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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review of The More the Merrier by Liwen Ho



I loved The More theMerrier by Liwen Ho and I wished it were longer! I know, I know, it’s called a ‘short story’ for a reason, but I really wanted to get to know the characters even more and delve into their lives. Liwen did a great job with character development, because I feel like I can really picture them in body & mind. I loved the ‘boy next door’ aspect of the story and how they were best friends before they fell in love. The best person to fall in love with is your best friend! I asked Liwen about the title because I was a little confused by it. Other than the cute reference to ice cream at the end, I wasn’t sure what she meant by the more the merrier. She told me that it’s in reference to the ‘more’ that Barry brings to Alyssa’s life in terms of fun and a different perspective on life. In other words, there’s more to life than money and status. She’s so right about that! I look forward to reading more stories by Liwen. Have you read The More the Merrier by Liwen Ho? What’s your opinion? –Julie L. Spencer

Interview with the Author: Liwen Ho

I recently had the opportunity to interview Liwen Ho and review her short story called The More the Merrier. She and I connected through an online community at www.CleanIndieReads.com because we both write books that fall into the New Adult (18-30 year old characters) genre/category and we’re trying to connect with other authors who write ‘clean’ stories.

The New Adult genre has been notorious for novels that have been a little risqué and those of us who write in this category are trying to change that perception. I personally write stories that are New Adult Contemporary Christian Romance, but Liwen Ho’s stories are more New Adult Contemporary Clean Romance.

I loved The More the Merrier, and I’ll include a book review at the bottom of this post, but first I want to focus on Liwen and her experience with writing New Adult fiction.

Julie: Did you know that the New Adult genre existed (characters in the 18-30 year old age range)?
Liwen: I don’t think I knew about the NA genre until after I published my first novella in 2014. When I did find out about it my impression was that it was specifically for books written about college-aged characters, but now I know the range extends to 30 year olds, too (my books feature characters in their 20s).

Julie: Did you purposefully write your novel(s) as NA? or did they just happen that way?
Liwen: I do intend for the characters in my books to be in their 20s because I really enjoyed my 20s (AKA, my life before kids!). That decade of life is so full of opportunities for personal growth, which in turn provides lots of good ideas for stories.

Julie: How many NA novels do you have available for purchase right now? How about in the works?
Liwen: I have two novellas in my Taking Chances series and one winter-themed short story available on Amazon.com. I’m currently working on the third novella in the series, which I’m super excited about sharing with readers.

Julie: What has inspired you to write NA novels?
Liwen: When I need inspiration for a book (or a reminder of what it’s like to be young again!), I watch a teen/young adult TV show or movie. I also love music (including teen pop), and listen to romantic songs while I write.

Julie: Do you have other genres that you write as well?
Liwen: I am working on a sci-fi/romance book with my hubby (and putting our marriage to the test! haha), which will be my first in that genre. I also have one children’s picture e-book out called A Rainbow of Nine Colors.

Julie: Do you publish through a traditional publisher or as an independent?
Liwen: I am an indie author and do all my own publishing and marketing, although I do have a wonderful designer who makes my book covers.

Julie: What do you find is the best way to advertise your books?
Liwen: The best way I’ve found to advertise my books is through social media. I recently participated in a couple of author meet and greets online that were organized by different writer groups I’m a part of on Facebook. They were great opportunities to meet potential readers and introduce them to my books.

Julie: Do you have a blog that readers can follow? A website? Both?
Liwen: I have a blog, www.2square2behip.com, where I write about my life as a recovering perfectionist. I’m also active on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/2square2behip/ and semi-active on Twitter: @2square2behip

Julie: Give us a ‘back cover’ description of your book:
Liwen: Here’s the back cover description for my book, The More The Merrier:

Fed up with a string of bad blind dates, health blogger Alyssa Wu just wants to drown her sorrows in ice cream. But there’s one more evening she must endure - a fake date with her best friend Barry Chang. They must convince her family they are in love, an act which may (or may not) be easy to pull off, thanks to the magic of some mistletoe.

This 10,000 word short story is perfect for your lunch break, workout or while you wait in line at the mall. Read it today to get in the Christmas spirit any time of the year! 

Julie: I was confused about the title. Other than the cute reference to ice cream on the last page, was there other significance to it?
Liwen: Regarding the title, it also references the "more" that Barry brings to Alyssa's life in terms of fun and a different perspective on life (i.e. There's more to life than money and status).

Julie: That really helps! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with my readers. I enjoyed reading The More the Merrier and look forward to reading more of your stories!
Liwen: Thank you for reaching out in the CIR group and for this opportunity! It's so nice to meet another NA romance author!

###



Book Review of The More the Merrier by Liwen Ho

I loved The More the Merrier by Liwen Ho and I wished it were longer! I know, I know, it’s called a ‘short story’ for a reason, but I really wanted to get to know the characters even more and delve into their lives. Liwen did a great job with character development, because I feel like I can really picture them in body & mind. I loved the ‘boy next door’ aspect of the story and how they were best friends before they fell in love. The best person to fall in love with is your best friend! I asked Liwen about the title because I was a little confused by it. Other than the cute reference to ice cream at the end, I wasn’t sure what she meant by the more the merrier. She told me that it’s in reference to the ‘more’ that Barry brings to Alyssa’s life in terms of fun and a different perspective on life. In other words, there’s more to life than money and status. She’s so right about that! I look forward to reading more stories by Liwen. Have you read The More the Merrier by Liwen Ho? What’s your opinion? –Julie L. Spencer

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What Is New Adult Contemporary Christian Genre?

