Today's guest post comes from the desk of Amanda Rutter, former blogger at Floor To Ceiling Books and current editor of Strange Chemistry, the forthcoming young adult imprint from Angry Robot Books. Amanda graciously agreed to write about how Buffy has influenced her acquisitions.
In 1998 my boyfriend-at-the-time and I were enjoying an evening in when he insisted on changing the channel to this daftly-titled TV show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was the first episode of Season 3, and I complained vigorously at being forced to watch it. By the end of that first episode I was utterly gripped, especially with that shattering ending where Angel appears – although I had no clue at all about who Angel was or his previous history with Buffy. By the end of the week I had picked up Season 1 and rushed through it, and so my addiction started! Since then I’ve been an ardent fan of this series – and the reason for this guest post is to tell you how that appreciation for Buffy the Vampire Slayer has affected my acquisitions process as an editor.
One of the key things I look for in a manuscript is a strong central character – and I definitely compare a lot of protagonists to Buffy (whether male or female). Are they strong yet vulnerable? Do they have effective motivations for their actions? Is their story one that people will become invested in? Are they a typical teen, yet also one with secrets or powers or duties that rest heavy on their shoulders?
Taking it a step further, and considering I deal with YA novels: is their story a metaphor for what life is going to bring? Does the story deal with both the central character and any ensemble cast equally and with sympathy for subplots and background themes?
The main comparison I draw with Buffy when looking at new manuscripts is down to the language used. BtVS introduced a style of snappy dialogue, with effective pop culture references, and sarcasm by the bucketload. For me, it epitomised the way that teenagers will often look at life and became a massive part of the appeal of the show.
Let’s look at some of the manuscripts I’ve taken on:
- Poltergeeks – this novel completely captures the snark of Buffy herself in the form of the central protagonist Julie Richardson; the best friend Marcus can be very effectively compared to Xander Harris; the exploration of witchiness has echoes of Willow starting out on her road.
- Katya’s World – the development of the main character Katya from beginning of novel to end, as she begins to realise what adult life means, is very similar to Buffy’s ARC in Season 5 and 6.
- Broken – the doomed relationship between Buffy and Angel has a huge parallel with the events in this book.
- The Holders – the relationship between the siblings here, the loyalty that Becca shows towards her brother, really struck a chord in terms of how Buffy deals with threats to her friends and family.
As you can see, Buffy was a huge influence on me and the way I judge how female characters should be portrayed, how friendships should be shown, how language can be used. For me, it was a defining moment of TV and to use it, even in some way, to pick manuscripts seems like a great way to recognise the legacy it’s created.
Thank you, Amanda!
Strange Chemistry launches this September with BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond and SHIFT by Kim Curran. You can bet I'll be reviewing both as we approach their release date!
Back In the Day: