Why I Write YA Fiction
Guest Post by Lisa Klein, author of
Cate of the Lost Colony
To tell you the truth, I didn’t start out to write YA fiction. When I wrote Ophelia I thought of it as literary fiction for adults because of connection to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. When an agent agreed to represent me, she said, “What you really have here is young adult fiction—because of the age of Ophelia.” At first I was offended! What? My book is a kid’s book? It’s not good enough for grownups? But I wanted to get published, so I said, “OK, teen fiction it will be.”
Of course, I was an ignorant snob then. I didn’t know anything at all about YA fiction. There wasn’t any when I was growing up; I went right from Beezus and Ramona to Pride and Prejudice. So I began to devour the stuff, from The Chocolate War to Speak to Looking for Alaska. And I realized what a paradise it is these days for teen readers! So now I’m proud to be writing YA fiction. It makes me feel young. It makes my teenage sons popular with the girls. (“Omigod, your mom wrote Ophelia?”) Hey, boys, anything I can do to help you.
I was miserable for most of my high school years, mostly from insecurity, and books were my refuge. Now I am writing the kinds of books I longed to read when I was a teenager, books that would have helped me understand that young women throughout history have had it tough (much tougher than I ever did!) and survived and found love, and grown strong. In Two Girls of Gettysburg, Lizzie and Rosanna watch their friendship and their entire country come apart during the Civil War, but they emerge stronger for having been tested. In Cate of the Lost Colony the orphan Cate loses the favor of the queen, is separated from her love, Sir Walter Ralegh, and sent to wild, dangerous Virginia—the “lost colony” of Roanoke. Just when you think all is truly lost, the future opens up in an unexpected way for her.
So by writing, I revisit my teen years and make the journey again with my readers, offering them adventure, romance, near-tragedy, and in the end, hope.
Finally, I write YA fiction because of the demands it makes on me as a writer. My book has to grab teens away from their smart phones and iPods and friends and say “Read me instead.” I have to measure out my words carefully, wasting none of them, move my plot along without lagging, write vivid dialog that is also historical. I refuse to “write down” to teens. You read my books, you get literary fiction! Written for adults who happen to still be young. We older adults can become lazy readers; teens are smart, complicated, and demanding and deserve the best books I can possibly write.
website for more information on her books.
Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court