I've invited over Helen Mallon, author extraordinaire.
She writes mostly for adults, but has a few short stories aimed for the teen/crossover market. She says her proudest moment came when she received her first royalty check for her e-story entitled "Did You Put The Cat to Bed?" Currently, she's working on a novel entitled Quaker Playboy Leaves Legacy of Confusion. She also loves her work as an editorial consultant for writers of all stripes. Learn more at helenmallon.com.
Today, I've asked her to speak to the differences and similarities between the adult and YA markets.
Helen: Obviously, publishers market to different audiences, YA or adult, but the writing itself also addresses different points of view. Not only the point of views of characters, but of readers. For example, in my adult short story with a teen protagonist. You Say You Want a Revolution, coming out soon with bookstogonow.com. It's a dark tale about a girl who's gotten involved with a teacher, and told from alternating points of view: the teacher and Sarah's. If a teen asked me about reading it, I'd say "Check with your parents first."
Mark hadn't planned to get involved with a student when Sarah came to him for math tutoring. But her long brown hair as she sat beside him in the tiny study room had reflected tints of roam, even peach. Then unexpectedly, the florescent light overhead stopped buzzing and she had looked up at him, startled... so Mark convinced himself that... it was she who had seduced him.
Yes, YA can and should deal with tough subjects and nothing should be taboo. However, if this story were written for a YA audience, I would have emphasized Sarah's voice because ethically speaking, the two voices are not equally "valid." Adult readers are generally better equipped to untangle moral ambiguity, and authors have a responsibility to respect the developmental level of their readers, without "talking down" to them.
At the story's end, Sarah discovers her own power when she and the teacher encounter another teenager being mocked. "Keep going!" Sarah's hands were fists. She was buoyant and upright, and she wanted to run like hell as soon as she knew that Greg was safe. She had never before saved anyone.
Including the point of view of a child molester is not the only thing that makes this an adult story. The Beatles inspired title makes an ironic reference to the sexual revolution, which hints at Sarah's victimization and emerging power from a decidedly adult, poignant distance.
In contrast, my story I Want to be Just Regular is intended as a crossover piece--for both teens and adults. Olivia's dad has moved into the bathroom and won't come out. Will Dad emerge to attend her high school graduation or will he let her down? Here, Olivia describes an English elective she took, hoping to understand him better.
"Shakespeare and Madness" wasn't explaining my father better to me. Shakespeare's crazies were either faking it or they pretty much brought it on themselves. I thought Ophelia was kind of a twit. My father wasn't filled with hubris or sick with love. He owned a big moving company whose motto was 'We Bring Them Home.' And before that, he liked to fart around in his vegetable garden.
What makes this YA appropriate is the lightness around Olivia and her nutty father. Olivia sets the tone... I believe that the same first person character would speak differently in a book intended for adults... as a child speaking to an adult audience is regarded from a terrain of years and experience. What we might consider narcissism in teens is actually a path to discovery in which common events such as falling in love, breaking up and making career decisions are fresh experiences that never have happened to them before!
Consider an adult book with universal appeal, To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout's first person narration is often from a child's innocent point of view, yet it's also moderated as she looks back from a position of adult experience.
What about you? What differences do you see between writing for teens and adults?