I’m going to be taking the next couple of days to bring you bits and pieces of some PR work I did for Harper Teen that, as far as I know, hasn’t been used. I’m never one for wasting anything, so here’s a couple of questions on a topic that was hot a couple of months ago: sensuality in YA, which I could also widen to include an overabundance of sex, drugs, and abuse, all of which I think have a place in YA literature, but give us some fair warning with the cover so the 14 year old who doesn’t want to read about incest doesn’t have to.
What are the challenges you face writing young adult and dealing with the sensuality?
I’ve never thought of sensuality as being a challenge when I sit down to write young adult. I know teens are being challenged enough in their day-to-day dealings, and whereas many authors excel in writing sensual YA that seems to be connecting with a wide audience, I’m frankly not that comfortable with producing it myself. I’d much rather give teens a “mostly sensuality-free zone” where they can take a break and concentrate on other issues they are dealing with.
Romance, though, which doesn’t have to include lips, hands, and skin, is always on my want list when I sketch out a young adult book. I’m a big believer that though sex moves the world, (and sells books) it’s a small fraction of any healthy, long-lasting relationship. I like my characters to be friends before they swap spit, and sometimes that takes a couple of books before I’m comfortable moving forward, if at all.
Why do you write for young adults? What do you think is different about writing for teens than for other audiences?
I like writing for young adults because I found my love for reading on those same shelves, and the books I read then still hang in my memory with the same new-penny brightness they had when I first picked them up. Some of my favorite emails are from young readers who confess to me that they hate reading but that they like my work. Knowing that I’ve been able to reach those vulnerable readers and share my love of reading with them is a great feeling.
What is different about writing for teens than other audiences? For me, not much really, apart from shifting my main character’s focus a touch to the “now” rather than the future. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, the fallout if things don’t go as planned are seemingly more insurmountable since teens generally don’t have as many resources, both physically and emotionally, as adults.
I’m a big believer that teens are looking for many of the same things that adults are in their literature: a character they can cheer for or envy, companions that are brave or exasperating to balance the main character, a goal that is clear and seemingly unattainable, a happy ending where the same flaws that impeded them serve to help them achieve their goal.
Your comments/discussions are welcome, but as always, I’ll be closing the page after tomorrow.