Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why do I write for teens?



I don’t know that I do, actually. I don’t really sit down to consciously write “young adult” novels. I like to think that my books can be read by anyone old enough (or young enough) to enjoy them. But teen books—that’s just what tends to come out when I start typing. Or dreaming. Or wishing. Maybe it’s because I subconsciously don’t want to write about people with mortgages. People who hire baby sitters. Arrange play dates. Do taxes. Skip the steak to eat the salad. People who are tired because they don’t get enough sleep. People who are oblivious to the moon. Get their oil changed. Fill out paperwork. Floss.

As a father of four who has a mortgage and does his own taxes and goes to the dentist twice a year (whether I want to or not), some would say my writing is no doubt a subconscious need to temporarily escape an Über -responsible life. Live a little. Let my proverbial hair down. I disagree. For one thing, I have always lived—a lot. But I do seem to love writing about teenagers because they have the freedom to do so many interesting things. Scary things. Crazy things. Wonderful things. Because they live eternally (for a few short years, anyhow) on the cusp of so many possibilities, decisions, adventures.



No, I don’t write so much to avoid things, but instead to revel in them. I want to be Nine, the protagonist of my novel Teach Me, who likes to strip down to her bare essentials and sneak out in the backyard with her telescope for a little dangerous moon-gazing in the middle of a suburban night. I want to explore a dank and moldering pre-Civil War plantation cellar, like my character Ronald Earl does with his ghostly girlfriend in Days of Little Texas.






I want to hit the open road with someone I dearly love on the trail of a ‘monster,’ like my Frances does in Breathe My Name. I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted to be a vampire—but I have dreamed of running through the night faster than any human being alive to take a flying leap halfway across the Tennessee River. Which is exactly one of the many crazy things my half-human, half vampire character Emma does in my newest novel, Throat.

I write out of a sense of endless of curiosity. I write to explore. Both the world around me and—maybe even more so—the inner world, which in many ways seems even more vast and delicious. I’m desperate to find the places where these worlds—the inner and the outer—join in a breathless, blood-stopping intersection of mystery and wonder. The dishes can wait.

10 comments:

  1. Great entry. You are vivacious, and it comes through in your writing.

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  2. Flossing, hunh? I beg you not to discourage such a fabulous habit!

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  3. Cool to read about your motivation in writing about young people. I share alot of the feelings you detailed here. It's hard (almost impossible) for me to imagine writing about someone older than twenty-one or so!

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  4. Found your blog after Harold Underdown shared it on FB. Yes, I guess we do live through our characters and explore things we wish we had done or could do. Interesting read. As the wife of a dentist, I too second the notion that flossing is good too! Carol Baldwin

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  5. Beautifully written. I love your books!

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  6. Great reasons to write for teens. For me I think I have some arrested development issues. :)

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  7. Wow, thanks, all, and Hols, I've never been called "vivacious" before...feels good!

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  8. This is a great post, Russ. I love this line "People who are oblivious to the moon."

    I think those are very good reasons to write YA.

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  9. Terrific post, Russ! I love exploring new territory with my characters--and getting them into trouble. All the thrills with none of the bruises!

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  10. YES. Thank you. I've had the question: "Why do you write YA? Why don't you write for adults?" As if writing adult fiction is something I may graduate to, eventually. But YA is where my ideas naturally fit. Why fight it? Especially when it is so "vast and delicious"!

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