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Content and age appropriateness?

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message 1: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) The Ghosts of the Past (Peers of Beinan, #2) by Laurel A. Rockefeller


I would like to discuss content in our books and age appropriateness. Our moderator wisely lists an age appropriateness field when submitting an ebook for review. But I find that subject somewhat confusing, maybe because I am getting old (or feel old, anyway; I actually remember Star Wars before it was "a new hope.").


At what age can you allude to sex or discuss sexual violence in a book? At what age can you talk about terrorism and murder?

None of my books get all that explicit (the final scenes of Ghosts of the Past, maybe -- but for very good plot reasons which I will not give away). It's more of a fade-out sort of treatment. But yes, there is sex in my books; Ghosts of the Past takes place over FOUR generations and about 2000 Earth years (a Beinarian year, called a yen-ar, is equal to three Earth years; Beinarians live to between 300 and 400 yen-ars).

People in my books go through courtship, marry, and have children. In both book one, Great Succession Crisis, and book two, Ghosts of the Past, I have childbirth scenes with adolescent mothers having very difficult deliveries of their children.

Can a 14 year old handle that? Can they handle rape or domestic violence?

How do we grade content in our books?


message 2: by JJ (new)

JJ Holding That is a very interesting point and i think it comes down to the individual

one 14 year old may be able to handle that but another may not.

i would be interested in hearing othert peoples points of view on this matter.

i think it may also be an idea to add warnings on review books (sexual content, violence ect.)


message 3: by Brandy (new)

Brandy | 131 comments I think it also depends on the reader. What I find even more interesting (or frustrating) is common in movies. I noticed it watching Urban Legend edited for TV. They removed the sex scene but none of the violent scenes. Why is it wrong for children to view pleasurable (love, sex, lust passion,etc) but not violence? I think that is backwards. Then again, to be fair, I don't have kids.


message 4: by JJ (new)

JJ Holding I for one would rather my children see Sex than violence in Movies, TV Shows and Books its a natural part of life.
I have never understood the shyness when it comes to sex.


message 5: by Brandy (new)

Brandy | 131 comments I don't understand it either.


message 6: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) What about the subject of a woman being raped by a villain in order to humiliate her or to taint her reputation? Anyone who knows history knows that this used to be (is) a pretty common way to hurt an enemy (Queen Boudica of a Celtic tribe called the Iceni [modern East Central England] and her daughters were raped by Romans for this purpose).

At what age can you talk about sexual violence and the way it's been used to control, humiliate, and hurt women? How and when do we start that conversation?


message 7: by Brandy (new)

Brandy | 131 comments Personally, I think that is another "depends on the reader," situation. I think (if I had kids) that if they are old enough to hear the sex talk they are old enough to understand the ways that it has been used for violence. I think it is an important lesson for people to learn and understand. It's a part of women's history and women's studies--unfortunately.


message 8: by Brandy (new)

Brandy | 131 comments I just have a hard time telling someone something is/is not appropriate for their child. A friend asked me if her daughter could read my book and I didn't have a good answer for her. It does have sex (and violence) but I read stuff like that at her daughter's age (13). I finally just told her that she should read it first and decide that. I think it is import as an author to indicate the content of the book (even some adults don't want to read about sex and violence) but I don't feel it's my place for me to make that decision for anyone else. or their children.


message 9: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna Leo (rosanna_leo) Well, mine are romance, so there will always be a sex content to some extent. I don't have a problem with listing content, because even in romance there is a huge variety. If it helps someone make that decision, great. However, I'd hope that anyone who glimpses the bare chests on my covers understands... ;)


message 10: by JJ (new)

JJ Holding I have to say people seem to be more open to reading (and admitting to) books with sex now many people i know love erotic books yet a few years ago you wouldn't have found them touching anything like that.


message 11: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna Leo (rosanna_leo) Paranormal wrote: "I have to say people seem to be more open to reading (and admitting to) books with sex now many people i know love erotic books yet a few years ago you wouldn't have found them touching anything li..."

Haha- I work in a library as well as writing, and I have little old ladies who come to me asking for 50 Shades. I've had to educate one or two! LOL


message 12: by Brandy (new)

Brandy | 131 comments Rosanna wrote: "Paranormal wrote: "I have to say people seem to be more open to reading (and admitting to) books with sex now many people i know love erotic books yet a few years ago you wouldn't have found them t..."

