When I reveal my deep, dark secret to people – that I write books, not the other one – they often ask, why YA? (actually, they usually ask what on earth is YA and I explain it stands for young adult). I don’t remember actively making a choice to write fiction for young adults/teens, I just always have. I wrote something and the voice that came out was young adult-ish. The books and films that I gravitate towards are mainly young adult. I think, for me, that’s because being a teenager is such a powerful time in your life. Everything is SUCH A BIG DEAL. Your hormones are going crazy (if a boy so much as looked in my direction I would develop a crush on him – slightly embarrassing to admit) and you’re trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world.
Identity, friendships, relationships with parents, sexuality, self-confidence, insecurities – they’re all themes that run through out YA fiction and with good reason. These are the things we spent most of our time obsessing over as young adults. We were moving from being children to thinking we were almost-adults and it had to be the most confusing, heart-breaking and exciting time of our lives. The transition is so intense that often, it stays with you for life. It’s also true that books I read as a young adult stayed with me too. Judy Blume’s fantastic Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret and Blubber had such an impact on me that they’ve held a special place on my bookshelf ever since.
So, does writing YA mean I’ve never grown up?
In some ways, yes. There will always be a part of me that is still a fifteen-year-old. But is that a bad thing? Can’t I argue it makes me young at heart? That I can remember being that age and all the problems that went with it? As there’s no one here to argue with me, I’ll say yes, I can. It’s true, part of me has never grown up. I still get crushes on actors. I do the food shop and feel all grown up. Me, allowed in a supermarket? You mean I can buy ANYTHING? Wow. Like my partner, who is still convinced he could have a career as a Premiership footballer (he can’t, because like me, he’s in his thirties. I’ve pointed out to him players retire in their thirties), I often forget that I am a grown-up (I’m resisting the urge to do air apostrophes here). But I think (hope) that’s normal. As we get older, we generally grow in confidence and self-awareness but that doesn’t mean we lose all of our insecurities or give up on those dreams we held years ago. Life doesn’t suddenly become simple because we have some years under our belt. So doesn’t that mean there’s still a teenager in all of us?