For YA and children’s author KB Hoyle, December 10 was a big day. Hoyle published the first book of her first New Adult series—one of the first to feature fantasy and dystopian themes. After reading and reviewing an advanced copy of the first installation, Breeder, I was lucky enough to get Ms. Hoyle to answer some questions for me about her writing, her process and her work across genres.
What about YA attracted you to writing for this genre?
Writing YA just sort of… happened for me. Long before I was published, I had this dream of being one of those authors who didn’t write inside a “box” – an author who wrote books intended for ALL ages. It wasn’t until a critique partner told me I wrote for YA that I realized that was my natural bent. Determining my audience was crucial to defining my voice, and I came to realize that it’s actually much more freeing to have boundaries, as it were, regarding audience specifications. When I wrote The Gateway Chronicles, therefore, I wrote it specifically for teenagers, but I was gratified to find out that writing a good book for a specific audience and genre actually helps it become a crossover book. All that aside, though, I teach 8th and 10th grade, so I really do love teenagers, and I enjoy providing books for them to read! There’s a large part of me that feels like I never grew up, so I think I communicate with them well.
What do you like to read?
I don’t branch out a lot. I read primarily older classics (all genres) and modern lit from children’s to NA – I don’t really read modern adult literature at all. Oh yes, and I stick to speculative genres with the modern literature. I can’t help it; I love being transported, and I love seeing what authors are able to create out of their imaginations! Part of reading literature for young people is market research – making sure I stay current with what’s popular. But much more of it is because I think literature for young people has a lot more brightness, possibility, and hope than literature for adults. I’m very picky, though, and it’s not often that I find a new book I really like. I’m a serial re-reader of my favorites: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Prydain, and The Chronicles of Narnia, to name a few.
When did you start writing?
I have always written, as far back as I can remember, but I started my first novel when I was eleven. I distinctly remember making the conscious decision to write a novel from beginning to end. We had one boxy desktop computer in the house that we kept on a desk in the mudroom. The summer Olympics were on when I started writing the book, and even though I loved watching gymnastics, I disciplined myself to ignore the TV in the other room – and my entire family watching it – to sit at that desk and write. That memory is emblazoned on my mind; I can picture it like it was yesterday. And keep in mind that this was in the days before you could pull up reruns to watch on the internet. It was a painful sacrifice for an eleven-year-old to make! lol But I definitely had the idea from early on that being a serious writer involved hard work and sacrifice.
Breeder is part of a new genre—what are your feelings on New Adult?
I view New Adult as an extension of Young Adult, and I like that it’s come into existence as a “thing.” For my part, it’s given me the freedom to work with characters who are a little older than the traditional 15-17 of the YA world but who are still in formative years of life. It’s also allowing me to write books that still appeal to an older YA audience but that include material I wouldn’t necessarily have included in a Middle Grade or traditional YA book. In Breeder, this has more to do with thematic material and subject matter than mature content. What’s difficult about it in this early stage, though, is that it’s hard to know what people expect out of a book labeled as “NA.” I think many people will read Breeder and feel like, aside from the characters being 18-early 20s, it’s actually more of a YA book for content. But I think that’s okay.
Your other books are primarily fantasy—what inspired you to write a dystopian trilogy?
I’ve come to love dystopian in recent years. It kind of creeped me out when I was younger and reading books like Brave New World (and I think part of the point of books like that was to be creepy), but with the explosion of The Hunger Games onto the scene, I came to be very interested in it as a genre. Part of writing dystopian has been as a challenge to myself – to see if I can write in another genre other than fantasy – and part of it has been because as much as I’ve loved the influx of YA dystopian, I’ve been consistently disappointed with how the series I’ve read have ended. My goal is to write a dystopian trilogy that ends with a bit of hope because that’s what I’ve been craving as a reader. I feel like Breeder is a good start to that trilogy.
Was your process for Breeder any different than your process for The Gateway Chronicles, and if so, how?