That is both awesome and awkward haha


message 13: by JJ (new)

JJ Holding Rosanna wrote: "Paranormal wrote: "I have to say people seem to be more open to reading (and admitting to) books with sex now many people i know love erotic books yet a few years ago you wouldn't have found them t..."

lol i have a 9 year old sister who was asking me if she could borrow 50 shades. now i have nothing against children reading about sex as it is natural but i thought that book was far to much.


message 14: by Brandy (new)

Brandy | 131 comments haha Yeah, I think you gotta draw a line somewhere.


message 15: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna Leo (rosanna_leo) Brandy wrote: "Rosanna wrote: "Paranormal wrote: "I have to say people seem to be more open to reading (and admitting to) books with sex now many people i know love erotic books yet a few years ago you wouldn't h..."

Most of the old ladies say, "Is THAT what it's about?? Sign me up!"


message 16: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna Leo (rosanna_leo) Paranormal wrote: "Rosanna wrote: "Paranormal wrote: "I have to say people seem to be more open to reading (and admitting to) books with sex now many people i know love erotic books yet a few years ago you wouldn't h..."

Yeah perhaps 9 is a teensy bit too immature for Christian Grey!


message 17: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) 50 shades is very hyped and talked about in the media. As much press as that book has received, I think it's almost natural that a 9 year old would be curious. But heck, I would not feel comfortable reading that book for myself -- at 41! I think that is why the earlier remark I read about authors simply labeling what is and is not in their books and then letting parents decide makes sense. Book two now mentions there is sexual violence (one of my mind-healers is raped by the head of "parliament" for political gain). It is not overly graphic, but it is certainly there to make a point.

In my books, villains have no conscience against rape whereas my heroes defend and help survivors of rape -- or are survivors themselves, bravely coping and resisting in their own ways.

In this, I am drawing upon women's history and the terrible reality that far too many of us even today have to deal with. To be a noble woman is, in many ways, to be a target for predatory sexual politics.

Can I, as a history-grounded author, really tell an honest story about feudal politics and women in feudal politics, without that specter coming up?


message 18: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna Leo (rosanna_leo) Laurel wrote: "50 shades is very hyped and talked about in the media. As much press as that book has received, I think it's almost natural that a 9 year old would be curious. But heck, I would not feel comforta..."

Probably not, Laurel. Look at books like Pillars of the Earth...not erotic or romantic in the true sense, but definitely had some of the same subject matter. The female character was raped in that story, and she is not alone. It is a tragic part of our history, and one most kids will learn about once they study history.


message 19: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Brandy wrote: "I just have a hard time telling someone something is/is not appropriate for their child. A friend asked me if her daughter could read my book and I didn't have a good answer for her. It does have..."

I agree, I rate mine as 18+ to be on the safe side as it does contain fairly explicit sex scenes, is violent including rape, although this is not glorified, violence against women (which also is not condoned but is part of the plot and is part of the world there). However if someone below the age of 18 wishes to read it I would suggest a parent views it first.

I look at it this way... would I want a child of mine to read it (hard for me as I don't have any). My niece wanted to read it and I said no but my sister who had read it was fine about it.

I state it is an 18 plus rating and contains sex and if someone reads to the end of the look inside there is an adult scene at the end of chapter 1...

It is then up to someone to decide if they wish to read it or not, or allow their teenage son/daughter to do so.


message 20: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) I actually researched the organizations overseeing motion picture and television ratings and am rating each one by the four categories they use in my book descriptions.

http://www.ultimatefantasybooks.com/a...

Book two in my series has this note at the very end:

Parental guide:
Language: no profanity
Sex/nudity: mild
Violence: non-graphic
Adult situations: murder, terrorism, sexual violence

whereas book one has:

Parental Guidance:
Language: no profanity
Violence: non-graphic
Sex: mild, non-graphic

I am hoping that listing each area considered by tv and film will give parents a really good idea about content so they can make informed and appropriate decisions for each child.

It was THIS BOARD that helped me come up with the above! So thank you!


message 21: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Hehe oh well mine has profanity, sex and nudity, graphic violence and adult situations, so that is me off that list:)


message 22: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) Alexandra wrote: "Hehe oh well mine has profanity, sex and nudity, graphic violence and adult situations, so that is me off that list:)"

Actually, no, you are not "off" that list. You just will want to specify the degree. graphic violence is different from non graphic violence. sex scenes can be graphic or non-graphic. There are many different kinds of adult situations. I'm guestimating that the more specific you are on the four criteria that is standard for films and television, the more informed parental choices -- and adult choices -- will.

