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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Youth is Wasted on the Young


As I reflect on my veritable writers ADHD, one of the projects that occasionally niggles away at the back of my head is writing a Young Adult novel.

To be sure, I have on numerous occasions been asked if both Deadly Lessons and Last Dance are 'young adult' novels, set as they are in a high school with teenagers as key characters, albeit teenagers I keep killing off. These questions generally come from people who have yet to read the books - or at least I hope so. My protagonist is very much a grown up - if only in years and not necessarily on adult outlook on life.

I may be open to the power of suggestion. Many, particularly in the education field where I toil by day, have told me it seems only natural that I consider taking a crack at the young adult field. I write and I work with young adults. We're not talking rocket science here. On a surface level, of course this makes sense, just like one of my earlier forays into the television markets made sense. As I wrote about some time last spring an agent friend in L.A. was convinced I should write for the then Fox series, Boston Public: you're a teacher and you write. Why not write about being in school. For any number of reasons, it turned out not to be that simple, not the least of which the fact the show was produced by that decade's most prolific and successful television producers. He, uhm, kind of didn't really need my help, thank you very much.

In a recent column I discussed my desire to write in a motor home and had a story based on such a journey. That is, in fact, the young adult novel I've been stewing on awhile. Though it's sketchy right now, the story involves a reluctant journey undertaken by a teen (or I guess I should properly use the term, 'young adult'), who is dragged around the country by his parents in their newly acquired motor home, pretty much every teenager's worst nightmare: spending the summer cooped up in a rolling tin can with parents stopping at every point of Americana interest along the way. In my story, the protagonist will find a love interest in a young woman in a similar situation who he frequently encounters at various and sundry campgrounds, landmarks and, of course, Wal-Mart parking lots across America.

As an added twist, my wife has thought of writing a companion young adult novel told from the female protagonist's point of view. Of course, when we concocted this idea, we were on a cruise ship and we debated which kind of vessel or vessels would best suit our story idea. I preferred the rolling kind, no doubt in part because I have long wanted to venture out in rented RV to tour the highways and byways. I suspect my wife's motivation may have something to do with enjoying cruising and doing more for "research purposes." S.E. Hinton seemed to do okay in this genre. If we could have anywhere near her success, maybe we could do both.

It also may not be as obvious or as simple as it might seem. My wife is an English teacher in a high school so, like me, she is certainly familiar with the young readers we'd be hoping to attract. But also like me, neither one of his is particularly familiar with the genre - if young adult can really even be called that. Certainly many of the books I see teens reading are of the fantasy lit ilk, an area I have no interest in reading, let alone writing. But before I can write for teens I'll probably need to get a lot more familiar with young adult books themselves. What kind of length works? What about sentence structure? Are the stories simplified?

Certainly, it's a continually growing segment of readers with loyal, dedicated followers. And while I'm sure we're not the only teachers writing for that segment of readers, I like to think we'd have at least some insight into targeting quality stories to the types of readers we've both worked with for years.

Now if we can only agree on travel plans to research our contributions to the world of  young adult literature.

Next week: Happy Anniversary to me.


Posted by davidrussellbc at 12:01 AM PST
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