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Old 12-12-2012, 11:52 PM   #1
catherineshanahan
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How did you arrive at writing YA?

How did you arrive at the genre that you are choosing to write within?

I think self-reflection helps you to understand your motivations and craft a more informed text that reads with truth. I personally find it ironic that now that I have actually sat down and decided to translate my love of reading into writing that I am doing so in a YA genre.

I should start with my age (it will give better context lol) I'm 31.

As an early reader (8-10) I pretty exclusively read encyclopaedias and dictionaries (I was a weird kid lol) I wanted to know everything. My siblings were all much much older than I was and books like these were plentiful. I also read some of my sister's Nancy Drews and my Brothers Hardy Boys. My sister had a ton of Anne of Green Gables and Heidi books laying around but frankly they board me.

At 10 I discovered my mothers Romance Novel stash at the back of her closet and started reading Kathleen E. Woodiwiss they were historical and a little raunchy and when my mom found me reading them she was not impressed at all neither was my teacher when I kept using the word "strapping" to describe people in my own stories!

So my mom banned me from the Romance Genre and I moved on to V.C Andrews (if only she knew the content of those lol) and R.L. Stine. I never got into the Baby Sitters Club or the Sweet Valley High books that all my peers were reading. They just in no way interested me. Also at this point I was obsessed with Greek Myths.

This takes me to about 14 when I decided I was a genius...a morose hard done by misunderstood genius!

I started reading books like Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers, Kafka's Metamorphosis, James Joyce Portrait of an Artist, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Dostoevsky's The The Brothers Karamazov, Henry Rollins One from None, Dante's Inferno, Atwood's The Edible Woman and pretty much anything I could read that made me feel like a 'superior intellect' even if I totally didn't understand them at all and had no life experience from which to derive their context.

University I found myself forced to read the texts that I had previously used as an indulgent escape and it took all the fun right out of reading them.

On a daily basis I was pretty sure my brain was going to explode and I was also quickly realising that I wasn't even close to the genius I fancied myself when I had been a big brained fish in a little pond. I started reading classic children's literature like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and The Little Prince. I found them beautiful and timeless with lots of whimsy but still somehow full of simple truths and sweet musing. This is when I also discovered Harry Potter and consumed those works obsessively!

By the end of University I never wanted to see another sentence again let alone read another book! I pretty much just stopped reading all together. I was trying to build my career and my brain was burnt out.

When I got pregnant with my daughter I went into kidney failure and found myself hospitalised on a demeral drip for 4 months trying to avoid heart failure and pre-term labour. I was at the mercy of others. People would bring me books as a distraction from the pretty terrible situation and totally unbearable pain I found myself in. Some people even read to me.

They were books they liked that I had never considered in the past (either cause I had thought myself too smart - read as I was intellectually insecure - or because they were too popular and I was a special snowflake! - read that as insecure in general) People brought me things like Daniel Steele, Steven King, James Patterson, Louis Copeland and anything else they had enjoyed.

I had my daughter than my son 15 mos later and again I had no time to read except the occasional True Ghost story or study or supernatural phenomenon late at night.

My niece was all a buzz with Twilight and again being the rather snotty prat I can be I refused to read it cause I was a Harry Potter fan-nerd and it sounded lame.

I finally found a copy at a thrift store after the first three movies had been released and cause it was $0.75 I figured I might as well. I liked it. I was smiling to myself and getting all those gushy lovie feelings I had long forgotten I even had with my own "first love". It mirrored that stage in my own life so well, everything was exaggerated, and dramatic. I loved so hard at 15yrs and the universe should have stopped spinning to acknowledge the unique depth of our "love" Twilight captured that feeling and for me was nostalgic.

I also read the Percy Jackson series and the gender rebel in me loved it. I felt like a little boy on an epic adventure!

