Friday, July 23, 2010

Why YA?

One of the questions I’m often asked is: Why do you write Young Adult?

My smart-assed answer is: Because I’m immature for my age. But, seriously, that’s not it. I mean, not that I’m not immature, it’s just not the real reason I love writing for teens.

When I first started out, I wrote a full-on adult horror novel called ONE OF THEM. It was graphic, filled with steamy sex, filthy language, and heavy on the gore. Cuz that’s how I roll.

(Okay, yeah, there’s my immaturity showing again!)

But here’s the thing about YA, what draws me to the genre in general: I love remembering what it was like to be a teen. How raw every emotion felt, how they always seemed to simmer just beneath the surface, how mixed up each emotion was until they were impossible to tell apart: love, hate, humiliation, joy, anger, jealousy. When everything you experienced was new and how that very moment was the single most important moment of your entire life. There were so many out-of-control emotions packed into every “first” you experienced. Your first crush, your first date, your first kiss. Your first heartache.

I get to see and experience these things everyday with my own kids, watching them pass through these tough and wonderful stages just as I did. My oldest daughter’s first real break-up nearly broke my heart. Taking my son to get his driver’s license…well, let’s just say my heart might not be broken, but it’s definitely lodged in my throat. He, on the other hand, is practically quivering with excitement for this monumental first!

As adults, we’ve lived, we’ve experienced, and now we’re, what…jaded? Cynical? And even if we’re not jaded, we sometimes forget how quickly that rush of butterflies could jam us up, making coherent speech impossible…sometimes making us forget our own names. But try, just for a moment, to remember the feelings behind them—those butterflies—think about that anticipatory breath right before that first kiss, when your eyes locked and you realized: This might be it! This is really going to happen!!!

In YA I get to write about these moments, in all their shiny newness, their raw intensity and jumbled emotions.

Because I remember my first kiss, the feel of his lips against mine, his hands awkwardly trying to find a place on my hips. And don’t try to tell me you don’t remember yours…I bet you even remember his name!

21 comments:

Anne said...

I totally agree! YA explores all of the amazing moments that only seem to happen in that time. Somewhere along the line the "butterflies" subside but being able to relive those moments in your book and the books of other YA authors is what keeps drawing me it.

I love YA Books like a fat kid loves Cake! lol

Thanks for a great post Kimberly!

Sharon S. said...

Great post! As an adult it is hard to remember how special those "first" moments were. Between the carpooling, cleaning, bill paying and what not there just isn't time, but a song will come on the radio that brings me back to my teen years (the 80's). All those emotions come flowing back and I am there again, I can even feel the butterflies. Books can bring me back too. The cool thing is with each book there is another first kiss. I also love that build up of emotion and anticipation as his mouth slowly comes closer and you can feel the heat of his breath brush your lips right before you touch...

any hoo... his name was Robbie Abraham

starshinedown said...

It is hard for me as an adult to remember the immediacy of emotion in our teen years, though I do remember--and with other adults, occasionally mock--the melodramatic parts of teenagehood. I volunteer w/teens and I'm constantly being reminded, or needing to remind myself of, what an emotional roller coaster those teen years are.

Oh, that first kiss. I, alas, do remember his name, the setting, and how utterly utterly awkward and gross it was. It's amazing it didn't turn me off of dating altogether! :D

Pamela Palmer said...

Wonderful post, Kimberly! I absolutely remember those teen years and those crazy emotions. My husband doesn't remember what it felt like to be a kid or a teen, at all. My dad used to say the reason he could relate to us as teens so well was that he remembered what it was like to be a teen. And he was always amazed at how many men of his acquaintance didn't. And he wasn't young. He was thirty-six when his first was born. I know a ton of adults read YA, but I'm kind of curious how many read it to relive the moments they do remember and how many to remember the emotions they don't.

Sara said...

Great post!
I met my husband when I was 17 and he was 18 and YA definitly reminds me of the whirlwind of very raw emotions that I was feeling at that time. Great memories I love reliving.

Terri Garey said...

Oh, I absolutely remember his name, where we were, and how completely self-conscious we both were at that moment. Ah... thanks for taking me back there again, if only for a moment! :-)

Great post!

lynnrush said...

