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Posts tagged ‘why I write teen fiction’

Why I Write Young Adult Novels, by Beth Revis

Eventually, someone always asks me, “Why do you write YA? When are you going to write an adult novel?”

I try not to snort too loudly in their direction.

The thing is, it’s not like it’s an accident that I write Young Adult novels and it’s not like I’m just going to quit. YA is not the training wheels of adult literature.

In fact, if I may get on my soapbox for a moment, it’s my opinion that what makes YA a genre actually has little to do with the main character’s age. It is, in fact, the least important aspect of the genre. What makes a YA novel YA is: a fast-paced plot, dynamic characters and a character who is discovering his or her place in the world (this is where the age of the character tends to come into play).

These are the things I love in the books I read. I want a page-turner. I want excitement. The key here is a character who changes and, for the first time, sees his or her place in society.

An author friend of mine, Alan Gratz, defined the difference between YA and middle grade novels as this: in a middle grade novel, the main character still sees the world as it directly relates to him or her. The novel will focus on the main character’s family, for example, or perhaps the community – but the focus is pretty tight within those constrains. A YA novel, on the other hand, may start in a close location, but the main character must realize who he or she is in the world. This can be as simple as first love, or as complex as saving society (alternatively, it can also be as simple as saving society and as complex as first love).

In all honesty, I constantly question myself in my world. Is what I am doing important? Can I make a difference? Should I just give up? In all honesty, I hope I never quit questioning myself. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still trying to find my place in the world.

That is why I write YA – and why I will probably only ever write YA.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Why I Write Teen Fiction, by Sam Hawksmoor

Teen fiction connects.  Passionate intensity often leads kids to do foolish things, take incredible risks, to explode with hatred one minute and love the next; to be heroic as well as act without compassion.  Teenager are still raw, often angry at what life has dealt and the choices on offer.

Adults are constrained by convention, rules, experience, and explain away their failings with words such as fate or God’s will.  Teens still think that they can make a difference and that there are endless possibilities.

When I write for teens I am thinking of all these things, putting myself in their shoes.  It’s not always rational.  I couldn’t begin to explain all the stupid things I did as a teen or the risks I took.  How I’m even still alive given the situations I got myself into, I have no idea.  I still remember my heart being broken – not just once either. It scarred me.  So I write for the kids yet to be scarred by life or the ones who already know that it’s less than fair out there, but to also say that this too can be survived and that they are not helpless.

Sometimes my fiction will be historical.  Kids want to know about the past and it is essential to connect it to the present so they can relate.  When you read Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go you are immediately plunged into a seventeenth century world, filled with strange Amish-like men and one boy and his dog living primitive lives. They are farming everything by hand.  You quickly become aware that there is madness in the air and all the characters can hear each other’s thoughts.  This alone is enough to make you intrigued. To then discover that this is the future and a story set in some far off planet is a huge surprise.  The second major feat that Ness accomplishes is to establish a great love between Todd and Viola in book one, then in book two tear them apart and pit them against each other, each manipulated by the evil Mayor Prentiss.  Extraordinary.

In The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester, a girl is born who floats. The parents are ashamed of their freak daughter and home-school her, but you can’t keep a good girl down for long. One day she jumps off the roof and flies the whole way around the town attracting unwanted attention.  Written with a dry southern wit this is a story that makes you laugh at first, then takes a rather nasty turn as the government begins to round up all the freaks and bury them in some underground lab.  I love the concept. I would have preferred it to stay funny rather than sinister but the adventures of Piper McCloud live within my affections. As her Papa said, “Seems like our child ain’t normal is all I’m saying.”