So this summer when I decided that working at home and mothering was going to be the death of me and decided I deserved a little time to myself I told my husband I needed an hour a night to start painting again. That was the plan. As I was painting my imagination started to run wild the way it often does and these characters started popping into my head. I figured I had finally snapped from exhaustion or that I needed to write them down and flush them out.

It is almost like the narrative is dictating its own direction. It is supernatural and it is Young Adult and there is some romantic tension. I just find it so interesting that this is what I am writing considering where I am coming from in terms of literary consumption.

If you actually read all that a gold star for you

Now you go. What has your literary journey looked like? How did you end up where you are in terms of what you are writing?
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Old 12-13-2012, 12:46 AM   #2
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As odd as it sounds, I actually started out hating the thought of reading, until Japanese comics (manga) starting becoming a fairly big thing around the later 2000's. However it was when I turned 18 I started getting my into reading, starting with reading conspiracy non fiction books and things like that.

After I graduated high school, I actually got into reading horror, first by reading old collections of horror short stories that my parents got me when I was a kid. Then I got really into survival horror, like Silent Hill or Fatal Frame, and wanted to write a survival horror novel.

Of course eventually I found myself reading zombie stories, and wanted to do a more human type of horror novel, and thats what brought my to cyberpunk/dystopian. I told a friend once how I wanted to write my own type of dystopian novel.

But I wanted it be a very realistic tale that also was completely hopeless, as I was going for a more adult type of young adult novel, generally around the ages of 16-27. So they recommended I read 1984. I also mentioned I wanted to write a military sf novel, a military centric dystopia.

So they recommended Starship Troopers. Currently I have both copies of Starship Troopers and 1984. I also got a copy of Neuromancer, the only book I've finished thus far and actually enjoyed.

And so that how I came to writing a military centric survival horror dystopia. However even then I was mainly wanted to write adult novels as my association with things young adult were things like Naruto and Bleach.

However I learned from others on the Nano site that if your protagonist is between 13-18, its probably a young adult novel. So I started thinking of myself as a young adult author, because I did not really know if the agent would have a similar opinion.

I tried reading some of the current trending dystopias, but the tense and simple sentences of the first two hurt my eyes a bit. However when I took at look at what was in the novel Partials, I was hooked.
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Old 12-13-2012, 01:54 AM   #3
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I gots here by accident. One day I noticed a bunch of my characters were YA age and their stories reminded me of books I'd read when I was younger, and so I looked upon recent YA and found it awesome.
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Old 12-13-2012, 02:04 AM   #4
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I took the bus and walked three blocks.

Ok, really, the Cliff Notes version:

Grew up, forced to read adult, really snobby toward "teen books" as a kid, college, post-modern dreck through the writing program, took a chance of a kidlit course. Prof used me to test read books for her new YA course. Got me hooked with How I Lived Now. Begged and whined and bribed my way into the class despite having completed the program. Fell even deeper in love with a lot of encouragement from Prof. Ruth. At the end of the day, it's where a lot of my natural voice lives.

And I write sf/f particularly because, growing up, I was super frustrated at the complete lack of female heroes in the epic fantasies and military SF I was reading at home. So I write those books for girls out there like me, who long to see themselves save the world (and don't need no boy to step in and save her. Not even once.)
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Old 12-13-2012, 02:06 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catherineshanahan View Post
How did you arrive at the genre that you are choosing to write within?
Butbutbut that's a totally different question than the thread title!
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Old 12-13-2012, 03:10 AM   #6
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I read a little of everything growing up. A lot of stereotypical novels for kids my age (like Babysitters club, Animorphs, etc) and basically loved reading. I started reading adult books when I was 16. Stuff like Grisham, and Anne Rice.

I started to hear about YA after the Twilight phenomenon. I was in college. I went to the teen section library and went insane. I read 200+ YA books in one year. There was a time when I went through 10-20 books a week. No lie. I was obsessed and in love.

