So here's the thing: pop culture in YA can be kind of a hot button. Some people think that referencing a popular actress or hit song immediately dates a book -- and I can't argue with that. If I set out tomorrow to write a book, whether it's YA contemporary or adult horror, I'm probably not going to talk about my protagonist's addiction to Ke$ha. No matter how catchy Ke$ha's music is. I mean, I have no idea which pop stars are going to be remembered just two years from now (which, even if my book sold the day I finished it, is probably about how long it would take for the novel to hit stores), let alone five or ten years.
|Do you watch your fave|
shows with your friends?
I aspire to write characters that feel like your friends, your family. I like it when I'm inside a character's head and I can see what she likes and how she relates to her world. If my character is an audiophile, you can bet she's going to relate to her world through her favorite bands. If my character is a musician, she'll probably talk about her influences. If my character loves fashion, she's definitely going to describe clothing in terms of style icons. For some, it might cut it to make up names. This doesn't always work for me.
So when is it too much pop culture? I think it comes down to context. If I can talk about a band from 1994 that you don't know about, and make you feel like you know why it's important, does that work for you? If my book takes place in 1980, is it more obnoxious to have my character reference made up movies and fashion icons, or to talk about real ones that you don't know much about?
Like all things, I think pop culture in literature is about balance. And like all writing, there's got to be a reason for anything an author puts into a book, whether it's violence or a sex scene or swear words or a sub plot or your character's iPod playlist. I mean, if I can go again to HIGH FIDELITY, that book simply wouldn't have been right without all the real pop culture infusion it showcased. Music is what makes that book work. As a reader, what makes a music-y, pop-culture-y book work for you?