"When are you going to start writing for grownups?"
I wasn't in a situation where I could say what immediately came into my head, so all I could do was look at them like this:
|Errr, WHAT did you just say? (Image licensed for use under Creative Commons)|
But later – much later, long after this person had gone, because that is what ALWAYS happens to me – I thought of a proper (and polite) answer.
This is it.
I came to writing YA after trying everything else, including writing for adults (which nearly made me give up on writing altogether – you can read more about that here). But I didn't start writing it because it was a last resort, or because it's easy. I didn't start writing it because I wanted to hop on a bandwagon or because it was 'something to do' while I was striving towards writing 'proper' books for adults. And I don't know any other children's or YA authors – and that includes authors who write for young people AND adults – who started writing it for that reason either.
Y'see, it's not only the author you insult with a question like that. It's their readers, too. To dismiss books for young people as somehow being inferior to those for adults is to dismiss the young people themselves – as if, somehow, they and the books they read have less worth.
You only have to read a handful of the many amazing children's and YA books that are out there right now to realise what a crazy attitude this is. As categories, they contain some of the most challenging, frightening, beautiful, downright exciting books I've ever read. Philip Pullman, anyone? Roald Dahl? Melvin Burgess? Malorie Blackman? Tabitha Suzuma? I could go on… and on…
Which isn't to say I don't enjoy books written for adults, because I do. In my mind, there's no distinction – and there wasn't when I was younger. If a book is well-written, has a gripping storyline, relatable characters, I'll devour it no matter what age group it's aimed at; I've been the same all my life. Which is why, when people start pitching one category against another, looking down their noses at literature for younger readers, it drives me crazy.
I may write for adults one day, or I may not. Why should it even matter? Kids are not just adults-in-training. Their books are not dumbed-down versions of the books their parents and the other adults around them read. And the writers who write for them aren't just doing it as a rehearsal. We write what we write because we can't not write it – because it's in our DNA.
And we're having a great time doing it, thank you very much.