Friday, September 3, 2010

Yeah, I'm a YA Author. Don't Hate.

I am often asked why I write in the genre that I do and I invariably shrug, wishing I could come up with a witty answer but the truth is, I write YA because that's all that ever wants to come out of my mind and fingertips. Many is the time I've sat down with the intent to write something that I would classify as grown-up ... but even though my protag may start out mid-to-late twenties, before I've gotten more than a few pages in, I realize that protag has morphed into mid-to-late teens.

Eventually, I stopped fighting my inner muse and rolled with it. And now, I feel exceedingly blessed to be a published author during a time when YA has come into its own - it's cool to write for teens right now.

I'm not saying that there hasn't always been an audience for the type of books the contributors to this blog write - there have always been teen readers who've longed to read something they could relate to, something written for them by an author who understood the particular trials and tribulations of high school; the angst of not fitting in, that first (often painful) crush, the worry over how to transition from "kid" to "adult". But until fairly recently YA wasn't as celebrated as I might have liked.

Tastes are cyclical. What is considered popular changes according to some arcane schedule. After Steve King burst onto the scene in the 70's, Horror was the new darling in the publishing world. Dean Koontz, Clive Barker and Anne Rice got big advances that earned out. Then came Tom Clancy, who kicked off the political thriller trend; Dan Brown ushered in a spate of suspense-thrillers with a historical overtones and then ... then came Harry Potter, written by J.K. Rowling. In my mind, this happening was The Beginning of the thirst for YA/MG as we know it today.

Suddenly, it was not only acceptable to write for a younger crowd, it was also pretty lucrative. Cornelia Funke, Rick Riordan, Stephanie Meyer and a host of others were becoming household names.

Don't get me wrong - I know that for years there have been books available for teens, some really good books, most of which I read growing up. Our great-grandmothers read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton and Lois Lowry were YA authors before YA was uber-cool.

Writing YA is now cool. Not a day goes by that I don't struggle against the urge to dress in all black and don mirror shades before going to Starbucks and ordering something grande.

Yeah, okay, I'll admit it; I don't do that since I'm not cool, as my kids point out to me daily. But my genre is.

So there.

Kathi Wallace is the author of Assiniboin Girl released by Drollerie Press. She can be found most days on Twitter as Kathi430 or her blog,


  1. Here's a secret - I got into writing YA because of Harry Potter. Not because it was cool to read YA, but because I love the genre, and because of JK's own story; sitting in a cafe, a single, poor mother, scrawling out the story with her baby in the pram, because it would save on heat in her flat. I thought, 'if she can do it, why can't I?'

    That's the truth of how I became a writer. But yeah, it's 'cool' now, but I wouldn't write anything else. I don't even read books for grownups anymore. Well, except that someone gave me the first two "Girl" books by Stieg Larsson for my birthday. They are pretty good. And I did read Dan Brown's ANGELS and THE DAVINCI CODE, years ago.

    When I was in HS, I was a huge Stephen King fan. I've kind of grown away from that, though.

  2. I've always longed to write YA but listened to others who I allowed to persuade me to write things for the adult reader. I did and managed some success at it but is not what makes me happy. Definitely not what calls to very core of me. Now I'm writing what I want to. Finally giving those younger voices in my head their chance to tell ther stories.

    Some authors follow trends and it works for them. Others write what speaks to them. My mom told me to write what speaks to me. For once I'm taking mom's advice. Thanks for the inspiring post! The comment by Christine just adds to the post. Glad I popped in!

  3. Lol on the not cool part!

    I guess I always kind of wanted to be a YA author or one that wrote children books. I taught first and second graders for fifteen years. My favorite subject was writer's workshop in which my student created their own stories and I'd go to the IRC at the district office to put their books into 'book' form. They'd share their books with others and at the end of the year they'd have their own 'published' books. It was a huge hit! My husband even videotapped their books and I'd have them read them. The program was such that the parent would click on the page to hear their child read. I swear the lines in my classroom on Open House night went out the door! Even the school administrators checked it out!

    How could I not go into this market?

    Later, I'll probably branch off and write that historical romance but for now I'll still write YA. Maybe I'll even go for those color streaks in my hair!

    Great post by the way!

  4. I don't think I ever intended on writing YA but my mind thinks along those lines. My writing is actually YA/crossover. I have just as many adults reading it as kids. And I do have adult only writing as well.

  5. Super post. I think I write YA and MG because of all the years I was a teacher and we read such great kids' books in class. Also, I've never grown up and prefer teens to adults in my stories. :)

  6. Christine - That's so interesting! I wonder how many other people who write were influenced by something similar. I *adored* the Larsson books - oh man, they were so good. I wish I could read them all for the first time again. I also read King in high school, but have since grown away from his style. I'll never forget sitting up all night after reading The Shining, too afraid to go to sleep!

    Joey - It's important to follow your heart and dreams. One thing I always tell my kids is: "I love you, but I can't live your life for you. You need to do what makes you happy. When you do that, the money will come on its own." I really believe that, too. I'm glad you're listening to your heart. Your mom sounds like a smart lady. :)

    Kim - That is so cool, that you helped so many kids see their work in a tangible form. I was an early childhood educator for fifteen years and I totally understand what drove you to take on what must have been a lot of extra work. But, as I'm sure you know, every one of those kids will carry the memory of you and their book with them for the rest of their lives. You might have even planted the seed for a future writer! Be sure to post a picture of those streaks, btw. *laugh*

    JennaKay - I'm with you. My mind just thinks along those lines, so why fight it? I know a lot of grown folks who've read my work and enjoyed it, so maybe I do crossover too.

    Beverly - Weren't some of those books growing up the best? Remember The Phantom Tollbooth? Gawd, I loved that book. The Narnia series, The Hobbit, so yummy - you can probably tell I'm a sucker for fantasy/spec-fic, right? I always say I'm still a kid inside. There are times when I glance in a mirror that I pause and think, "Oh my. When did that happen?"

    Thanks everyone for commenting.