Welcome to When We Say YA! Every month, the OneFour YA authors get together to talk about everything related to young adult lit. This is our very first When We Say YA post, so this month’s topic is:
Did you always know you wanted to write YA?
I did! When I started writing, I wasn’t even a young adult yet. I was about eight, and obsessed with my big sister’s Sweet Valley Highs, and I just wanted to create gorgeous and popular California girls of my very own. So I started writing what we’d now call YA, and never stopped.
—Dahlia Adler, BEHIND THE SCENES
Yes, I did. I began writing seriously as a teenager, so it made sense to me to write for people in my age group. I love YA so much, I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything else!
—Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION
I didn’t! I always thought I would write for adults until I received feedback that various stories of mine might work better as YA. I tried it, and then I was hooked. No going back now!
—AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS
I never considered writing fiction! But when I got hooked on reading YA, stories just started collecting in my head and I gave it a try. I can’t imagine writing in another age-range now.
—Helene Dunbar, THESE GENTLE WOUNDS
No–my first few novels were adult SFF (even though I was a teenager at the time). When one of my adult novels wasn’t clicking I re-envisioned the characters as teenagers, and the book fell into place straightaway. All my ideas since have been YA, with a sprinkling of MG. Given that in my time in fandom, I’d spent a lot of time writing characters in that same age range, I wonder why I didn’t make the switch sooner!
—Corinne Duyvis, OTHERBOUND
I am a Janie-come-lately to YA novels. I began my career writing and publishing a children’s picture story book series, ages 5-9, and NF articles for adult market magazines. Then I went back and got another degree in jounalism and wrote for newspapers. So prior to selling NO SURRENDER SOLDIER to Jacqueline Mitchard, editor of Merit Press (Adams Media/F+W Media) I was published in poetry (in English and French), picture story books, ESL/EFL fiction, HI/LO-ESL NF, NF middle-high school library books, plus articles in newspapers, magazines and journalis. My first choice in writing novels was middle grade. But along this path editors kept telling me over and over that I’m an abstract thinker who writes complex concepts in an understandable manner and I write best for YA.
—Christine Kohler, NO SURRENDER SOLDIER
All of my first literary loves were YA or middle-grade. I grew up living in those imaginary worlds, and I never wanted to leave. So I didn’t.
Also, I think it helps that I’m perpetually a teenager at heart. Or at least I retain my teenager sleeping habits. (Mornings? What are mornings?)
—Emily Lloyd-Jones, ILLUSIVE
A friend once suggested to me that we write to the ages at which we most needed stories, the ages when things happened that shaped us in some fundamental way, and I subscribe to that. For me, there are several big signposts starting around age ten and carrying into young adulthood. Since I felt like an adolescent well into my twenties, I have plenty of life experience to tap into in the YA realm, and so far that’s where my story brain has wanted to live.
—Rachel M. Wilson, DON’T TOUCH
When I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing fiction, the first idea I had was what would now be considered New Adult. But at the time, NA wasn’t a thing at all, so I abandoned the idea because I couldn’t find any comp titles to read for genre guidance. Soon after that was when I really got into reading YA and I realized that was where my passion was. I may try to write something else some day, but right now YA is where my heart is!
—Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL
Not at all! I was working on an adult novel that had some kid characters. I kept getting such great feedback on the kid characters. Everyone was most interested in them and wanted more of them, not the grown ups. That was when I realized I should follow that strength.
—Sashi Kaufman, THE OTHER WAY AROUND
I thought I was going to try my hand at romance, but then I had an idea for this book and I knew the character wasn’t an adult. And then the more YA I read, the more I loved it. I’m actually writing a middle grade right now, and it feels strangely right.
—Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST
When I joined SCBWI I wrote picture books, but then I had this idea…I thought it was going to be a short story, but it kept growing and then it sort of stalked me. I think I was afraid of writing something longer – that I couldn’t sustain it, but I adore young adult – it’s where my voice naturally settles. Such a volatile time of so many changes – how can it be anything but exciting?
