I still can’t decide if the Cousin Cycle is a marketing nightmare or story-telling genius. Maybe it’s a little of both. When I began writing the Cousin Cycle i had no idea what the perils would be, i only saw what an intriguing idea it would be to focus severally the impact of the events of one year on an extended family of cousins rather than on one gendered protagonist.
Rashomon as my model
Granted, I didn’t exactly invent the format of one story written from a number of points of view. After all, Rashomon was an early model I admired. But the concept of multiple realities fascinates me because of the complexity imbedded in the relationships I see around me everyday.
In my books of the Cousin Cycle, the same events are seen by different characters in each story as having different values, even different meanings. While some narrators are searingly accurate, others turn out to be fairly unreliable, but it often takes reading the next book to discover this. Here’s the layout:
- The protagonist of The Hoarders is a 10-year-old boy, so its market would be the independent reader age 9-12.
- The protagonist of Balance is a 12-year-old girl, thus a coming-of-age novel for the middle grade reader.
- Regrets Tree on Fire has a16-year-old boy as narrator, thus another YA book.
- How Not to Cry in Public & Other Victories is a YA book with a 17-year-old female protagonist.
While the four books do not require being read in any particular order to understand the plots and characters, I think the family tales unfold in an engaging manner when they are read beginning with the most innocent eyes and continuing on in the order of increasing age and sophistication. The intertwining plots become more complicated and the implications more intriguing as the increasing maturity of the narrators enables a more sophisticated analysis of the events of this year.
How reliable is one person’s view of anything?
As I wrote these intergenerational stories, the matter of the unreliable narrator became a dominant perspective to explore. As a reader goes through the various volumes in the series, s/he begins to realize that what felt like the whole story in the last book, is really only a little slice of a much broader picture that begins to emerge in the next.
My four books in the Cousin Cycle explore how the current generation responds to the value systems of their Gen-Me parents, who in turn were raised by a different set of values by Boomer grand-parents causing tension throughout the family. While the impact of extended family is central, other values of contemporary North American culture are also explored: from sex to cell phones, from non-communication to constant texting, from cruel acts to the sublimity of genuine love. These uncertainties add tension and drama at every turn.
Who Is My Audience?
Then I discovered that many of my most avid fans were adults. I was truly stunned by this fact because then I had to question myself as to who is my audience? Not only had I written a cycle of stories focusing three different age marketing levels for young people, but also I had a series of novels on my hands that were being read by adults.
After I settled into the fact and thought about it awhile, the adult interest in my books began to make sense. To some extent, much of the current commercial fiction seems to be repellant to a certain slice of the adult reading audience. Their response has been to turn to YA fiction. The large number of movies currently made from YA fiction would be strong evidence. My Cousin Cycle books are very much written for this audience.
All in all, I’m glad to have a multi-age readership. I’ll do my best to help you find my books, and to write the stories that matter to you.