I am one of those adults who is really turned off by graphic sex and violence and lots of profanity; just do not like it. When I watched the final season of The Tudors recently, I found myself fast forwarding over about half of it -- just because they decided to show how vicious and brutal torture and execution in the 16th century could be. Naturally they wanted to be period about that -- but could not bother with the dresses (those who do not know, the photo I use professionally is me wearing a very simple Tudor era dress I made for my re-enactment activities).


which adult situations are in your book matter to audiences who want to make an informed choice.

And call me crazy, but doesn't an author receive better reviews when the audience knows in advance just what adult situations and how graphic the above are?


message 23: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Oh I agree. I would rather have some idea of what to expect.

My book doesn't have a lot of profanity, but it does have some.

There are several described sex scenes, so probably counts as "graphic" and the violence is both implied and described so probably counts as graphic.

There is a rape scene (which although not described in detail it is pretty obvious what has happened) and another couple of people rescued after such terrible events, there is violence and death.

There are also positive ideals such as love, hope, freedom and joy so it is not all gloomy:) I would not want someone to read who would be "turned off" as you say. I would like people to enjoy the read, for want of a better word. If a reader or a viewer of a film or TV show doesn't like that sort of thing that is perfectly fine everyone is different, it is better to be forewarned. I might have a think on it and tinker the product details.


message 24: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments So let me see:
Parental guide:
Bad Language: some
Sex/nudity: graphic/described
Violence: graphic/described
Adult situations: murder, sexual violence (implied) slavery.


message 25: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) Alexandra wrote: "So let me see:
Parental guide:
Bad Language: some
Sex/nudity: graphic/described
Violence: graphic/described
Adult situations: murder, sexual violence (implied) slavery."


Yes...except I think "profanity" is a better word. "bad language" could mean politics that the person disagrees with. :)

Again, I think the more specific you are, the better. of course, I just like specific language. :) Hence, Kendric fights with a SCHLAGER sword, just simply a "sword" :)


message 26: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments I will think about it over the next couple of days:)


message 27: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Right I tinkered with the product discription and said contains some profanity, scenes of a sexual nature, violence and slavery. I will have to do SW at some point as well.


message 28: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Rhoades (jackierhoades) | 33 comments I may have been a 'bad' mother. In fact, by today's standards I probably was, but by the time my kids were freshmen in high school, (and now that I think about it, probably before) I never paid that much attention to what they read unless it was to ask if it was good and could I read it when they were finished.

I figured if I said 'no', it would only inspire them to seek out the forbidden fruit and read it behind my back. It was what I did when I was young. I used to read every book on the Banned Book List simply because someone said I shouldn't.

None of them seemed to suffer for it and all are big readers today. Kids will read what interests them and leave the rest alone. They may carry that popular book around, it doesn't mean they've read it. I believe it's more important to keep the channels open for discussion - though that can lead to questions you'd rather not answer!


message 29: by JJ (new)

JJ Holding My mother never had a problem with what I was reading and always wanted to borrow my books.
she still borrows my books and always wants the YA ones as she does not like "Those Dirty Ones" lol.


message 30: by Laurel (last edited Apr 18, 2013 01:03PM) (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) Jacqueline wrote: "I may have been a 'bad' mother. In fact, by today's standards I probably was, but by the time my kids were freshmen in high school, (and now that I think about it, probably before) I never paid tha..."

I just found that talking to my 12 year old niece. None of my family have read or considered reading any of my books because I write science fiction (read that, the BAD BOOKS). Now she's interested in them, especially since I explained that my books are basically medieval historical fiction set on another planet so I can look at the broader issues (and oh yes, avoiding offending people when I use my imagination instead of my well-documented research).

I also told her honestly that since I am dealing with what's happened in women's history and to Elizabeth I in particular, that there is some material I am a little worried how my brother might react to.

It would seem those were the magic words to get a 7th grader interested! "your dad might be mad if you read this"

i read the Hobbit for exactly the same reason! Everything Tolkien was banned in my house since my family seems to think Tolkien was a satanist (kid you not!). So naturally, I'm a huge Tolkien fan! :)


message 31: by JJ (new)

JJ Holding Laurel wrote: "Jacqueline wrote: "I may have been a 'bad' mother. In fact, by today's standards I probably was, but by the time my kids were freshmen in high school, (and now that I think about it, probably befor..."



