Friday, 23 October 2009

My Number One Fan

I get different reactions when I say I write for teenagers. Some people are very excited, because they know what a lively and varied genre it is, and they don't care who sees them reading a book that's marketed to folk much younger than they are. Sometimes people are not really sure what to say - maybe they would never consider reading teenage fiction, or they don't know any teenagers, and it's just a bit so what? to them. That's fine, too. Others look at me as if I've done something a bit selfless - as if writing for teenagers is doing said teenagers a big favour. As if I could have been writing for adults, but instead I went out of my way to do something for the kids. Just because I'm nice.

I'm not nice. Well, not like that. I didn't write my book as a favour to anyone, or to teach anyone anything. I wrote Girl, Aloud to please myself. It was the most fun I've ever had writing. I love writing about teenagers - if we all have an inner child then mine is 15, and she's very pissed off that I grew up and had children and started baking and joining school committees (she's glad I have stuck to my no-ironing policy, and that I still let her eat cola bottles and listen to 80s music). Maybe I wrote it for her.

Recently, the very impressive Steph Bowe of Hey Teenager of the Year tweeted some of her old diary entries from when she was 12 (she's now 15). I laughed out loud at them - they could have been straight out of a Louise Rennison book. I thought: 'Hey, I should dig out my old diary and revisit the Old Me.' And when I did, it gave me a bit more insight into why I love writing from the point-of-view of teenage girls - I was dull. Really, really dull. No juicy extracts here. My inner teenager needs me to write her some better stories because she spent a lot of time sitting at home worrying and stewing and imagining what life was like instead of actually living it.

It's possible I'm being unfair to my old self. I wasn't very good at keeping a diary - maybe on the days that I didn't write in it I was kicking up my heels...but that's not how I remember it. I'll quote one line that sums it all up:

29th November 1990
" social life has been soooo full this month (ha) I just haven't had time to write. I went to one party. Yes! Me! I actually went! It's true! IT WAS CRAP."

So, when I write for teenagers, it's not in an "I'd like to teach the world to sing" kind of way. At 34, I'm simply not over being a teen, so I go back there again and again (in between baking and being on committees). I do it for me.

That said, when I ask myself what the best outcome of having my book published would be, it's simply this: that a teenager other than my inner one has enjoyed it.

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Luisa Plaja said...

Oh, brilliant post! Me too, me too! Although my diaries were angst-ridden beyond belief and extremely long. Apart from that, me too!

Keris said...

Me too too! I love that Luisa sounds excited cos I was excited reading this too. It wasn't just me!!!! Waah! This...

"My inner teenager needs me to write her some better stories because she spent a lot of time sitting at home worrying and stewing and imagining what life was like instead of actually living it."

... is exactly it. My characters are the girl I would have been if I hadn't been such a bit wet lettuce.

And don't go sharing too many of those diary posts. I will be coming to you (to ALL of you!) for diary extracts when my book comes out! :)

Cat Clarke said...

I couldn't agree more! When I tell people I write YA, they sometimes say 'But will you write an adult book one day? You could, couldn't you?' As if you start off writing children's books because they're shorter and easier, and then work your way up to grown-up books. HA!
I don't want to write grown-up books! Grown-ups bore me.

Emily Gale said...

Luisa, I left my angst for my poetry...which is kept in a safe deep, deep underground and guarded by angry trolls.

Keris, I too was a wet lettuce. But if you want my wet lettuce extracts, they are yours.

Cat, yes that attitude always makes my teeth grind, as if we're just not trying hard enough??

CarolineG said...

Oh that attitude about 'why not write something proper, for adults?' extends to kids' stuff too [even in these post Potter times] and makes me grrrrr!

I did actually find my teenage diaries about 15 years later and they made me cry! They were so angst ridden and sad, I just wanted to go back and hug that slightly awkward girl and say, 'It'll all work out'.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Lovely post, Emily!

Emily Gale said...

Caroline, that's so sweet! Mine inspire neither laughter nor tears, but a friend and I once read through some of my poetry and had hysterics. I pay her a regular sum to keep it to herself, obviously

Geri, thank you :)