—Robin Constantine, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING
I read “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was nineteen and thought it was the best, most powerful book I’d ever read. I wanted to create characters like Holden, with unique voices that critiqued society and carefully examined the world around them. I didn’t start seriously writing for a number of years after reading “Catcher”, but that voice has always been an inspiration and guide. Sometimes I wonder if “Catcher” is really YA – it came about before the YA category did, so the book could probably lean in either direction (YA or adult or maybe NA) and I think that’s the direction I typically lean as well.
—Chris Struyk-Bonn, WHISPER
I didn’t think I’d be a writer of anything until I was thirty, but it was a YA novel that inspired me to try. And I wanted to write something my high school (math) students would identify with and want to read. Since then, it’s been YA all the way!
—R.C. Lewis, STITCHING SNOW
No. I read a lot of adult SF/F as a teen (and a lot of it from decades ago, when the YA barely existed as a separate category), so I always figured that I would be a general fantasy author–winning the Hugo and the Nebula, of course! But slowly it dawned on me that I kept writing about teenaged protagonists, and that the current YA genre was a really good fit for me. So here I am, and it’s awesome! Though I still think I would like to write adult as well someday…
—Rosamund Hodge, CRUEL BEAUTY
I always read YA, and was really disappointed when I graduated high school and felt pressured to move to adult fiction (which, in my mind, was all about middle-aged white men feeling angsty and having sex). But taking fiction classes in college and grad school, I wrote more standard literary fiction, even though I was mostly interested in YA. Then, in my Shakespeare class, I did a project on Shakespearean imagery in YA and realized I was working way harder on that project than on any of my other standard fiction stuff. I threw myself into the genre after that and haven’t looked back.
—Annie Cardi, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN
YA is definitely where I feel the most comfortable, although I have written a few picture book manuscripts and a MG contemporary that I absolutely adore. But when I decided to really get serious about my writing a few years ago, YA was my default category. YA contemporary books are my favorite things to read, so naturally that’s where my mind goes when I create. (My 13-year-old daughter recently took a “how old are you mentally?” quiz, and when she finished, she told me that I didn’t need to take it, because she already knew my results. “It would tell you you’re 13-18 years old, because you think just like a teenager. Good thing that’s the kind of books you write.” High praise from a girl firmly in the middle of her “my parents are so embarrassing!” years.)
—Veronica Bartles, TWELVE STEPS
I’ve been all over the place as a writer before finding my home in YA. I wrote academic prose, literary fiction, adult fantasy and sci-fi…. And then I had kids. Reading to and with them made me fall in love again with the genre I’d loved when I was a YA myself, and I’m so glad I found my way back. Now I’m re-imagining all my old, unfinished non-YA projects as YA!
—Joshua David Bellin, SURVIVAL COLONY NINE
YA wasn’t such a big thing when I was a teen, and I more or less stopped reading it in my last year of high school in favour of adult fantasy novels. I didn’t start writing until I was 26, and the first couple novels that I completed were adult epic fantasy. I didn’t actually start reading YA again until I picked up a copy of Twilight to see what all the fuss was about, which got me started reading more and more of it. I found I really enjoyed the pacing and character focus in stuff written for teens, so I decided to give it a go. And I never looked back 🙂
—Danielle L. Jensen, STOLEN SONGBIRD
Yes! It’s 90 percent of what I read, so it only makes sense.
—Livia Blackburne, MIDNIGHT THIEF
I never thought of myself as a writer because I never thought I’d be good enough. But soon the desire to put the stories in my head onto paper overcame that fear. And since my natural voice is definitely YA rather than adult, YA became a natural niche for me.
—Christy Farley, GILDED
Even as an 10-year-old scribbling stories in a notebook, I wrote about characters in their teens. At the time, it was probably just me wishing I was a teenager because, for some reason, that seemed like the ideal age. But as I got older, those sorts of books were the ones that stayed with me and left the strongest impressions. So of course, that was what I wanted to write as well.
—Lori M. Lee, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE
I started out trying to write adult chick lit. Whoops! I randomly stumbled upon YA when I saw an online YA writing course offered and figured I had nothing to lose. Since then I’ve never looked back. Writing for teenagers comes so naturally, I wish I’d thought of it sooner!
—Robin Talley, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES
Was YA always for you, or did you try other categories/genres first? Share your answer in the comments!
|Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.