Tolkien was a big name in my home when i was growing up. He is my Dads favorite author so i was encouraged to read his books.


message 32: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments I was lucky I was pretty much allowed to read what I liked.


message 33: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Rhoades (jackierhoades) | 33 comments When I was a kid, our library wouldn't give you an adult card until you were in high school. I spent eight Monday evenings sneaking up to the adult section and reading The Catcher in the Rye in a maintenance closet all because I overheard a teacher say she thought it "inappropriate for young people". I thought it was a 'dirty' book and was disappointed when I didn't find the 'good' part!!


message 34: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Haha I once found "the joy of sex" on my much older sister's shelf. I must have been about 8. I am sure she noticed when I tried to sneak it back as though I hadn't been sneaking a peek.


message 35: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Rhoades (jackierhoades) | 33 comments Ah, the wonders to be discovered through books! lol


message 36: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Lol. It was the one with the hand-drawn pictures so mostly I had no idea of what was going on, lol.


message 37: by Kyra (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) I was also lucky in that my parents told me I could read anything in the house, and was welcome to ask them if I had questions about anything. I was about 11 at the time, and the first thing I read under my newly-granted license was The Poseidon Adventure. It had just been made into a movie (the early 70s version) and the theme song from it was a big hit on top-40 radio. I was kind of underwhelmed by it.

My dad read The Hobbit out loud to us when we were kids, but other than Tolkein there wasn't a lot of fantasy in the house. A decent amount of science fiction, but I didn't care for that as much as fantasy. They did give me the Earthsea Trilogy for Christmas when I was 12.

I thought the hand-drawn pictures in The Joy of Sex were squicky. Doubly so since the copy I saw had been swiped from my in-laws' house. *squick squick*


message 38: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments Lol. My sister likes fantasy but neither of our parents did. No idea what my older sister reads, other than classics:) I used to help my sister with her English class - reading Dickens for quotes and reading practice when she lived at home, whilst she typed a typewriter.

I used to read song lyrics as well.


message 39: by Kyra (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) The last few days I've been wondering how my books (Urdaisunia is the first one out, and I've got more to follow) compare to YA books as far as sexual and other potentially difficult content. I write for adults, with adult characters who have adult situations and concerns, but a friend was asking if I thought my books would be appropriate for her 17-year-old niece and 18-year-old daughter. I feel like they're suitable for older teens, but she was also asking about YA as opposed to adult fiction, and I really don't know how mine compares since I'm not very familiar with the YA sector.

On the heat scale at All-Romance EBooks, I rate my books a two (consummated love scenes, but more sensual than graphic, relying heavily on euphimism). Some might edge up onto a three (a little more explicit) but overall they're very non-explicit. There are also things like in one culture, multiple wives and concubines are common and there's a scene that shows the character being tended to by a number of his concubines (though I draw the curtain when he disappears into the bedroom with some of them), or in another book I refer to sexual abuse and rape in the characters' pasts (not described, just referred to in general terms).

So I was wondering if anyone more familiar with YA books can tell me how that compares with YA.


message 40: by N.A. (new)

N.A. Roy (NARoy) | 39 comments I specify that my new book is sexy and recommend for over 18s, although it is not graphic and not erotica - it is a little racy so to be on the safe side I say it is adult material. My other 2 books, written under a different name, are for older kids/young adults. Nothing explicit in them whatsoever.
I think young adults, where romance is involved, tends to be smoldering but there aren't love scenes as such in any that I know of - its implied, last twilight book might be an exception?


message 41: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments I would say YA has more implied sexual scenes or a fade to black. or at least it is a given the couple will have a HEA and it is not just a tumble.

More romance less explicit nookie:)

My book I have advised 18 and upwards, as it has explicit violence, refers to sexual abuse, and rape. There are also explicit sexual scenes (not the rape) between characters who are in relationships.

It wouldn't suit all adults by any means, and 17 yo and MAYBE 16 is they are mature MIGHT be ok but I would say that would be at the descretion of the parents.

Funnily enough violence tends to be ok unless it is really heavy but naughtiness ups the rating.


message 42: by Kyra (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) So it sounds like maybe my books are a bit more "adult" in content compared to YA books. I still think they would be appropriate for 17 and 18 years olds. The thing is, when I was that age, way back when, there wasn't a YA category. There were novels (chapter books) for younger teens that I guess addressed some of the same things found in YA books now, but those were for younger teens and by the time you were 16 or so you were reading adult books. There just weren't special books written for that older teen group. And my parents never put restrictions on what I could read; they just told me that if I had any questions about something I read I could come talk to them about it.

