He wears a leather jacket, he skips school to look pensive leaning against walls and he’s always carrying a deep secret. This is Brooding Young Adult Hero — a parody account that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and insightful as its protagonist calls out the all too common tropes of YA fiction. Brooding Young Adult Hero’s amazing creator, Carrie Ann, is a writer from Pittsburgh who originally created the account as an inside joke and then watched in awe as it gained more than 20,000 followers. She’s also a social media/marketing intern for an amazing indie film called Progression! I caught up with Carrie to talk about how Brooding YA Hero came about, some of her personal pet peeves in YA books, being followed by Jodi Picoult and the awesome qualities of fanfiction.
HelloGiggles: First, where did the idea for the Brooding Young Adult Hero account come from? Was it something you thought about for a while or did it just start out as a fun little sideline?
Carrie Ann: There was absolutely no thinking about it before I made the account. It was a Saturday night and I was stuck home studying (I’m in grad school), and I thought the account would make my fellow writer friends laugh. So it was almost an inside joke, basically!
HG: When did it start to take off? I mean, you now have 20k+ followers! So when did you start to realize, “Oh, this is becoming really popular!”
CA: Ha ha! Well, the first week he was right around 1,000 followers. But then book editors and agents started retweeting him (I call the account a “he” —it’s easier that way!) and it just took off! I started the account in February and by May, I realized he was something the Internet had sort of latched onto.
HG: Were you surprised that this account that had originally been sort of something for just you and your friends suddenly seemed to resonate with quite a lot of people?
CA: I was shocked! There’s a weird pressure about being funny — it’s not easy to do it on demand. So, I have to still think of it as just a tiny account when I’m composing tweets. If I started thinking, “Oh, over 15,000 people, including Jodi Picoult, are expecting me to be funny,” I’d choke and not come up with anything.
HG: I remember when I was a young teen fanfic author, for ages, nobody read anything I wrote and so it was just a fun little escape, but when people started reading it, it almost became something I felt like I had to do.
CA: But exactly. It’s like fanfic too, in that it can be really fun to get interactions from people (for fanfic, it’s reviews, for Broody, it’s comments and retweets), but it’s important to me to not do it FOR that buzz. My favorite thing is honestly when regular, normal people tell me that they were having a bad day and Broody’s tweets made them laugh.
HG: Also, JODI PICOULT FOLLOWS YOU? I am officially immediately jealous.
CA: Ha ha, yeah! I called my mom about that follower!HG: Do you ever think there’s a serious undertone to BYAH? There’ve been several tweets that reference a trend of YA heroes not acknowledging girls’ personal space, etc. While it’s first and foremost a comedy account, do you think it has a serious point to make in highlighting less healthy attitudes in literature?
CA: Oh, totally. I love YA and write it myself. But I do think there are some unhealthy trends that people have been following for years and years without ever thinking about the implications.
HG: There are times when it definitely seems that there are unfair standards being pushed onto girls in YA — particularly with the trend of them HAVING to be in a relationship to be happy, which is unfortunately pretty prevalent.
CA: Exactly! There are so few books where a girl has a complete adventure, plot, novel without any romantic interactions! Sure, I understand it’s fun to write kissing scenes and romantic heroes, but it also feels like we’re giving the message to teen girls that no matter what they do, if they don’t have a boyfriend, they’re not doing enough — which is totally untrue, of course! So, as much as I hope Broody’s tweets make people laugh, I also hope that they might make readers and writers think a little bit about some of the tropes that we take for granted. But like I always say, not all tropes are bad. Some of my favourite YA books have a very brooding YA hero, complete with leather jacket and emotional issues. Sorry, long answer!
HG: No problem, long question! I think that as long as teens are telling the difference between fantasy and reality (which most can, to be honest), there’s no harm with them enjoying brooding, tortured guys in fiction. It’s just that in real life, those tortured, brooding guys are less likely to be interesting in leather jackets and are more likely to bring a lot of stress into life.
CA: And I think teens are smart enough to tell the difference. But I think it would be nice to see a wide variety of relationships in YA.
HG: Yeah, I think we don’t see enough nice guys who are also interesting. Often, it seems like so much effort is put on making them “nice guys,” that they kind of fail at having any other personality trait.
CA: Exactly! Or they’re “nice guys” who are paired with some completely unrealistic, perfect, poetic girl!
