7 questions not to ask a YA writer …

I just read a really funny post called “Six things not to ask a writer” at The Blood Red Pencil. Now, I am only a really, really new baby writer so, often I am happy to be asked any question at all about my writing. I’m just happy that’s my job now! But there are some common questions that people ask me as a YA writer that do confound me slightly:

  1. YA fiction? What’s that? Oh! Kid’s books!
  2. Do kids even still read these days?
  3. How can you write from the point of view of a teenager when you’re so clearly much older than a teenager?
  4. What, do you think you’re going to write the new Twilight (hahahaha)?
  5. Isn’t that a bit of a childish thing to do (and yes, I have actually been asked this)?
  6. Well, it must be much easier to write a YA book than an adult book, mustn’t it?   And my personal favourite:
  7. Do you think you’ll start writing real books one day?

My answer to all of these questions is … complete and utter, dumbfounded silence. Well, apart from number two. Number two I could talk for hours on, but the simple truth is, most adults wouldn’t find my answer in any way interesting. And that’s really disappointing.

The only bad thing about this whole YA writing thing is realising how many adults,  apart from those involved in the YA sector – writers, librarians, teachers etc. – don’t actually give two hoots about YA literature. They think it’s a secondary art. They think it must be much easier to write a YA book than an adult book because, obviously, teenagers are less demanding about quality when it comes to their fiction. They think most teens don’t even read anyway. Having worked in a bookshop for two years – one that is regarded as quite “literary” – I have encountered so much literary snobbery when it comes to YA fiction. That’s why it’s so heartening to see the kids fighting back. In Hobart, we have a branch of the John Green fanclub, Nerdfighters, who are no passionate about reading that they go around bookshops turning John Green titles face out (and Stephenie Meyer ones back to front, but that’s another story). I lost count of the number of times I had exciting, passionate chats with teenagers about their favourite books. I also lost count of the number of times I had to apologetically tell a teenager that no, the next book in whatever series is not out yet and see theire face crumple in disappointment.

The number of times I had the same experiences with an adult? I could count them on one hand.

Teens are passionate about their literature. They DO demand quality. They do still read, and with more fervour than most adults.

And, by the way, the reason I can write from the POV of a teenager? Because I’m not cynical. Because I still have hope for the future. Because I still see life as huge and exciting and dramatic and wonderful. Because I don’t take myself too seriously. Because I value the opinions and company of teenagers and my greatest dream is to give something back to them with my writing.

My aim, now, is to remember all I just said for the next time people ask me if I aim to write “real” books. I’ll also ask them if, one day, they might take the time to actually talk to a teenager about whether they think their life, concerns, passions and loves are “real”.

I’m sure that our witty, eloquent teenagers would give them a better answer to that question than I am able to give.

6 Questions NOT to ask a Writer

7 thoughts on “7 questions not to ask a YA writer …

  1. I read a lot when I was in high school and so did all of my friends. And that was well before the new surge of great YA titles. Now as a YA book blogger, I get to read all the books that I missed and the ones that are coming out now. From series like the Hunger Games and Chaos Walking to standalone titles like Kiss It, You Are Not Here, and Hold Still, there is so much available that I find myself getting excited about checking out some of the new titles. How could teens not be?

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  2. I love YA novels! Daisy Blue was a fantastic read 🙂

    Readers are demanding quality and you have to be more comprehensive in your plot and delivery of content than even a YA writer of 10 years ago because current YA readers expect a higher quality and question content a lot more than previous generation YA readers have.

    YA writers shouldn’t be made feel they are writing less important work. It is more important in some respects, as their readers and the ideas they have forged by reading YA authors are going to be the ideas which shape the future.

    I’d say being a YA writer would be much more satisfying and rewarding than writing for some of the more high-brow genres knowing this outcome 😀

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  3. I love reading YA fiction. I believe that writing it would be more difficult than writing for adults as the language needs to be more clear and the entire story line tight. Not to mention writing from a perspective we “lost” in high school.

    What can a YA writer do for teens? I convinced my step-son to read The Ranger’s Apprentice series. He now awaits each new book as eagerly as I do (we own the series in hardback). He limited his video games, stopped watching as much TV, and began writing his own book. I wish he’d continue, but he’s on his way to becoming valedictorian. He pulled his grades from Bs to As in middle school and has held them since. He’s now in AP classes in high school.

    Do teens still read? You’d better believe it and it can have a profound influence on their lives. How many adults can say a book effected them to that extent? Yeah, that’s what I thought. 😉

    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing. Now, get back to writing “real” books. 😉

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  4. Well said, Miss Cackle. Tomorrow’s leaders are today’s teenagers, so let’s encourage them to read and read and read.

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