Some stereotypes about YA fiction are based on the idea that a YA novelist is deeply nostalgic for her teen years and wants to relive them through fiction.
Well, I can tell you for sure that I am not nostalgic about my teen years. I hated them, and I’m very glad there’s no such thing as time travel so that I never have to go back.
Many YA writers I know came to write YA fiction because they enjoy reading it. But I didn’t read YA until after I sold Ash. I think that’s why Ash has a kind of old-fashioned feel — it’s based in the reading experience of my own teen years, approximately 20 years ago. However, once I started reading YA, I quickly realized that as a writer, I absolutely belong in this category of fiction.
For me, there are some very specific things about YA that make creative sense. YA is particularly story-based. Think TV and film: you are drawn in to a story immediately, or at least, that’s the goal. Story, story, story. This is YA.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve never been especially drawn to adult literary fiction. I very rarely connect with it, although I have read and loved the odd literary novel. This is because I generally value story over literary affect. I tend to prefer an arresting tale over a pretty sentence. If I want a pretty sentence, I will read poetry, and I do enjoy poetry when I read it (even if I don’t understand it!).
Another thing I enjoy about YA is the fact that it allows the writer to mash together many genres. Adult fiction is fairly divided when it comes to genre: science fiction does not usually cross over into mystery, which does not usually cross over into romance. There are exceptions as always, but typically, a book is published in one genre, and the book must obey that genre’s conventions or risk alienating the genre’s readers. YA, on the other hand, lets me combine mystery and romance and science fiction into one glorious hybrid whole.
I think this is a reflection of the fact that adolescence is about trying new things. Teens aren’t fixed in their personalities yet, even though they have very definite ideas about what their personality is. They’re not afraid to smush things around a little and see what results. That kind of freedom is what I find so endearing and so liberating about YA. It enables me to tell the story I want, using many of my favorite tools (mystery! romance! intrigue! magic!).