What is the New Adult (NA) Contemporary Christian genre all about, and why am I embracing it? To say ‘I found my niche’ is an understatement! I’ve been writing in this category for years but just didn’t know it existed. Then I found out that it didn’t exist prior to about 2012, and still barely exists!

When people ask me what genre my novels fall into, I have always struggled. Well, they’re at a Young Adult (YA) reading level with a very mature theme and college-age characters, but they’re also very Christian-themed books. They don’t really fit into the YA genre because they involve adult physical relationships. You can pretend to be shocked if you want, but (newsflash) even Christians have sex! Preferably after marriage, but that too brings up real-life struggles of the difficulty of staying chaste prior to marriage, especially in a world that criticizes that very pretense. It’s not the easiest thing to accomplish, and I address that in several of my novels, possibly all of them.

A few days ago I asked a question on one of my online communities (on Facebook) about how to get a book published in that general description, and someone pointed out that my book probably falls into the category of New Adult (NA) rather than YA. I didn’t know such a thing existed, so I started doing some research. It turns out that my novels fit the category almost perfectly!

By the way, the readers of NA fiction are not necessarily new adults (in that age range)! I’ll explore that later in this blog post, but first let’s examine what makes a novel fit into this category. These are according to Deborah Halverson in her book Writing New Adult Fiction.

Here are the nine traits that distinguish NA fiction from teen fiction or fiction for adults:
(Those of you who already read my novels will be nodding your head reading each of these!)

  1. Main characters between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five (although some online communities claim 18-30 is the age range)
  2. Themes related to identity establishment (characters learning who they are and what they want out of life)
  3. Independence as a story driver (characters learning to take responsibility for themselves, their own actions, and their problems)
  4. A self-focused perspective (new adults are often focused on their own needs, wants, dreams, and interests)
  5. Heightened sense of change & instability (this stage in life is naturally full of change)
  6. Clash of high expectations and harsh reality (optimistic characters who aim big and mess up even bigger!)
  7. Peer-heavy social circles (parents are nearly out of the story, peers become the new ‘family’)
  8. Significant romances (beyond the ‘first kiss’ of teen years, these relationships are intense, often include marriage and sex)
  9. New adult relevant circumstances (may include temporary living arrangements, short-term jobs, fluid social circles, unfamiliar activities and settings, and financial stress)

If you’ve read my books, you are probably already aware that they are indeed New Adult novels! But, from where did this NA category originate? Crossover readers became writers! What is a crossover reader, you ask? Basically, the same group of readers who propelled the Twilight series and Harry Potter series into superstardom.

Crossover readers, as defined by publishing market research firm Bowker in September of 2012 were 18 years or older, purchasing YA books for themselves, not to give as a gift to a teen. The largest segment of these readers were thirty- to forty-four-year-olds. Simple escapism is cited as the reason for their choosing these stories, as well as nostalgia for a simpler time in their lives.

When crossover readers ran out of Twilight novels (the series ended, I know, we’re all still crying!) they started writing stories that they wanted to read. That’s exactly what happened to me! I wrote The Cove in the summer of 2011, before this genre even existed! No wonder I couldn’t define its genre or convince a publishing company to embrace it!

The largest group of readers of NA fiction are that same crossover audience that took YA to the top of the industry, with college-age readers coming in second, and some advanced teen readers bringing up the rear. My readership includes all of those and more. I have a lot of teens who love my novels, several people who are old enough to be my mother who love my stories, and everything in between.

What about the Contemporary Christian aspect? Pretty much all of my novels include my church! It’s as simple as that. You write about what you know and it’s difficult to separate yourself from your core values. My core values include my walk with Christ, and my membership in my church. Take it or leave it. I am who I am.

So, I’m working on forming communities of like-minded readers and writers so that we can enjoy each others’ stories. I’m also very open to stories that are not Christian, as long as they are clean. If I run into the ‘F’ word even once in a book, it’s going back on the shelf. Sorry. If I run into explicit sexual details, I will not read that book. I believe that physical relationships are very sacred and very special. Lovemaking between a husband and wife is almost an extension of God’s love. Anything less than that is demeaning. Sorry, that’s my opinion.

So, where do I go from here? Now that I know that my fiction has a home, I’m learning all I can about it and will be completely reevaluating my novels. This may take a little time, and I’m open for all kinds of input from you, my readers, family and friends. If you’ve already read my novels and want to help me revise them, give me your feedback! What did you like? Hate? Wish I would change? Because now’s the time to do that! If you have not read my novels, would you like to? Several of my novels are not yet published and I can give you sample chapters that you can read and provide your opinions. I value opinions!

My study about New Adult fiction will involve a book I found called Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson. I’ll update my blog as I come across interesting details that I want to share! Would you like to come with me on this journey of discovery? What’s your opinion? - Julie L. Spencer

Want to read my New Adult Contemporary Christian novels?