read everything. Biographies, world religions, fiction, philosophy, history, sci-fi, fantasy, and so on.
But I unashamedly admit the discovery of love and the questions of what happens to my developing body weren’t answered until I began reading harlequin romance, and high drama books like, Flowers in the Attic. I had no other way to access information about my body, and teen challenges, but for the bounty of the library system. I certainly wasn’t going to get information from my mother or people in my community with a vested interest in keeping me “young” or “innocent” but mostly ignorant.
Hamstrung, as I used to say. Intentionally lamed so I couldn’t race.
Because I wasn’t limited in book content, my imagination was never limited, and my curiosity only grew stronger. When I found a book I wanted but couldn’t get at the school library because it was on a banned list or otherwise unreachable, my school librarian would order it to the city library for me to pick up. If they couldn’t get it, she would personally find a copy of the book and loan it to me from her home library. Several of my teachers also loaned me books I couldn’t get on my own. And I even once begged my sister into buying a book I needed and saw in the window at the airport bookstore, promising to pay her back. I don’t think I ever did pay her back, actually. But I knew once I left her care and went back home to Alaska, I wouldn’t have easy access to that book again.
I began to see my teachers and librarians as the only people who were genuinely invested in my growth and development. The gatekeepers to unlimited knowledge that had otherwise been consistently withheld from me because of my mother’s religion or my society’s idea of a one size fits all age acceptability. I thought of it as their idea of lazy socially acceptable conditioning.
Anyway, it was my access to books on Latin that gave me interest in designing language. Access to books like The Egyptian Book of the Dead, that sparked interest in rituals designating cultural transition points. This prompted a curiosity for fictional world building right about the time I stumbled onto Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. And so on and so forth. Books led to more books, which led to discoveries, which led to development.
It’s easy to see the immense importance books had in my writing and creative career in the unlimited access to reading material.
The debate at my publishing group got very heated one weekend as we were discussing my reluctance to enter the YA ring. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into an age bracket.
It got pretty interesting when I approached the question about what makes YA content YA specifically. The industry (large publishing houses and market) designates YA as lead characters of juvenile age in coming of age story or adventure.
But several YA authors in my small publishing club insist it’s content with no sex, or swear words.
Well, hell. I’m out then.
But wait. Other YA writers said sex and swearing are important to the juvenile audience reading to understand and connect with their world. Yes! Agreed.
Then the final split came when two YA authors who are also women in their forties who consistently read YA said they write and read YA to re-live the childhoods they didn’t get to have.
So YA as a genre designation means different things to different people. Because it’s not a unified expectation, there’s room for me to maneuver as a storyteller.
Funnily enough, violent content never surfaced as part of the argument. In the typical American double standard, violence is widely acceptable content, but sex and swearing is not. Perpetuating the social make war not love standard that we know and live with today. (IE: Hunger Games physical violence, and Twilight emotional violence.)
Ultimately, I had to make a storytelling judgement call. I couldn’t find very many references of a content designation split in a series, or body of work. Most notably the only real reference I could find for such a split was J.R.R. Tolkien and the separation of the Hobbit (young adult) to Lord of the Rings (Adult). After the argument at the publishing group, and lots of discussions with parents, readers, and kids. I went back to my writing desk, ripped out half of the Sinnet of Dragons chapters and started over with a different intent.
My intent was to make a prequel that anyone could read. It’s YA safe, according the basic standards (no sex as the story didn’t actually support it, and only a couple of swear words well placed), but does contain violence. It’s got the typical YA tropes, and crutches, but supports the story for the beginning of the whole Pillars of Dawn series.
It is meant to be a peace offering, a kickoff to the bigger story. A book that’s easily vetted by parents, and YA readers.
Will it be boring for readers who picked up Murder of Crows first? I hope not. I hope it’s still engaging for readers who found Murder of Crows first. If nothing else, the origin and backstory are available for reference in Sinnet of Dragons as the series continues.
If you have any questions of comments about the content of Sinnet of Dragons, please feel free to contact me via the comments below, or directly through the webform on this page. I’m happy to talk about the decision to separate the content and give it a label designation. I realize it’s not for every author and I’d be glad to have a conversation about it.
Thank you for considering Sinnet of Dragons and the Pillars of Dawn series for your reading list! I look forward to the feedback!