Lithograph for Nightfish by Jane George
Why do I write books targeted at young adults? I must admit it’s not for the lofty aim of saving anyone, (or more accurately, showing them the tools to save themselves), but rather because of the allure of the unopened door. Adolescence is a time of exploration and POSSIBILITIES.
I’m certain a therapist would tell me my stories that feature teenagers and their challenges are a way of working through my less-than-ideal adolescence. My family suffered a tragedy when I was ten. I attended fifteen different schools in twelve years. I was a target for bullies in those schools, one of the toppers being the chocolate-shake-Carrie-moment in my sophmore year. I proceeded on to a phase as a punk-rock drug addict, which catapulted me into adulthood and I worked my way to being well-adjusted from there. (Who is that I hear laughing?)
Back to the door metaphor. When we’re young we’re faced with what seems like an endless hallway of choices, doors that will lead us one place or another. It can be terrifying to choose a door and commit to going through it. There’s lots of backing up and testing of other door handles. Let’s see, mine were; mannequin painter: low wages and high fumes, veterinary assistant: hospitalized with a cat bite, pre-press production artist: lost a bunch of years there, and the list goes on. I remember thinking that as long as I didn’t choose any one door, an infinite array of possibilities would remain open to me, that somehow by choosing a door I would be limiting myself. Nothing is further from the truth. When you commit to going through and shutting that first door behind you, that’s when the next array of better doors appears. Even if it ends up being down a different hallway. And so on. I write for teens to share that truth.
I’m a writer and an artist because I love the drama, the mystery, the conflict, the romance, of turning a handle and discovering a world. The golden light shining through the cracks around a closed door is a powerful draw.
I am, however, a bit of a cheat. I don’t write strictly for teens. I also write books for older people who’ve had doors slammed in their faces. And I started out writing picture books. One was about a skeleton who was missing his legs, so with an axe he pursued a young girl to get her legs. She ended up building him legs out of blocks. Yeah, well, not totally age-appropriate, but I think I’m in the right hallway now.
Do you write YA? Why? :-)