Inga Semmingsen is an editor and rights manager at Aschehoug, a publisher of fiction and nonfiction for adults and children, and Norway’s third largest publisher. PW caught up with her following the Bologna Children's Book Fair to talk about Norway's YA publishing scene and the hot book she was selling at the fair.
Semmingsen explains that Norway has not had the same focus on YA and crossover titles as the English-speaking world, but "that is changing fast." She points to examples of authors who have in the past only written books for adults who are now also writing for a younger audience. One such author is mystery/crime writer Tom Egeland, whose YA books follow the son of an archaeologist as he solves mysteries with historical roots. The first book in the series is titled The Secret of the Catacomb (Katakombens hemmelighet). She says 30,000 copies of the series are in print and it is regarded as a kind of Da Vinci Code for children.
Some literary writers are also now writing for young people. Semmingsen mentions the critically acclaimed author Kjersti Annersdatter Skomsvold, author of the prize-winning adult novel The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am, who recently wrote the YA title Me, Me, Me (Meg, meg, meg) and the YA book from Aasne Linnestå, Mommy Is Somewhere Else (Mamma er et annet sted). Linnestå is a poet and previously wrote an adult novel, A Foreign Country.
Semmingsen says that Aschehoug recently had a surprise hit with debut author's A. Audhild Solberg's middle grade novel, Me vs. The Monster Girls (Kampen mot Superbitchene), which attracted a lot of attention before and during the Bologna fair. There are currently over 20,000 copies in print, a large number for Norway, and the book has won the ARK Children's Prize, which is voted on by 10,000 children.
Semmingsen says, "It's about an albino girl who get pestered by the queen bees in school and decides to get revenge. The topic is common, but the voice and humor is outstanding." Rights have already sold in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Ukraine.
In the realm of translated fiction, Semmingsen says that the middle-grade Norwegian bestseller list is still packed with Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, and Captain Underpants. On the young adult side, The Fault in Our Stars is still selling well.
Semmingsen says she is looking to acquire humorous middle-grade books, and YA fiction that is either action-packed or contains strong voices and beautiful writing. She adds, "I would love to find a good time-travel YA novel."
As for the future of Norway's YA publishing scene, Semmingsen says that the industry is "working hard on establishing YA and crossover as a book group. And my hope is that it soon will be its own section in Norwegian book stores and libraries."