I suppose why I write teen fiction in the end is because I want to write stories that strike you in the heart, that stay with you forever, that affect you in the way that books and films shaped my life growing up.  Dune by Frank Herbert perhaps is one such book – the retelling of the coming of the Messiah scope of this novel is incredible.  The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick is another – about America losing WW2 and divided between Japan and Germany.  Neither of these were teen fiction but both had a huge impact on the teen me because they dealt with what ifs… and what ifs are what keep us awake at night…

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Sam Hawksmoor’s author website: www.samhawksmoor.com

Sam Hawksmoor’s bio page

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Why I Write Young Adult Novels, by Lish McBride

I get asked a lot why I write Young Adult fiction. My first reaction is always a split one – somewhere between humor and anger. I feel like I have to justify my genre because people don’t think it’s “real writing” or they think it’s “easy.” (Or quite often, they don’t even know what it is.) Sorry, friend, writing is writing. All of it is difficult. If it’s done right, it involves flaying open your soul and letting it pour out. Or, if you’re not into that kind of thing, at the very least it involves a lot of hours staring at a blank screen. The idea that writing for kids is easy is like the misguided notion that poetry is easier because it has fewer words. Really the opposite is true. You have to get every word exactly right in poetry. I’ve seen poets spend two hours talking about a single comma or the use of one white space. I don’t have that kind of patience or talent. Besides, my poetry is awful.

Mostly, though, I get angry on behalf of the reader. I’m sorry, but teens aren’t people? They don’t deserve good books and good writing? They don’t deserve to be taken seriously as an audience? That’s silly. Books when you’re a teen or younger have, in my humble opinion, more importance. At that age, stories form you. They make you. They change the way you think, the way you want to be. On some level, people know this. That’s why they try so hard to ban books for kids that harbor ideas they don’t condone. Kids internalize what they read on a level that most adults don’t. I want to ask the people that dismiss young adult and middle grade writing—didn’t you want to be taken seriously as a reader at that age? Didn’t it just chap your hide that all the “good books” were in the adult section and you had to wait years to read them?

It makes me so indignant, that it actually spills over the other side and I just start laughing. With every passing day I’m glad that my parents let me read whatever I wanted. That way when I ran out of the (then) small kid’s section, I didn’t have to wait to start reading the books for grown ups. You know, the books that aren’t dismissed.

I am jealous of teens now. They have some of the best stuff coming their way right now. The writing coming out of Young Adult and Middle Grade sections makes my imagination burn and my heart glow with pure, unabashed joy. There have always been writers and editors that take writing for kids seriously, but now they’re being let onto the playing field. It makes me happier than you can ever know to be part of that team. Someday, I would like to write some books for the adult section, but I will never, ever stop writing for teens. I love it too much.

Now, not everyone means to be dismissive of what I do. Some are honestly trying to be supportive…but they know so little about the genre that they don’t really understand what I’m talking about. So when I say what I do, they say things like, “Oh, like Twilight!” or “Maybe you’ll be the next Harry Potter!”

And yes, I would love to be a fictional teenage wizard. That would be amazing. Of course they mean J.K. Rowling, but I’m not going to correct them. I do correct them on the Twilight thing because, well, my book isn’t like Twilight. This is not a slight to those books—loads of people love them. Some loathe them. No matter how you feel, though, they got people to read young adult and fantasy and that’s a wonderful thing. I correct them, though, because my books aren’t even close in flavor to Twilight, just like they are leagues in a different direction than the Harry Potter books.

It’s not professional for me respond angrily when people get dismissive about young adult literature, and honestly, it’s just not in my nature. Being combative doesn’t make people change their minds. So I nod, smile, crack a joke, and then politely point out all the reasons why young adult literature knocks my metaphorical socks off.

I didn’t necessarily plan to start in young adult. I wanted to write for teens (and eventually, younger) but I thought you had to start out in adult and work your way into the kid’s section. I don’t know why I thought this, I just did. I was quite obviously wrong.

I’m glad the stories in my head are young adult. I’m even more thrilled that I get the opportunity to tell them. The teen audience has been great to me, as have the teen librarians and booksellers. Ladies and gentlemen, I tip my imaginary hat to you. You have let me do what I love, and I hope to keep doing it for a long time.

Homework: Think about a book that formed you as a young reader (if you are no longer a young reader). If you are a young reader, think about a book that has really influenced you lately. What made it so amazing? What can you do that is like that? What amazing story do you wish was out there for you to read? How can you write that book? Share that favorite read with someone. If you are an adult reader, has anything you’ve read as an adult had the same sort of emotional resonance?

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Lish McBride’s author website: www.lishmcbride.com

Lish McBride’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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