My process for Breeder has been both different and similar to how I wrote The Gateway Chronicles. I’m a methodical planner, so for both series, I took copious notes (and of course I’m still taking notes for the later installments in The Breeder CycleTGC, though, because with TGC, much of my planning was sandwiched into the writing process and in between the various installments, seeing as how I released a book a year for six years. With Breeder, I planned for two years before ever setting “pen to paper” on the first draft. Also, I’m not using some of the literary devices I used on TGC with Breeder, but instead I’m going for a more mysterious, story-within-a-story approach.
Where did you come up with the idea for Breeder?
Breeder came to me as a result of an online article I read a few years ago talking about radical population control practices that are already becoming acceptable in certain academic circles. I was truly horrified by some of the measures being suggested – things along the lines of what the Nazis practiced – and my brain just started spinning. And when my brain starts spinning, I have to write, or I go a little crazy. So that’s where Breeder came from: I had to write a story about how I imagine the world would look like if the measures being suggested are put into wide practice. I think a major part of writing dystopian is instilling an intrinsic warning in your work. I would assume every author of dystopian believes that the world they are suggesting could come to be, and that certainly holds true for me. I also looked backwards, though, since I’m a historian. The practices of the ancient Spartans, the Nazis, and modern eugenicists all influenced this book. But for as dreary as all that sounds, I also recognize that the primary function of fiction is entertainment, so I’ve taken great pains to couch all the heaviness in a good, adventurous, romantic story. I hope readers will be informed and made to think, but I also hope they just flat out enjoy the story!
How did Breeder change during the editorial process? What ideas did you have originally that aren’t in the final book, or what wasn’t in the manuscript that is in the final book?
Breeder made it through the editorial process with my publishing house remarkably unaltered. Honestly, I’m used to being heavily edited, and I was astounded that my editors didn’t suggest more changes! Most of what changed was cosmetic, really, and no major cuts or additions were made. There was one scene – in which my main character, Pria, is cornered and threatened – that my editors thought we were going to have to cut because of lack of believability, but a little tweaking to the explanation of why she couldn’t tell anybody about the cornering, and suddenly it worked just fine! But, yeah, the edit on this book was so easy.
You make Pria and Pax unaware of sex and normative human relationships—why did you make this decision, and were you ever tempted to change it?
Because Pax and Pria are inhabitants of a world in which the human population is strictly controlled (and bred for quality), it only made sense to have Pria ignorant of all that stuff. All non-Breeders are sterilized at puberty, so those who are not – those chosen to be Breeders – would have to have been kept in ignorance of sexuality by the government in order to control and preserve the “perfect” human race they are trying to breed. Pria has been in the Controlled Repopulation Program since she was 13, so she hasn’t even been around any men in all that time. Sex, for Breeders in the world I’ve created, would be a huge liability, so it only made sense for her not to know anything about it. Now, as to what Pax does or does not know, I’m not going to say. His storyline is pretty mysterious in the book, and anything I could say on this front could spoil major plot points in the next two books. Having Pria – and Pax as far as we know – ignorant of all that stuff also gives me great material to work with as an author. How often do you get to start a romantic storyline there? Where both of the characters, although adults, aren’t even aware that they’re aware of each other? I love a slow build in a romantic storyline, and I love a lot of tension and mystery in a romantic storyline. I can do those things in The Breeder Cycle because of the premise I created. I think it works well in book 1, and I hope my readers agree!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
This might sound like “downer” advice, but don’t assume that you know how to write just because you can put words on the paper. There are thousands of writers out there like that! Figure out how to fine-tune your unique voice and become a writer who is known for quality over quantity. Learn the craft and be open to critical edits of your work so you can do what you do with excellence. Don’t rush off to publication as fast as you can just because you can (with how easy it is to self-publish these days). If you do that, you are going to publish a subpar product, and that’s not how you want to be known or remembered as a writer. If you demonstrate how much you value your writing in the preparation and presentation of it, your readers will value it too.
Thanks to Ms. Hoyle for her time, and her lovely team at Coffee House Press!