HG: Have you heard of the book Solitaire by Alice Oseman? That’s a brilliant YA novel that has a nice-guy hero who’s also three-dimensional and interesting, and a lack of emphasis on romance.
CA: Oooh! I’ll add it to my list! As a tall girl myself, my pet peeve is always how the YA guys are taller than the girls!
HG: Are there any YA male heroes that particularly influenced the development of BYAH? Or, if you don’t want to reference any particular characters, any particular genre of YA that you feel’s a big culprit in perpetuating the stereotype?
CA: Ha, I shall never name names! And actually, I feel so strange when people call out certain works with his tweets! Half the time, I haven’t read the book or seen the show! Broody is actually pretty much in all YA genres, though; that’s one of the strange things about those tropes. They’re in YA fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary — even a lot of TV shows.
HG: Reversing that question, are there any male heroes you particularly like that you feel completely defy the stereotype of BYAH?
CA: Hmm. Stephanie Perkins is amazing at writing non-cliched guys, as is Kristin Cashore in high-fantasy. Plus, one of my favourite book series is Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, where the girl main character slowly realizes dating a really attractive, boring dude she has nothing in common with isn’t all that great. I could go on and on about YA books I love all day so I’ll stop there! Oh and Song Of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson! The main character is a lot like Brooding YA Hero — he’s handsome and rich, but he’s also deaf (as is his whole family) and the novel really gives him a chance to be his own unique, dynamic person. It’s that sort of thing I love — accepting that there are tropes in fiction but finding ways to make them interesting and new again.
HG: How long have you wanted to be a writer?
CA: Oh man. I’ve been writing since I knew how to make letters. I think the first story I remember writing was in first grade and featured me and Han Solo from Star Wars going Christmas shopping together. Which is funny, since Han is a bit of a brooding hero himself. Clearly, I have a type!
HG: That literally reminds me of my first attempt at writing Lemony Snicket fanfiction when I was eight. There are obviously a lot of comedy/parody accounts on Twitter — are there any others that you particularly follow/like?
CA: I really love @guyinyourmfa and @tropeheroine (she’s from romance novels). Those were the only two I knew about before making Broody. Other than that, I honestly sort of ignore all the other accounts. I don’t want my humor influenced by theirs. But I’m all for any account that makes people laugh!
HG: @guyinyourmfa is one of my absolute favorites because it’s hilarious, but also highlights a real issue of privilege and entitlement and some of the double standards leveled against women in literature.
CA: Exactly! There was even one time a guy mansplained the humor of Guy In Your MFA to the creator of the account (who is a woman), which is also an interesting side note about how humor is assumed to be sort of a guy’s thing.
HG: There is a lot of invisibility for women in comedy, because of the obviously incorrect assumption that men are better at being funny.
CA: Exactly. Or women are only allowed to be funny about “lady things.”
HG: Do you have any advice for people thinking about launching their own parody Twitter account?
CA: Hmm. For parody accounts, I think it’s important to understand and love what you’re making fun of. It’s not done out of hate but out of a gentle poking-fun at the genre. I also believe in putting the creator’s name in the bio (like I do and so does @guyinyourmfa) so that there’s a bit of accountability to it. There was a particularly mean parody account and with no name in the bio, people thought I was the one behind it! Regardless, the account isn’t up anymore. But yeah, it’s very strange being in charge of something so well-known, and so hard to explain to people not on Twitter! My mom had tried to explain it to an older family member who then turned to me and said, “So you think you’re a man….on the Internet…and you talk to teenage girls?”
HG: Do you have any personal favorite Brooding YA Hero tweets?
CA: Ohh. Hmm, like a mom of a toddler, I think everything he says is brilliant! Just kidding — I can’t tell you which tweet, but there was one calling out a trope (not a bad trope, just an impractical one) I caught in a favorite book of mine. Then the author of THAT book retweeted the tweet with the caption, “Guilty.” That was really funny.
HG: I like to end with an either/or question so: Early bird or night owl?
CA: Night owl! Thank you for the wonderful interview — I’m sure I’ll be seeing your books on shelves very soon!
HG: Give Broody all our love!
You can read the angsty thoughts of Brooding YA Hero on Twitter at @broodingYAhero. You can also find Carrie Ann on Twitter at @writercarrie and find her website at creativelycarrie.com ! You can also check out Progression at http://www.progressionmovie.com/
(Image via Summit Entertainment.)