Of course, explicit sex/erotica are a lot more mainstream now than they used to be, so I guess it's harder to sort out what's appropriate even for older teens in adult (adult meaning for grownups, not adult meaning explicit) books. But I still don't feel like it's necessary or good to restrict 16, 17, 18 year olds to "Young Adult" books.

I told my friend it does depend on the kid's maturity level and on the parents, but I'd let my 17-year-old son read it (the embarrassment factor of him reading a love scene written by his mom is a different issue entirely!)

(the weird thing is, 17-year-olds are allowed into NC-17 - formerly X-rated - movies, which I think is waaay too young.)


message 43: by WickedLovely1 (last edited May 14, 2013 12:39PM) (new)

WickedLovely1 | 6 comments I am a mom to three kids, now ages 19, 16, and 12. I do not censor anything they read, and never have. I usually pre-read for them, so I can recommend books based on the genre they read. I almost exclusively read YA because when I read, I want an escape from everything going on around me. I started my 19 yo son reading Harry Potter at around age 7 JUST because my grandmother thought they were satanic- magic = evil

To me, sex is as much a part of human nature as violence is. I think some of the music that's out there today is more offensive simply for sexual content. I would much rather have my children read a "questionable" passage in a book, or see something like that in a movie (sex, violence, etc) and be able to discuss it and get some guidance for it, than to sneak and read/view it. If they do that, there would be the potential for them to develop the wrong impression of what is/isn't ok. Example: if my 12 yo read a book that had a date rape scene in it, and we didn't discuss it, she may wrongly assume that this is normal behavior.

They definitely see much worse on the daily news every day, than most books will ever cover. I don't know many parents who bother to shield their kids from the evening news.

That said, I believe for most parents, it will come down to maturity level of the child and comfort level of the parent.


message 44: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments This is true.


message 45: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 4 comments I run into this all the time too, so its great to hear from other authors.
At book fairs and library appearances, I also generally say, "parents read it first and make your own choice."

In my last novel, there is a clinical rape scene that is necessary to the plot, (they need more people) which I worry about makes it too adult for many 13-14 year old reader. There is other adult content such as suicide, profanity, and questionable content such as homosexual marriage and a lot of science. So it is clearly written for adults.

Wicked Lovely, I also think it is interesting how authors show what is and is not Ok. At least in my case, I made sure the scene made the reader uncomfortable and she goes through Stockholm Syndrome then escapes and joins a planetary survey team, though this act does not define her, she never recovers from it either. Though it was legal, the rapist is also punished in an appropriate manner. (His wife never allowed him near the child he fathered.) The victim was written in a sympathetic light, the rapist was not. So if there is a scene about date rape, I think the author has a great deal of power in showing it for what it is. Unfortunately not all authors do.

However back to the topic of what is appropriate, I was reading Stephen King and VC Andrews at age 13 so I have no idea what is appropriate. At least for me when I was that age, much of the adult content just went over my head, I had a general idea but nothing specific. For example, I reread The Stand and I was shocked at the obviousness of Harold and Nadine's kinky dress up play. Since I had no concept of those acts when I originally read the book, it completely went over my head. I just bunched it all together as sex.


message 46: by Alan (new)

Alan (coachmt) | 7 comments I try to use movies as a basis as much as possible because it's easier for people to relate to. My books fit squarely into the PG13 category, although I've noticed that has been stretched over the past few years. It used to be an F-bomb would be automatic R rating, but that's no longer the case. Not sure what that says about our society as a whole, but that's a topic for another day ;-)


message 47: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 266 comments The problem with categories such as R is that they are country specific. That is a US term yes? I would guess that would be 15 or 18 here in the UK.

I would guess to an extent though any rating is area/culture specific. Something which might be fine in a liberal country might be seen as totally out order elsewhere.

I guess guidelines are, well, guidelines:)


message 48: by Alan (new)

Alan (coachmt) | 7 comments Alexandra, that is very true. Most of the folks I talk to are in the US and it didn't occur to me that you have different systems of movie ratings in the UK and elsewhere.

I use that description if someone asks specifically, like if I'm at a book fair or something, because it's quick and easy. Most people don't think about the fact that we're all different and have different sensibilities. What I might be okay with my kids reading might not be okay with you and vice versa. It's definitely a tricky line to walk.


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