Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Aren't You A Little Old For YA?

Someday, someone will probably say this to me, so I’d better have a blog post ready.

I’m over 50. My Likes page will probably reflect that, and in fact a lot of my likes come from way before my time, such as Elvis and Busby Berkeley.

When you think about it, that just means I’ve had about 40 extra years of experience being childish.  Of course, practice isn’t really that important for many skills, but it helps with immaturity, since it gives you a reason to watch cartoons from many different time periods. 

I started writing my first novel at about age ten. It was a milSF extravaganza about a secret base underneath Europe (with a tunnel to NYC) run by a lady general with her politician boyfriend and then she starts falling for this other politician – they’re in a secret underground base due to a supervirus above ground which turns people into violent assholes. I never finished it because I got sidetracked by the adventures of the general’s teenage daughter and her best friend, who escaped aboveground on a lark and had to fight their way back into the base, and became totally unconcerned with whatever the dumb grownups were doing.

The subject of teenagers having adventures seems to infiltrate everything I write, even though I’ve never had a teenager of my own, and I didn’t particularly enjoy being one. I honestly enjoy teenager-oriented art, even especially when it’s rude and obnoxious. If my life had gone a different way I might have turned out like my junior high science teacher, enthusiastically infecting teenagers with appreciation for science. Instead I found myself in a position to recombine elements from all my favorite stories I’ve ever read and pack them up to please modern readers – and as it just so happens, all of my favorite stories I’ve ever read involved teenagers having adventures.

And then there’s sex. During the course of my lifetime, I have seen explicit sex scenes in books go from shocking to compulsory. While I appreciate a good sex scene as much as the next reader, I I fail at writing them. Another reason to stick with YA.

As a non-mom, I never quite developed that irritating “eat your vegetables!” voice, and I’m hopeless at nagging and scolding.  Also, when women start that “speaking as a mom” stuff I tend to zone out – because speaking as a non-mom, all that maternal relationship stuff bores the crap out of me. I can lead a raid or manage a project though, and that’s a skillset that works well with telling stories about brave and resourceful teens doing things that would make grownups reach for the antacids. Anyway, distilling authority figures into objects of admiration or hatred (whatever the plot requires) without contaminating the work with mom-ishness is a delicate skill, and I believe I can do that.

Finally, YA is popular right now. Thank you, Harry Potter, for causing that to happen. That means there might actually be a demand for the stuff I like to write – serendipity.

I spent an excessively long period of writers block trying to figure out what to write, and considering that writing, and other art, is for bringing people together and giving them something to talk about. If you write, for example, about teenage vampires, you will bring together people who enjoy talking about teenage vampires. Great. But what if ten or fifteen years passes and you decide you don’t really like teenage vampires anymore, but you’re kind of stuck with them, and the only conventions that will invite you are full of teenage vampire fans who will boo you if you say anything contrary to the fandom.

Therefore, it is best to write something that brings together people I like in the first place. And I like teenagers, and adventurers, and science fiction fans, and people who like books about those elements. I think I can continue liking these folks right up to my dying breath, and hopefully write something that amuses them eventually. 

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