I developed a fervent need for a good YA story. But after reading so much I started to get bored. I'd get 20 books and only read five because the others weren't so great. They were not what I was looking for. I wanted something really specific, something in the Fantasy genre. I kept looking for my dream book, but it was nowhere to be found. I came to the realization that I had to write it myself.

I do love YA, but I find writing it to be a lot more fulfilling.
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Old 12-13-2012, 03:30 AM   #7
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For me, it was an accident. That simple. I wrote about an 18 year-old female MC in a paranormal setting, and all the reviewers mentioned that it was a great first YA title from me. Surprise. Didn't know I had it in me. I've since gone on to craft two more, which I'm (and agent) are subbing at the moment. My second YA distopian took the grand prize in a novel writing contest. So, maybe I'm on to something. Dunno.

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Old 12-13-2012, 04:44 AM   #8
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Whenever I sat down to write it always came out YA. My MCs were always kids or teens, usually trying to save the world. My favorite books were usually YA or MG. I guess I never thought about it, because until recently I was a teen, and I never thought I had enough experience to write about adults and adult situations. (I still don't. *coughcough*) I don't know that I could write anything different, to be honest.
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Old 12-13-2012, 06:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuwisdelu View Post
Butbutbut that's a totally different question than the thread title!
LOL sorry I am new here I thought I posted this in the YA forum...computers and forums confuse the ish out of me!
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Old 12-13-2012, 06:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maria S View Post
I read a little of everything growing up. A lot of stereotypical novels for kids my age (like Babysitters club, Animorphs, etc) and basically loved reading. I started reading adult books when I was 16. Stuff like Grisham, and Anne Rice.

I started to hear about YA after the Twilight phenomenon. I was in college. I went to the teen section library and went insane. I read 200+ YA books in one year. There was a time when I went through 10-20 books a week. No lie. I was obsessed and in love.

I developed a fervent need for a good YA story. But after reading so much I started to get bored. I'd get 20 books and only read five because the others weren't so great. They were not what I was looking for. I wanted something really specific, something in the Fantasy genre. I kept looking for my dream book, but it was nowhere to be found. I came to the realization that I had to write it myself.

I do love YA, but I find writing it to be a lot more fulfilling.
Anne Rice, I totally forgot about my Anne Rice phase at like 12 or 13...it was right after my V.C Andrews phase.

Again if my mother had any clue what I was reading she would have given me the romance novels back! lol
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Old 12-13-2012, 06:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by triceretops View Post
For me, it was an accident. That simple. I wrote about an 18 year-old female MC in a paranormal setting, and all the reviewers mentioned that it was a great first YA title from me. Surprise. Didn't know I had it in me. I've since gone on to craft two more, which I'm (and agent) are subbing at the moment. My second YA distopian took the grand prize in a novel writing contest. So, maybe I'm on to something. Dunno.

tri
I love this! congrats on the success and great reviews too
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:03 AM   #12
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Accident for me, too. I started writing an urban fantasy and the MC was about 25. I kept making her younger and younger until she stopped at age 17, and from there it just worked better. She was still figuring a lot of stuff out.

Plus, I've been 17, but I've never been 25, so that was probably a mistake right out of the gate.
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:38 AM   #13
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I majored in Creative Writing in college, but never had much time to read for pleasure. So after graduation, I started reading anything I could find at the library that looked interesting. 90 % of the books I really enjoyed turned out to be YA, and I sort of subconsciously ended up writing YA manuscripts.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:08 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catherineshanahan View Post
Anne Rice, I totally forgot about my Anne Rice phase at like 12 or 13...it was right after my V.C Andrews phase.

Again if my mother had any clue what I was reading she would have given me the romance novels back! lol
My mom fought me like crazy when she found out I wanted to read Anne Rice. It was horrible. After one particularly bad fight, she bought me Interview with the Vampire and we never spoke about it again.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:32 AM   #15
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I don't always write YA, so I'm not sure I should answer this question. I just write stories, and the character is however old they need to be. Sometimes that makes the story YA.