I LOVE YA! You point out a lot of the reasons why, too. Nicely written!

Happy Friday!

Jackie Uhrmacher said...

His name...his name...nope, can't say I do. : )

That's a great explanation. I've wondered, myself, why so many authors are starting new YA series. Yeah, it's great to delve into something new, but it's damn near epidemic. I've never understood the appeal, but now it makes sense to me in a weird sort of way.

Suzanne Young said...

OH, snap. I haven't thought about this guy for a WHILE. His name was Dave and let's just say he was all tongues. haha Turns out I ended up being in love with his brother--or as much love as my 8th grade self could be. haha It was awkward at best. :-)

thatonegirlyouknew said...
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Buffy said...

First off, where can I get ONE OF THEM?

Second, I totally remember my first kiss. It was strange and exciting and awkward, definitely awkward. But as for his lips on mine, I remember the electricity that only the firsts can have. I love that this is one of the reasons you write YA.

Becca Wachter said...

PREACH ON!! Well said, Kimberly. :)

Kimberly Derting said...

Buffy - Thankfully, ONE OF THEM never reached publication (I'm still shocked that I landed an agent with it because it was a mess!), so you won't be finding that on the shelves anytime soon. Or ever ;) Let's just chalk that one up to really great practice!

Oh, and I forgot to tell you all the name of my first kiss: Tim. Wouldn't we have been an adorable couple (if I could have gotten past the fact that he was a terrible first-kisser!)? Tim and Kim...

Buffy said...

Kim, that is sad indeed. If you ever change your mind and feel like letting someone read it... ^_^ I don't share.
enchantedweakness@hotmail.com

nymfaux said...

I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. During middle school I read one Sweet Valley book a day until I caught up--I started with Twins, then moved on to SVH, then SVU, and even snuck a couple of Sweet Valley Kids books when I was super desperate. And in between my Sweet Valley Obsession, I read the requisite horse books, the classics, L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Tamora Pierce...

And I never would have stopped, but toward the end of High School, Beginning of college, it seemed like I should be "over that," on to more mature reading, or something...and so I kept my absolute favorites, but stopped buying more...Until I saw the first Harry Potter movie--I mean isn't that just kid stuff??? But I LOVED the movie, and so I picked up the 1st book with the "adult" cover, figuring I could read it if I got bored sometime...a couple weeks later, finals week to be exact...it was either that or study...I was HOOKED--one adult cover, two paperback, one hardcover--they were a motley, uncoordinated collection, but I had to have them--I read the first four books in four days, and still managed to pass my finals in between...

But Harry Potter is the exception, right??? And then I found Tera Lynn Childs, and L.A. Meyer's Bloody Jack, and finally after Twilight, I just couldn't deny that I still love Y.A. And I'm not embarrassed anymore, because they're fun, and magical, and wondrous. I've started keeping an eye out for some of my old favorites, realizing that the reasons that I liked them in the first place didn't just go away because I got older. They are filled with feelings and memories, and I miss them like old friends.

Krista said...

Great post! I read a lot of YA (such as the absolutely fantastic Body Finder :)!) for a lot of the reasons you write about. It's enjoyable to go back in time for a little while.

nymfaux said...
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Crystal said...

I love reading YA for the same reason you love writing it. It's take's you back to the time of first kisses, butterflies in your tummy, all those emotions teenagers come with and all that good stuff.
And I still get embarrassed remembering that first kiss, I had no clue what I was doing. LoL
Great post!
@nymfaux, I haven't thought of SVH in ages, thanks for reminding me. You're great for that! =)

nymfaux said...

@Crystal--I must have some magic or something, because as soon as I thought of SVH and remembered it, I saw that they're coming out with an "adult" novel--Sweet Valley Confidential, 10 years later...I think it's supposed to be out in December, and I already feel myself being sucked back in ;)

Kimberly Derting said...

nymfaux- I loved your insights and reasons for coming *back* to YA. Very well said!!!

nymfaux said...

@Kimberly--Thanks!!!! And thanks for the great post!!!! Keep the books coming!!! :)