Thursday, May 26, 2016

International YA - think global

More than five years ago I was in an online chat with a Big Five editor discussing books. I cheekily asked about book settings, seeing as my book, DIVIDED, was set in Australia. His answer shocked me. UK or US based books should be the norm.

Say What?

The internet had broken down global boarders and Gen Y (who were the main teens at the time) were most definitely interested in other countries.

Then more recently at a book conference I was at a session on diversity in writing. It was quite clear from the conversation of the panel that the focus was on diversity in an American frame of reference. So I asked the question, "Have you ever thought about setting your books outside of America?" I was greeted by stunned silence for a few seconds until one of the panelists replied that maybe they should think about that.

The #OwnVoices moment is gaining momentum. Personally I'd like it to also be pushing for international authors to be more accepted in publishing. . In Australia out bookshelves are flooded by American books. I've noticed books with US spelling on the shelves, which doesn't help our local literacy issues. And last I read Aussie writers make on aver $4K a year. Not enough to write full-time by any means. But with the shelves crowded by non-Aussie authors, and international publishers and some agents reluctant to take on non-US clients, how is that ever going to change?

Also, #OWnVoices doesn't mean you can't set your stories in different locations. Having a US character in a different country is a great way to take diversity to the next level.

The Millenials are thinking globally. And publishing should be responding to that. Check out their top twenty dream destinations if you want some writing inspiration for locations.

There are so many places stories could be set other than the US and UK, and readers want to read them. Publishers need to catch up. And some are. Here's a list of recommendations I crowd sourced for some of the best internationally set YA stories.

  • Good Oil 
  • Wander Love 
  • Written in the Stars
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone
  • Anna and the French Kiss
  • Just One Day
  • Just One Year
  • The Reader
  • The Star Touched Queen
  • The Wrath and the Dawn
  • Orchards (Upper MG)
  • Shadows
  • Jellico Road
  • Wonderlost
  • Alt to the Sea
  • Da Vinci's Tiger
  • Like Water On Stone
  • Up From the Sea
  • The Girl Who Borrowed Wings
  • Silver Phoenix
  • Serpentine
  • The Good Braider
  • Threatened
  • The Islands at the End of the World (Hawaiian - but focused on their culture)
  • The Girl at the Centre of the World (Hawaiian - but focused on their culture)
Add your recommendations in the comments and I'll add it to the list!

Sharon is a proud Aussie who writes Sci Fi and other weird stories. Her NA Divided is set in her state capital, Brisbane. 


  1. Great write! I'm often afraid to go outside my comfort zone here in the US because I've never really traveled and even with research it's hard to get the "pulse" of the place. But I love reading those.
    Poisonwood bible (Africa)
    The Good Earth (Asia)
    Tomorrow When the War Began (Austrailia)
    The Kite Runner (Middle East)
    The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
    Number The Stars

    So so many amazing books with so much
    culture and history! thanks for the great thoughts today!

    1. Thanks so much for adding your recommendations!

  2. I'm from Bangladesh and almost everyone in the Western world confuse my country with India because we have similar (but not identical) cultures. Last year I attempted to write a short story set in the rural setting of my country and most critiques from a beta reading site weren't the type I expected. Not negative, just not enough enthusiasm to read more stories set in exotic settings. It made me sad, ������

    1. What a shame. But remember not everyone will be like that. Personally I love finding out about new cultures.

  3. Really interesting Sharon....all three of mine are set in Australia, but I was intrigued to receive conflicting responses from agents, ranging from "I love anything Australian" to one who recently stated "Australia is a hard sell" (don't tell Croc Dundee!) and another well-respected agent who said "I wonder if you should strive to get it published in Australia first." Strewth mate, do we speak a different language or sumfing?

    1. Definitely conflicting views from agents. I recently heard that Australians are the biggest consumers of YA, and we purchase more books per capita than any other country. Makes sense to focus on this market to me.