I grew up reading Harry Potter, so that's my big influence in the YA area. The later Harry Potters books, especially the last one, are my favorites. I'd like to make stories like them, so naturally I ended up at fantasy. Now I'm trying to branch out into science fiction as well. Sometimes the books will be YA. Sometimes they won't.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:33 AM   #16
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I sort of stopped reading YA in college (well, I didn't really read much at all except stuff for class...) and then once I graduated I kind of got back into it. I think it started with rereading The Princess Diaries, and then John Green got involved and that was pretty much that.

Also as I've gotten older I've stopped caring about people judging me for what I read. I like what I like.

As far as writing goes, I pretty much knew YA stories were the only ones I was interested in writing. I also think the genre is providing a lot of opportunities for fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal stuff, which is what I've always liked most
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:43 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catherineshanahan View Post
LOL sorry I am new here I thought I posted this in the YA forum...computers and forums confuse the ish out of me!
You did. I was just pointing out there are tons of genres in YA.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:56 AM   #18
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Quote:
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You did. I was just pointing out there are tons of genres in YA.
Oh sorry my bad. That went straight over my head.
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Old 12-13-2012, 03:28 PM   #19
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First off - whoever read you Steven King while you were on a Demerol drip is just mean.


I have to ask, because a couple of things have been bugging me since I read your post last night:

Quote:
I also read the Percy Jackson series and the gender rebel in me loved it. I felt like a little boy on an epic adventure!
Why do you think this makes you a "gender rebel"? And why would it make you feel like a "little boy" on an adventure rather than a girl? It's like that book that was pitched a few years ago as "Percy Jackson for girls." No, "Percy Jackson" is Percy Jackson for girls, just like it's Percy Jackson for boys. It's a division that doesn't exist.

YA isn't a lesser form of writing or reading, and it shouldn't come as a shock that you enjoy doing either of those just because your reading history is high brow. You'll find similar pasts among several YA writers, and at the moment, YA has some of the most innovative and artistic stories available in contemporary literature. And yes, some of it definitely deserves to be called literature. There's as much variation in quality and genre as you'll find in adult lit, even more in some cases because of the experimental nature of the prose some authors use.

I don't believe you intended what you wrote to sound condescending, but after you're here for a while, I think you'll understand why I'm asking. We get a lot of assumptions and backhanded insults pretending to be compliments as YA writers. It's a HUGE market, and there are sadly people out there who think it shouldn't be.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:57 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
First off - whoever read you Steven King while you were on a Demerol drip is just mean.


I have to ask, because a couple of things have been bugging me since I read your post last night:



Why do you think this makes you a "gender rebel"? And why would it make you feel like a "little boy" on an adventure rather than a girl? It's like that book that was pitched a few years ago as "Percy Jackson for girls." No, "Percy Jackson" is Percy Jackson for girls, just like it's Percy Jackson for boys. It's a division that doesn't exist.

YA isn't a lesser form of writing or reading, and it shouldn't come as a shock that you enjoy doing either of those just because your reading history is high brow. You'll find similar pasts among several YA writers, and at the moment, YA has some of the most innovative and artistic stories available in contemporary literature. And yes, some of it definitely deserves to be called literature. There's as much variation in quality and genre as you'll find in adult lit, even more in some cases because of the experimental nature of the prose some authors use.

I don't believe you intended what you wrote to sound condescending, but after you're here for a while, I think you'll understand why I'm asking. We get a lot of assumptions and backhanded insults pretending to be compliments as YA writers. It's a HUGE market, and there are sadly people out there who think it shouldn't be.
First I want to start by saying I in no way intended to offend. I was more making fun of myself for spending my formative reading years being a huge douche who was so insecure and trying so hard to prove that "LOOK AT ME I AM SMART" that the choices I made in reading were more about constructing an image of myself than about enjoyment or comprehension for that matter.

