Dare I Write a YA Western?


Dear Lorie…

If the scuttlebutt at ALA Midwinter this month was on target, there are signs of vampire fatigue in the young adult marketplace. So maybe a western would be more intriguing to editors now than it would’ve been, say, a year or two ago. Still, because kids aren’t racing into bookstores shouting, “Where’s the YA western section?!,” pitching your project as a straight “western” may not be your best bet. Is your story anything else? That is, have you got an unusual love story, or some historical angle, or a plot twist that can be your hook? I’ve edited two great YAs that have a “western feel”: Much Ado About Grubstake by Jean Ferris and Billy the Kid: A Novel by Theodore Taylor. Both are something besides westerns. The first is a quirky story about a girl who yearns for the exciting life she sees in her “penny dreadful” novels—and gets it. It pokes fun at the conventions of cheap melodrama. Fans of “quirky” love it, which is exactly how it was positioned. Taylor’s is a gun-slinging, dusty, horsey, train-robbing western, no doubt about it, but the fresh take on Billy the Kid was the hook of choice. Beyond the genre and setting, what’s the hook of your story? That’s what I’d pitch, with the western part being the context.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. Very insightful, and another good tip..the twist. A good story seems to need to reach the reader on more than one level. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, write it. But remember, that anything that is “different” often is harder to sell. With your story in mind, go to the bookstore. Try to find out where it would fit on the shelf. If you want to make it easier on yourself, try to figure out how to modify it (as suggested above) in order to fit.

  3. Lorie: I certainly think it’s worth a try, especially if you love the story and the characters. I totally agree though that it will need to be more than a straight western, but adding layers and a twist are what make it so much fun!

    Personally, I’ll be glad when the vampires are all dead.

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