My Dearest Fellow Conspirators,
There’s so much out there to write about and so many genres to write it in.
So why Y.A.?
There are indeed a lot of genres out there, and I have eclectic tastes. There’s not much I don’t enjoy reading.
So why write Young Adult?
I once wrote a Middle Grade book that I shopped around, but I never really found a good home for it. I’ve even dabbled around with literary fiction, but it didn’t do much for me, so I figure it probably wouldn’t do much for anyone else.
I started writing the Athena’s Law series more for adults, who might gravitate toward a darker, more post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, and detective aesthetic. (That’s been a blast to write, by the way, and, time allowing, I plan to stretch that series out some more and see where and how long it decides to go.)
YA, I discovered, is uniquely fun to read as well as to write. (I’m talking here generally about the traditional YA audience and specifically about the dystopian, post-apocalyptic, academy, and fantasy sub-genres.)
The YA audience for these sub-genres is more sophisticated than I think a lot of people—older and younger adults, alike—might realize. This audience tends to have a sensitive “B.S. meter” and an uncanny ability to sniff out lazy writing, pandering, and clichés. This makes writing YA a challenge, which is great because anything too easy isn’t worth doing, right? It also makes YA high-risk and high-reward. And there’s something inspiring and electrifying about that.
So why post-apocalyptic? Why Why not write about something uplifting? Something with romance, love, unicorns, kittens in smiley-face pajamas, meet-cutes, and happy-sappy endings?
That’s the mistake too many people make about dystopian books.
To me, they are uplifting, although perhaps in their own roundabout way. I try to imbue my imagined worlds with the foundational realities of our own. These are the worlds teenagers think adults might turn our world into.
It’s teen life—school, parents, injustice—wrapped up in a few hundred pages.
In the Conspiracy Chronicles, for example, there IS love. And romance. There may not be much in the way of kittens, unicorns, or pajamas, but hey—you can’t have it all, right? Besides, there’s a pretty cool raven, who’s at least as cuddly as any kitten.
In the end, for me, YA dystopian, YA post-apocalyptic, YA fantasy is where the action is. It’s the place between dreams and nightmares. It’s the intersection of naivete, cynicism, and optimism. And it’s about finding our way through that intersection and hoping we don’t get run over as we decide which way we’re finally going to go.