I found that some of the most literary works I have consumed have been YA and I think there is something to be said for a narrative that can be read on so many levels by so many sub-sections of society. They span age groups and maintain relevance throughout, that is powerful.

So in short it should have read like this "I was a snotty insecure kid who wanted more than anything to be viewed as really really smart, when in all honesty I am of pretty average intelligence at best, and as a result I avoided so many genres that I actually enjoy and never allowed myself to see them as viable or art because my head was lodged to tightly in my own..."

The gender rebel is a complex statement that is rooted in my own life history and you would need backstory for that, lots of it. I will try in the future to ramble way less and perhaps not write floating statements that require better context than a forum can facilitate.

As for Steven King and Demeral...the master himself could not have written anything more horrific than my first pregnancy so I took it in stride
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Old 12-13-2012, 06:01 PM   #21
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I got hooked by the 'streamlined' style of YA writing. I loved the way it forced me to ruthlessly edit my work to keep everything exciting and well-paced.

It's an unforgiving style, trying to keep the audience hooked at all times, and that really appeals to me.
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Old 12-13-2012, 06:56 PM   #22
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First I want to start by saying I in no way intended to offend.
I know - and you didn't. I'm highly literal and some things strike me funny, so I have to ask for clarification. No offense taken.

Quote:
The gender rebel is a complex statement that is rooted in my own life history and you would need backstory for that, lots of it. I will try in the future to ramble way less and perhaps not write floating statements that require better context than a forum can facilitate.
Now it's my turn to clarify.

It's extremely common for people to try and pigeonhole readers by gender. Girls are "supposed" to read romance and boys aren't supposed to touch it - that sort of thing. We actually hear it a lot in the form of "There are no books for boys!" when the issue is really that people won't expose boys to existing books for fear that they're too feminine.

When I hear a writer splitting things the same way, it makes me wonder why.

And we all ramble (good grief, check my post history. I've got some novelettes in there )
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:36 PM   #23
catherineshanahan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
I know - and you didn't. I'm highly literal and some things strike me funny, so I have to ask for clarification. No offense taken.



Now it's my turn to clarify.

It's extremely common for people to try and pigeonhole readers by gender. Girls are "supposed" to read romance and boys aren't supposed to touch it - that sort of thing. We actually hear it a lot in the form of "There are no books for boys!" when the issue is really that people won't expose boys to existing books for fear that they're too feminine.

When I hear a writer splitting things the same way, it makes me wonder why.

And we all ramble (good grief, check my post history. I've got some novelettes in there )
I totally agree with what you wrote about gender being limiting and as a former teacher the issue of boys and reading is something I will not joke about (I joke about most things). It is a really serious issue and there is a huge body of discourse concerning the issues surrounding "Books for boys". It all goes back to gender constructs and if you guys think I ramble don't get me started on this one cause my whole university career was focused on gender studies and to say I am passionate about the formation of the constructs of male and female is an understatement.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:41 PM   #24
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I started at literary fiction and took a right at angst street. (-:

All my adult fiction featured young (child & teen) protags. All of my reading was being done in the YA market...it seemed like an easy decision.
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Old 12-16-2012, 03:02 AM   #25
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I started a book with a 27-year-old version of the protagonist of Pantomime, but I kept getting stuck. I decided to write a "short story" about my character joining the circus as a teenager. I tapped into younger Micah Grey right away and it took on a life of its own. I read a lot of YA anyway, but I wasn't sure if the book I wrote was YA, so I subbed it as adult to Angry Robot's Open Door. They liked it but gave me a revision request and shuffled me over to Strange Chemistry, their YA imprint.

So I did just sort of fall into it, I guess!

I really love YA, though--emotions are so intense as teenagers don't have as many reservations as adults. Most of them haven't been hurt so many times and aren't as jaded. They're hopeful and still figuring out who they are and what they stand for. That makes for powerful stories.
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