Thursday, August 05, 2010

Why I write YA

Because I'm too young to write anything else.

No! That's only part of it. The real reason is this:

Endless possibilities, for me and for my characters. They can fall in love for the first time, travel the world, learn who they are, discover what they want in life, take down the bad guy, or they can do it all. So can I. I can be what my generation strives for. A little behavior that I like to call genre-bending.

I am a genre-bender, and YA is the ultimate platform for it. Adventure-paranormal-scifi or historical-thriller-romance or western-fantasy-horror. So on and so forth! Wait wait wait! Did I just say western-fantasy-horror? Hmm...maybe I should try to pull that off someday...

In the adult world, things get all separated. Books can be literary, or they can be "commercial" (a most problematic label). Books need to find a home in the bookstore, meaning that writers have to fit their stories into those categories. They can draw on multiple elements but ultimately their book has to be suspense OR romance. Horror OR fantasy.

As an aspiring YA author, I don't have to do that. I can have it all. That's not to say there aren't limits. My main characters must be approximately between the ages of 14 and 19, and must deal with coming-of-age issues along the way. But I like that. They have all the possibilities in the world open to them. They are just beginning their crime-fighting or bad-boy-loving or zombie-slaying lives.

I feel their freedom.


  1. I think you are taking that freedom everywhere into what you write - like this blog - you are on it.

  2. When it comes to drama, and anthropological investigations, I like complexity. Sounds like you've got a great take on that in terms of the genre-bending focus. But I think you're right, that somehow, someone, some publishing industry figure working to protect the divisions in their office and in their mind, will try to corral what you're doing into some nifty and obviously sketchy category. Even if that's just the words on the back of your published book letting people know where to put it on the bookstore shelves. Knowing your potential, I'm certain that your endeavor will take you that far and probably beyond. You're a compelling and memorable writer and person.

    Character complexity is also critically important in the things that I read. It's a bit weird to say this, but I think that's equally true in both fiction and non-fiction writing. What's making me think about this is your notion that young people are free, with "all the possibilities of the world open to them." But that's just not true, is it? I mean, we all attempt to shape our own course through all the requirements, expectations and pressures of our everyday lives. To me the character which struggles against such constraints are particularly compelling. Not only in the sense that they are attempting to enact their own idiosyncratic, perhaps, notions of freedom, which we all enjoy. But also because their struggles reveal those snags, obstacles and pitfalls many of us face in all sorts of other situations. Some of those constraints we need, we want, and it's fascinating to explore that contradictory dynamic within ourselves, within the characters we construct. Well, I think so anyway. And in the context of YA literature I think these sorts of things are particularly important. I think it's crucial for young people to realize that freedom doesn't just happen as some sort of an instantly realized political promise, but rather that we actively construct the lives we lead and bring into existence the sorts of freedoms we have available.

    Well, that was a bit of a ramble. But you did request feedback and some of your notions sparked a few thoughts. Who knows if they'll be useful. If so, great! If not, sorry. I'll try again another time :)

    So wonderful to hear from you again Dayana. You truly are a memorable person and I'm grateful that you thought highly enough of our experiences together to include me in your writing community. Thanks! Be well!

    Matt Archer

    Ps. I don't really use this google mail account, other than for this kind of thing. So, send emails to my college address please (

  3. Thanks Matt. That is very fascinating, and true. Youth only affects so much. Its a framework, not an end all. I think I have refined my stance on it now. The hopefulness and freedom that permeates YA are some of the rules of the genre, as opposed to making it a genre without rules. YA is (mostly) the genre of happy endings. Books, movies, TV...we're all affected by genre. So I guess the better way to say it is that hope is my favorite restriction.
    Thanks for commenting! Always great to hear from you too.

  4. Great comments! Both of you.