A while back I had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of other YA writers about Writing for Teens. And why we love it dammit and won't apologize or write "real" books someday!
We love Young Adult fiction!
So here's who was in on the chat:
Me- aka - The Old One
Shana Silver- The Newly Married One
Jennifer Hoffman- The Needs a New Computer for Chatting One (trouble getting on chat this time)
Chandler Craig- The Super Smart Lawyer One
Shana: Today we're discussing the advantages of writing for the YA market. So first question: do you ever feel like you have to defend writing for teens?
Janet: All the time. People often ask when I will write a "real" book.
Chandler: --as if your books were currently imaginary?
Janet: Haha, but I love to hand YA books to adults and convert them.
Shana: I actually never have to defend. I think it's because I still look and act like a teen. Though when I tell people I write YA, they are like, "Oh, that makes sense..."
Janet: You do look young. I don't have that advantage. When I'm hanging in the YA section, people are weirded out.
Shana: I know, but I also do get offended with that "Oh, that makes sense" comment. What do they mean by that? That's when I have to go into defense mode. Except lately, several of my adult friends have been reading YA without my having to bind and gag them and hold a book up to their eyes.
Janet: When people ask about why I write YA, I try to explain that there is so much freedom to explore topics. I love edgy realistic fiction and it's harder to do it well in the world of adults. It's more acceptable for teens to be going through changes be it with vampires or with real life issues
Chandler: Agreed, I think the thing is that the people who you are defending to aren't reading YA. I mean, we're in a bit of a teen fiction renaissance I think.
Shana: Or some of them are and they don't even know it. Like my friend told me about this book he read and loved, THE HUNGER GAMES, and asked if I'd heard of it. Ha!
Janet: I've had friends who apologize for reading Harry Potter or other YA books. And I'm all DUDE, I love YA. Don't apologize or hide behind fake covers
Shana: One thing I find interesting is that when I go to a YA reading in NYC is that there's almost zero teens in the audience. All adults. (Though most are probably in the industry.)
Janet: That's interesting. NY is the place for YA. (suppressing jealous feelings of Shana living in NY)
Chandler: Maybe most are in the industry, but you guys just mentioned your adult friends reading Hunger Games,Harry Potter, Twilight. All YA. So when we say we write for young adults, are we really even writing mostly for teens anymore?
Janet: But they apologize for it which makes me crazy. I think it depends on the genre of YA as well.
Shana: I don't think we are writing for adults. I think the audience for YA is growing and expanding to all ages.
Chandler: I certainly hope you are right about that, Shana. I mean, a lot of the appeal—at least for me—is writing for that age group.
Janet: But some adults seem to have "rules" about what can and cannot be written about, more so than the teens who are the first intended audience.
Chandler: Which subgenres do you think are crossing over well for the adult audience?
Janet: I think the fantasy/paranormal books that are breaking out are becoming more acceptable to adults.
Shana: And dystopian.
Chandler: That makes sense intuitively, I guess. Adults are probably less interested in the contemporary teen issues – the more traditional “issue” books, I mean. Whereas escapism is escapism.
Shana: But, back to the YA renaissance comment, I have some theories on why that is. For one thing, I wonder if the economy doesn't affect teens the same way it affects adults. Teens probably still have after school jobs and can freely spend their money
Janet: And I wonder, Shana, if adults still purchase a lot of teen books for their teens regardless of the economy.
Shana: Janet, I definitely think that's the case. It encourages them to read. Also, another reason why YA might be booming is because I bet word of mouth is easier to spread in high school versus the adult world.
Chandler: Yes! I agree, I've noticed even at law school it's easier for us to have time to read and talk about the same books.
Shana: And the fact that it's so much easier for teens to interact with their fave authors on blogs or twitter. Adults might not bother.
Chandler: True, this is the interactive generation. You see these Street Teams YA authors have going, which I swear I thought were gangs of some sort. Turns out they aren’t. I just learned they are groups of kids pumped about certain authors—much less ominous.
Shana: Also, people at work might have all different reading preferences whereas YA encompasses genres more generally.
Janet: There are a lot of writers and a lot of people from the publishing industry on the internet. I sometimes wonder if Joe Teenager actually sees it, though?
Shana: I think they do. After all, I think it’s teens that are more apt to, say, make a fan site for a fave author.
Jennifer: And expect to make contact with their favorite authors.
Janet: True, John Greene for instance has made a huge impact on teens on the internet. So accessible and rockstar-like. But just a person, too—who can write his socks off, of course.
Shana: Teens are also the ones camping out at the bookstores for midnight release parties. Aside from Twilight Saga and Harry Potter, are there any adult books that received such a huge turnout for a book release?
Chandler: I don't know, Shana, about the turn out. Maybe Dan Brown. Doubtful, though. Which sort of leads us back to why we'd write for YA in the first place --I just think the potential impact is greater.
Janet: The teen phase is so full of material: change, angst, worries, life decisions.
Shana: I think it's interesting that all genres are on one shelf in YA whereas in the adult world, they're split.
Chandler: yeah, and strangely, I'm ok with that
Janet: I agree Shana, in YA it's one big party. Teen fiction is so immediate and in your face.
Chandler: Maybe the one shelf area is actually lending to its success.
Shana: What about the shelf life of YA books? Do they last longer than adult ones?
Chandler: I have no clue.
Janet: Yes, from what I've heard, YA books tend to last longer and are given more of a chance on the shelf. Plus backlists do really well with loyal teen readers who do grow up, though...which is a whole other subject!
Chandler: Hadn't thought about the outgrowing issue, interesting.
Shana: I wonder how the rise of ebooks will affect YA? Do teens have e-readers like adults do?
Janet: E books is a whole other issue I think!!
Chandler: My age bracket does - early 20s, so I'd assume so? Any final statements?
Janet: My final thoughts: Writing for YA is awesome. Why? YA is interesting to read and write because there is so much raw honesty in teen years. And the material is endless!
Chandler: The end.
I love the way Chandler ends things. We had a timeline to stick to. She's firm and unapologetic. Law school student for sure. And a YA writer. Look out world.
Your thoughts on Young Adult fiction??