Saturday, August 22, 2009

Know About YA Trends? Amy Alessio Does

I recently met Amy Alessio when she joined the still forming YA Chapter of Romance Writers of America. When I found out that she is both a YA writer and YA librarian I knew I had to hit her up for an interview.

As a librarian who works with young adults, you must talk with teens a lot. What is most surprising about young adults as people and/or as readers?

I help run monthly clubs at the library including a Teen Corps volunteer group, a Gamers Group, writing and drawing groups and more. We also have three to five programs a week in the summer including swordfighting, CSI, scavenger hunts, after hours, video game tournaments and art classes. I also had the pleasure this summer of bringing five teens to the American Library Association conference, where they spoke with me at a Young Adult Library Services Association preconference.

So I do indeed have the pleasure of talking with teens a great deal. What surprises me is that anyone would want to work with any other age group! Honestly, I love my work. Teens today are extremely sophisticated about their activities and their future, and they are passionate about helping improve the world. I can barely keep up with my volunteer group's ideas about helping the community. Also they are very technological, but that's no surprise. A big surprise came when we realized that the library book circulation of teen materials went up 70% each year after we started getting their input about all services for their own age group. Taking their advice continuously brought in more teens in droves.

Do you see a strong relationship between teen trends in say, clothes and music, and teen trends in reading?

The public library is an equalizer. All types of teens come in. So I may not see trends in clothing and music as much as someone who works in retail or food which may appeal to markets within teens. As downloadable music became so popular in the last ten years, though, I notice teens do like more action packed books. Their attention needs to be grabbed from page one to hold them. They are used to everything instantly, from chatting to getting their music and more. And they are more interested in the larger world and cultures than perhaps before, as they are so connected to the entire world online.

While these trends are more immediate and prevalent in teens, I think both of these things resonate with adults also. I see adults with more interest in Indian/Asian or African American authors with books like The Kite Runner staying in book clubs years after publication. Also, adults want their action sooner now too; why else would we see so many Prologues in books?

How long will vampires be *hot*?

(grin) I see no end in sight with the vampires. I have 40 copies of each of the Twilight series which still circulate constantly, plus many more of The Vampire Diaries and more. The Vampire Diaries will be a new show on the CW this fall, too, heightening the genre. Really, Vampires have been around for several years, with Anne Rice, Buffy and Laurel K. Hamilton changing the faces of the genre. Charlaine Harris certainly kept momentum going and is more popular than ever with her TV show, too. An interesting vampire book will always find teen readers.

Predictions about upcoming trends?

Definitely I see more types of paranormal. I have to review some Zombie books; that seems to be the new creature du jour. I have also seen werewolves aplenty in adult books lately, which means they will hit teen soon too.

Steampunk is hitting teen now too. Kenneth Oppel really started the trend for teens, and now I'm seeing lots more variations with time travel into Victorian and Regency periods, too.

To my delight, I am finding many more teen mysteriers and thrillers, though still only a few teen traditional amateur sleuth series. Mysteries are my passion, and I review teen ones for Crimespree magazine. (I review all types of teen books for too.) It used to be hard to find teen mysteries. Now I'm seeing a lot more. It's the CSI effect - many teens watch those shows, too. How could they not, with the series being on every night in some form?

Amy has an awesome blog that covers vintage cookbooks. Here's what she had to say about where that interest came from.

Good question. My mother had great unusual cookbooks, though she was not a huge fan of cooking. Both Grandmothers were, and I have recipes from one. The other wrote nothing down. When I was younger I was fascinated with the crazy Jello recipes in an old Jello cookbook and made several of them. I took Square Meals by the Sterns from Mom and read it like a novel. That one discusses vintage cookbooks and funny trends in them.

My husband and I have always been into antique malls, and usually spend birthdays and anniversaries touring several. I was drawn to the vintage cookbooks over and over, and before I knew it, I had over 100. They are inexpensive and fun, from the Pillsbury Bake-Off collections to the Betty Crocker cooking/lifestyle guides. By the time I had 200 I was learning new technologies for my work at the library. It's not easy trying to keep up with teens technologically, but I do try. I wanted to teach myself blogging three years ago, and needed a topic. I started writing about the cookbooks, and my attempts to make some of those recipes.

In January of this year, I took an online class on blog book tours, and got serious about it, blogging much more often, inviting guests, promoting the blog on food sites. The traffic has grown exponentially and I've been invited to nine libraries this fall to talk to people about holiday traditions in the vintage cookbooks. I have publications planned from it too for folks who attend the programs. I use all this as an excuse to get more cookbooks, of course!

Amy is the author of "Missing Andy" a story in the MISSING anthology. Here's what she had to say about that:

The Missing Anthology was created when I asked Echelon Press CEO Karen Syed if she could publish an anthology benefiting missing persons organizations. There were several high profile ones in Chicago especially two years ago, and I wanted to do something. Karen agreed if I would edit it. I was happy to do so, and the stories in there are amazing. No one made a dime from that project; all monies were donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I do have a story in there as well, "Missing Andy", about an antiques store owner who collects cookbooks and tracks down a missing teen...

Amy Alessio is a regular speaker at BEA, ALA, and Boucheron.

And you can follow Amy on Twitter.


  1. Great interview, ladies! I love YA fiction. :)

  2. Me too. Interesting about the zombies, I saw a call for zombie romances recently. Thnx for stopping by.

  3. Thanks for the nice comments! I do want to add that I meant Anne Rice, Laurel K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris start and kept the vampires going for the adults, which then trickled down that topic to the teens. (This trend does go up also, as many adults love Stephenie Meyer the YA author, too.) I do have teens ask for these books, but Laurel especially is geared towards adults!
    I'm looking forward to having Melissa guest blog on Vintage Cookbooks!

  4. I know what you mean about the S Meyer. There are many adults who read the her books: I think its great when moms/aunts/even grandmas/ can enjoy the same books as the younger women in the family