Sixteen in my head, or Why
I write YA?

Today Ruth
Frances Long answers the question for us
Some years ago
(not so many that I can excuse it all as a hazy memory, alas) my then-new boss
asked my age. Obviously he shouldn’t have but the long pause that followed
wasn’t from my shock at being asked this question. It was due to my actually
having to stop, think and work out what age I was. Unfortunately for me, he
realised what I was doing. “Don’t you know what age you are?” he asked in
surprise. The answer to which, I blurted out without pause. “I’m sixteen in my
head!” Because I am. I have been since I was sixteen in reality too.
I think everyone
has an age they “are” in their head. 
Most of my friends give an answer somewhere in the mid to late twenties,
some in their thirties. One friend finds this idea seriously entertaining and
has researched it thoroughly at this stage by asking just about everyone she
meets what age they are in their head. She says she’s never met a man who will
admit to being over twenty five (in his head). Draw your own conclusions on
that! But me, I’m sixteen. The eternal teenager. 
On the outside
I’m a (sometime) responsible adult, with a job and a family, a mortgage, a car
etc. Inside however…
I think this is
why I love to write for young adults. There’s something so interesting about
that time of life. You’re always learning (even though you outwardly know
everything already). You’re always looking forward to things. You’re the
eternal optimist. Everything is about hope and growth.
When writing for
adults there’s a certain expectation of seriousness, reality, of the grim
consequences of time, its effect on life. Teens in adult books are often
engaged in coming of age stories, the loss of innocence, the casting aside of
childish things. Every theme connected with them seems to be about loss. If
not, they are a flippant, annoying caricature, designed to display inexperience
and silliness.
In YA fiction, it’s
the opposite. Themes cover the discovery of self, of autonomy, becoming your
own person, responsible for your own actions, making your own choices. Teens
acquire knowledge and experience. They learn and grown in a way that often
their adult counterparts don’t. It’s a vital part of their makeup.  A teen character is a changeable, evolving
wonder, especially for the writer who is learning along with them.
As adults we
desire to protect and nurture our children. But the teenager is all about
breaking free of such constraints. They are “young adults” for a reason, the
second word being the key one. They aren’t children anymore and it’s time for
their independence to begin. Much is written about dark themes in teen books,
about drink and drugs and sex, about death, illness and suicide, and whether
books should deal with these things. Often writers are accused of glorifying or
exploiting such themes.
But where better
for the young teen to learn about them than safely between the pages of a book?
Where better to have those adventures, to enter those conflicts, to feel that
maelstrom of emotions, than a place where simply by putting it down and walking
away, it can all stop in an instant. They might only do that for a moment, they
might never pick that book up again—but, and this is key, it’s their decision. It is often a lot more difficult to have such
control over events in the real world.
Writing for the
young adult audience and reading books for the YA market is a rollercoaster.
It’s an adventure. And it’s a joyous discovery.
 Ruth Frances
Long writes young adult fantasy such as The Treachery of Beautiful Things
(Dial, 2012) and the forthcoming A Crack in Everything (O’Brien Press,
September 2014), the first in a trilogy set in the world of demons, angels and
fairies that exists alongside our own in modern day Dublin. As R. F. Long she
writes fantasy & paranormal romance such as The Scroll Thief (Samhain,
2009) and The Mirror of her Power (Taliesin, 2014). She lives in Ireland and
works in a library of rare, unusual & occasionally crazy books.

Twitter: @RFLong 
Tumblr: RFLong 

A Crack in Everything by Ruth Frances

(O’Brien Press, 1st
September 2014, ISBN: 9781847176356, available to pre-order now)

She was a mistake. A crack in the order of the world …
When Izzy Gregory takes a wrong turn down a Dublin alley
she stumbles into a shadowy, frightening world where magical beings, angels and
demons hold sway. In this place where everything is strange, Izzy finds herself
surrounded by danger, chased and threatened. Her only chance of survival lies
with Jinx, who’s been sent to capture her. Jinx has known nothing but duty and
cruelty from his own kind; Izzy is something altogether new to him – and to his
world …
Falling in love was never in the plan, but it might be the one
thing that can save them.

Thank you, Ruth. A child, or at least a young adult, at heart like the rest of us.
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  1. Author
    Rosemary Gemmell 4 years ago

    What a great post, Ruth – completely agree with you!

  2. Author
    Sandra Mackness 4 years ago

    Fascinating, Ruth. Thank you for this. I run creative writing workshops for young adults, so will give your book a mention and probably devise a writing task from it! Best wishes Sandra (Jill Barry)

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