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Christina Meldrum | When a Plot and Its Characters Collide
Uncategorized / June 16, 2008

How does a writer create a story with a compelling plot AND compelling characters? This was a question I asked myself throughout my writing of Madapple (Knopf), my debut novel. Released last month, Madapple is a crossover novel intended for older teens and adults. Part literary mystery, part psychological thriller, I knew the success of Madapple would depend at least in part on my ability to devise a page-turning plot acted out by well-developed characters. I expected this would be difficult, because often novels provide either an intricate plot or complex, richly developed characters. Rarely does a novel provide both. But why? But why? As I was writing, I quickly realized why. An intricate plot makes demands on its characters, requiring them to act according to its mandates, which may well be inconsistent with what turns out to be any given character’s inclinations. I’m referring to characters as if they are alive, I know—as if they have inclinations separate from an author’s intent. Well, I think they do sometimes: the characters of Madapple certainly did. As an author, I may have given birth to my characters but, like children, my characters seemed to have minds of their own. My plot…

Christina Meldrum | MADAPPLE: What is a “crossover” book?
Uncategorized / April 7, 2008

My first novel, MADAPPLE, is coming out this May from Alfred A. Knopf. The publisher sent out advance copies of MADAPPLE to book buyers and reviewers. A surprisingly large number of these readers have asked me: “Why is this a teen book?” “Did you write it for teens?” “Shouldn’t the book be categorized as adult fiction?” Truth be told, I didn’t write MADAPPLE for a specific audience. I just wrote the book I wanted to write. My editor sees MADAPPLE as a “crossover” book—that is, a book that spans the genres of adult literary fiction and young adult (“YA”). Yet, because of the way the publishing industry works, the book must be categorized as one genre or the other. Hence, it is being marketed as YA with the hope that it will reach adults as well. When I was a teenager, J.D. Salinger, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Hermann Hesse, Harper Lee and Sylvia Plath were among my favorite authors. I was captivated by the antics of Harper Lee’s Scout. I identified with Salinger’s Franny. Were these authors thought of as YA authors? No. Yet, today, I think some of their books certainly would be categorized as YA. The question: Does it matter?…