Many people have asked me, “What is your target audience? What is the age range?” I’ve responded, “Adult. I deal with complex concepts, and most of my stories are centered around people.”
And yet many of my plot implements and themes seem oddly childish. Not because I make them that way—and I certainly don’t dumb anything down or talk down to people—but because that’s who I am. I’m a child at heart.
When I was younger, I made a board game called “Dragon Territory.” It featured fierce dragons, impressive weaponry and all the earmarks of a fantasy RPG. But alongside that, I had someone called “the pic man” who wanted pics of emeralds and such to add to his collection. You could pick up a fully functioning, 1990s camera (with flash and all)—and go take pics. Every time you turned in a pic, he would tell you, “Smile!”
I didn’t do this to be goofy. I knew it was (sort of), but I just wanted something happy and light amidst all the drama. It was literally just a competitive part of the boardgame for me. Keep in mind I was in high school here—I wasn’t some elementary schooler. And when I remade the board game after college, the pic man stayed.
I call it “natural goofiness.” It’s just part of who I am. I have a weird sense of the epic that involves implements people would consider…younger. And yet I deal with complex topics of philosophy and question everything.
That’s who I am.
I found out recently that Young Adult Fantasy doesn’t require dumbing down of concepts. In fact, young adults love to deal with complex topics. They love wrestling with the issues—and character drama is their thing. And they love a bit of goofiness to their stories, especially when the author takes the story seriously.
Some authors can present an intense story while including lighter plot implements. That’s exactly what I do on a regular basis, and I love it.
So what really convinced me that I am a Young Adult author? I read a blog recently that told me what Young Adult is actually like (How to Write YA)—and I thought, “Hey, that sounds a lot like what I do.” It dealt with universal topics and themes, and reflected upon the awkwardness of youth. Since I never really grew up in certain ways, this has never been difficult for me.
But what really got me was the last line: “You’re writing for young humans, people who are the most in need of answers, people who are the most curious. You have the best chance for making a real difference in this world and it’s a disgrace to think otherwise at all ever.”
That’s exactly what I wanted to do. Shape people’s hearts and minds through writing. And young adults create that kind of literature. So why shouldn’t I be a Young Adult author?
I see no reason not to. And maybe I’ve been Young Adult this whole time.
Another thing: adults read Young Adult. They love the complexities too. And since my characters are in their early 20s, they should be relatable no matter who you are. Most of us have been there, right?
So that’s my announcement for you. I am now officially a Young Adult author. Someone commented to me that my covers look like Young Adult anyway. Surprise! Now they are.
And it was long overdue.