The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome Chris Stevenson! He is a YA author and shares here about why he writes in that genre and what the adolescent years offer to a writer.
The Mysterious Teenage Hominid – Writing for Teens
There was no question why I wrote YA fiction in the first place. When I got into it, it was a thrilling, lucrative and expressive category. Harry Potter was dominating the charts. The Hunger Games appeared, along with Divergent and Twilight. Writing young adult fiction then was like being on a speeding freight train which had no brakes and a throttle that only went forward.
There are no estimates of how many writers jumped on that band wagon.
I remember my first real YA book, The Girl They Sold to the Moon. That tiny tome sold six times and took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest, which was sponsored by a small publisher. That wasn’t the reason I wrote it. I wrote it because I loved the characters, not the atmosphere, world or environment. Yet again, something clicked inside me. I had a handle on something. I could talk teen. Not spectacularly, but well enough to pull the wool.
Let me get something out of the way before I continue: I have a non de plume for my young adult stories–Christy J. Breedlove. There’s no mystery in changing a name for a genre. But I changed my gender. J.K. Rowling’s agent told her to give herself a neutral author name because “boys are less likely to read books written by girls.” Hence, the J.K. initials. I just took it a step further.
I believe women can be trusted by other women to write with more emotional impact and feeling. Women don’t really have any problems reading the several male authors out there who excel in writing romance. However, women are less likely to read a romance crafted by a guy because it can’t quite reach inside them like one of their own. I hoped and prayed that if spontaneous buyers of my young adult books believed they were crafted by a gal (at first), it might go easier for me. Even men believe that gals can lay down a young adult story with more connection and honesty. I know I do. So, no gender bias meant at all. Only respect. (And no, I don’t think I’m fooling anyone 🙂
Back on track: The teenage years are restless and oft times reckless years. They are an era in life that explores change, hopes, failures, experimentation, rebellion and growth. Especially growth. Most fundamental truisms are picked up during these formative years–rules or guidelines for life. What appeals to me so much about this time of life is that it can be so unstable. It’s a time when tragic mistakes are made–emotional upheaval is magnified. To me, this gives me a sense of freedom in exploring some deep-felt topics. Unlike an adult that might be more prone to decorum and subtly, a teen might very well blunder into a situation, causing higher consequences and repercussions.
The exploration of the teen mind can offer a ton of latitude in subject matter–life, death, love, hatred, bullying, lawlessness, substance abuse, incest, pregnancy and even murder. The young, let’s face it, are resilient, forceful and courageous with their own convictions. They can take a hell of a lot of punishment, rebound and get their life’s compass back on direction in record time. Sometimes they fail, but the harder they fail, the harder they strive to crush the demons.
My guilty pleasure in writing for, or about teens, is my utter fascination with their nonconformity. Looking back upon my own kid-hood, I can glimpse my errors and snippets of absolute stupidity. This stupidity allows me cartloads of humor and irony in my writing. There is nothing quite like a couple of teens going at it verbally or physically, and in many cases, only to drive a point home. There’s nothing quite like a teen hitting you smack between the eyes with blunt-force honesty. They regularly deal with each other in absolute truth. No words minced. Compared to adults, teens act; there’s no lolly gagging. We do have the quiet, shy and retiring types, but those are exceptions, to what I think is the overall demeanor.
In an action/adventure tale, or a post-apocalyptic story, I can bring teens to the edge of death several times and have them ultimately survive. Physiologically, younger adults are more fit than adults. Have you ever seen a walking antibiotic? They can suffer and endure much more abuse than an older person. I have been known to take advantage of this fact time and time again. Youth–strength–indestructibility.
I think teen fiction offers higher stakes, loftier emotions and grander outcomes. Nowhere is YA fiction better told than in the hands of the teenagers themselves. The young set has a finger directly on the pulse of their own lifestyles. They don’t have to guess or research what they would do in any given circumstances–they know exactly the ways in which they would handle it, along with their own cultural oddities that so confuse the adults. Teens have a language all their own. You need a decoder ring to understand it. Look at their text messages–you need a cypher to crack them! Trust me, teens are not of this Earth!
As a person in my sixties, I cannot understand why I feel I was chosen to write young adult tales. Those years were some of the fondest times of my life. I don’t look back upon them with disdain. Albeit, there were many cringe-worth times. There were stage plays and scenes of stark terror. But I remember them with an awestruck gusto, a bewildering time of adventure and exploration. My over-the-top emotional writing style seems to fit right into the plots and characters. I’m always learning, because there are so many writers out there, both young and old, who are masters at expressing the teen world.
I’m only along for the ride.
I have a lot of reviews that are about to come in for this latest book. The trickle has started. So far everything seems beyond expectations. Yet, all of these reviewers seem to be teen or twenty-something women. I can just about guarantee that if I’ve got something wrong in the text, it’s apt to be flagged. And I welcome that. It just means that I get to learn more secrets.
Christy/Chris–red-shifting outta here.
(BTW, blue shift means to come toward you. Red-shift means leaving or going away from you).
About Chris Stevenson
I’m a diehard frantic creator of Young Adult fiction, whether it’s paranormal, science fiction, suspense or fantasy. I believe in pure escapism with unceasing action adventure and discovery. If you want a moral message or cultural statement, you’re apt to get a small one. But let me tell you something, reader, I want to make you laugh until you gag, cry until you’re dry and tear out tufts of your hair. Today, young adult literature needs some support and renewed interest.. How soon we’ve forgotten about Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight. Oh, the mania! Where has it gone? Are we losing our young readers? We need something really fresh and new. I and several writers are going to pour everything we have into that end. You are the kindly judge–help us get there and we will deliver!
More About Chris Stevenson
Christy J. Breedlove (Chris H. Stevenson), originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer, housecleaner and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult, but has published in multiple genres and categories. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons).
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Thank you so much to Chris Stevenson for such a fun and interesting guest post about writing for teens! Be sure to check out his/her books.
The author, Chris Stevenson, retains all rights to the guest post published above, which may not be copied, reproduced, modified, sold, or distributed without the author’s express permission. To contact Chris Stevenson to request permission to utilize the above guest post, please send your inquiry to Kat via the Contact page.
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