People always seem to want to know where ideas come from, and what moves a person to write about it. Well, the first answer is a bit mysterious and different for everyone, but the second is a little less so. When I pick something to write about, I feel like I'm spelunking. I'm climbing down deep into something that interests me, seeing all the cool things that form and what they look like in different kinds of light. Sometimes those things are scary, and sometimes they're exciting, and sometimes they're beautiful. That's some pretty cool shit to get just out of writing some words down. But the other day as I was driving to work, thinking about my book (what else would I think about while sitting in traffic?), I started to wonder why I chose this. Why YA? I wrote about a teenage girl from a small town. I wrote for a teenage girl in a small town. All teenage girls. But why?
So I had to spelunk for the answer. And this is what I came up with.
1. Teenagers are fascinating. Now, when I was one, I wanted to be anything but a teenager. It was weird and uncomfortable and awkward. You didn't have anything that you could really control, and being a grown up or a kid seemed much better in comparison. At least adults could do whatever they wanted and nobody was the boss of them (ha! I learned that this was wrong a long time ago!), and kids could just run around without a care in the world. Teenagers are stuck in the middle of these two worlds, trying to hang on to the joy of childhood while exploring the independence of adulthood. And it's a freaking scary ass journey. But every teenager is different, and has a different journey. I wanted to explore the journey of this one girl.
2. Teenagers learn quickly. While teenagers are on this amazing journey of discovering who they are, they go through a lot of bullshit. The make a lot of mistakes. The highs are high (first kiss!) and the lows are low (first heartbreak!). And there is everything in between. So when writing about teenagers, it seems a lot easier to fit a whole story into a relatively short amount of time. Once we get to adulthood, we learn lessons over a longer period of time, so it's much less of a thrill ride. And that thrill ride is the one I want to be on.
3. Teenagers are sponges. Since they learn so quickly, they can internalize ideas rapidly and easily, even without realizing it. When I write about teenagers, I can explore all sorts of other ideas in my book; ideas about race, culture, class, gender, and so on that the characters are dealing with on some level, whether they know it or not. When I was a kid, I saw lots of things happen around me, and I remember it clearly, but a lot of it I didn't fully process until I was older. But now that I have processed it, I've learned that these kinds of concepts were all around me as a kid, and I soaked it all up. And when teenagers (hopefully) read my book, they might be able to see a little bit of their lives there, and ingest these ideas, and these ideas might actually hit a place of thinking about them and thinking, "Yeah, that's true. Why is it like that?" In this very small way, I like to think that I can spark a thought, and that thought can spark a little change to make the world just a bit better.
There are tons of other reasons I wrote this exact story, but these are the reasons I wrote for teenagers. And maybe the teenagers at heart, too.