Wednesday, October 28, 2009

writing (for) teens

Recently, due to the fact that I've been making so many appearances all over the country, I've found myself faced with a few very frequently asked questions.

First of all, when I talk to teens, without a doubt the number one question I am asked is: How much money do you get paid for writing a book?

It's a fair enough question, I suppose, and it's justifiable for teens to ask such a thing, especially if any of them potentially sees himself as a writer at some point in the future. But I don't really answer it, either. I am a master of changing the subject to make it appear as though I've answered the question. You know... like politicians do. But, believe me, I could never withstand the scrutiny of the public should I endeavor to pursue a career in politics.

While I may have a birth certificate, my closet has no remaining available space for fancy outfits due to all the skeletons I've crammed in there.

Now, a question that I am most frequently asked by adults (assuming they're not aspiring authors, in which case, they either ask the same exact question listed above, or they'll ask me to recommend them to my agent) is: Why did you choose to write books for teens?

And that's a question I can really sink my teeth into.

First of all, I do not write books for teens. I write books for me. I write the kinds of books that I have to write, the stories I need to tell. Now, it just so happens that most of the stories I feel the need to tell come from my younger years and they have main characters who are teenagers, but I always start out and finish up assuming my novels will be read by adults as well as "young adults."

Furthermore, I like to employ young characters as protagonists because a reader can be far more forgiving toward them. In many cases, teens have to grapple with making poor choices for the first time in their lives. And that's okay... we expect them to make mistakes when they're first starting out and faced with some tough decisions that require experience and maturity. Sometimes, telling a lie to a friend or a family member seems the best thing to do, for example, and often teens will learn from the poor choices they make. We can easily forgive that in our younger protagonists. We like to see them grow through their trial-and-error misjudgments. On the other hand, as a reader, I am not going to "hang in there" through the length of a novel for an adult character who lies to his wife or best friend.

So, since it's easy to be more forgiving toward younger protagonists, it's also easier to come up with engaging stories that take readers places they never imagined they'd go in an effort to "hang in there" for the hero of a story.