When I tell people I write I get a mixed bag of reactions, as most writers do. When I explain I write YA Fantasy people are usually more confused.
The fantasy part makes sense. Seeing as I’m a huge nerd who still hosts Magic the Gathering parties instead of dinner parties and can rant about most any acceptable nerd topic you offer (except comic books, but that’s a different conversation).
I also have a reasonable fantasy pedigree. I did my time at GenCon with my friends. I had a pastime during college that allowed me to hone my writing alongside some of the most talented writers in Fantasy, Urban and otherwise (but mostly Urban). I gamed and geeked with friends who have gone on to literally write the book on storytelling style gaming. So the fact that I write Fantasy to people who know me seems a given.
YA is the confusion. I’m in my late 30s. I don’t have teenagers. I’ve got a job that in the tech industry and an intimate knowledge of small business management. I have a degree in History. Very little about me gives the impression that I’m stuck in my teenage years or would like to give teens a lesson (or that I really even know they exist).
That’s all part of the grown-up facade. They don’t call them your formative years for nothing. And my formative years weren’t like other people’s They were nothing like a YA novel. When I finally do share the stories of my teen years with close friends they invariably apologize. It’s a strange life to lead that the reaction isn’t laughter, or pity, or attempts to rationalize or fix, they just say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Which is why I see YA itself as another form of fantasy. It’s why I want to write that exact fantasy that got me through that particular kind of time in my life. A time where no person could white knight in and save me from the stuff that was happening. Where I was so lost and confused I wasn’t even really counting down the days ’till I get out of this’. I was surviving, and reading, and just making it through.
And I did, I made it through.
But, there were no one true loves, no situations that resolved neatly to form a clear conclusion, no problems in the universe that needed only me. I had no power and no responsibility and looking back to discover that I actually had friends is still a bit of a surprise. The friends that got me through were Jane Eyre and Alanna of Trebond. Because the humans that I still adore for their friendship were going through their own crap and I’ve since learned that there are no adults who understand even where to begin helping someone in my kind of situation.
I floated off to college, because that was next. I got into my safety school because that’s all that I applied to. I got away and THEN things changed. But I still remember being the lost and alone and floating kid and that’s exactly who I write for, because I’m sure there’s more lost, alone, floating kids who need to find a character that will be enough like them they understand and enough different that they can escape a situation that isn’t the worst thing to happen to a person, but also not the way things should be. They’ll read it and feel less alone.