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Tonya Alexandra: Can Adults Write YA?

March 22, 2018

Words || Tonya Alexandra

Recently, when an aspiring writer asked me how to write for a YA audience as an adult, I fell into my usual rhetoric about tuning into their younger self. But at the back of my mind, it made me think: is it possible for an adult to truly get into a young person’s headspace? Or are we doing the audience a disservice by pretending we understand?

My childhood was so different. I grew up in the 80s when geeks were ridiculed and there was no such thing as after-school activities. My music was limited to mixed tapes I could scrounge off friends. The most exotic food on my dinner table Italian lasagne. Movies I loved were so far removed from school today it’s like they were a different institution. I’m thinking of The Breakfast Club (1985), Grease (1959), or Anne of Green Gables (1908)!

Can I really offer a valid young person’s viewpoint? I don’t relate to someone who has grown up with technology and social media. My brain is sent into spasms when I receive a text from my son. I want to wave the phone in his face. ‘Use-a-capital-letter-damn-it!’

So without this personal experience how can a writer create a YA story with authentic characters and situations rather than an awkward imitation?

The easiest solution is to push the story into a completely different setting or time. Nobody can question the legitimacy of speech idiosyncrasies or character experience if you set your story in Atlantis in the year 2347. In this way, you can invent your own reality and your YA audience will respect you for it. (BTW In my humble opinion, YA readers don’t get enough credit for the multitude of genres they embrace. Their support has allowed the possibilities of fiction writing to really open up.)

The more subtle solution is to remember that we’re not really that different. Young people are struggling with what we’re all struggling with; we’re all looking for love, friendship and where we fit into the world. So if your writing tunes into true human feelings and desires, you will appeal to your audience no matter their age.

But that’s just my opinion. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About The Implausible Story of Olive Far Far Away

In the witty conclusion to The Impossible Story of Olive in Love, irrepressible Olive Banks takes on the curse that makes her invisible, in a calamitous ride of love and laughs.

Olive has been dumped by Tom, the one person who could see her. But she’s determined to have fun regardless of the gypsy curse rendering her invisible to all but her true love. After six months of hijinks on the road with her childhood friend Jordan travelling through Africa and Asia, Olive makes the startling discovery that another boy can see her. Dillon is dark Irish trouble and irritatingly inclined to disappear on (possibly shady) adventures of his own.

Resolved to discover how Dillon can see her, Olive’s mission is thwarted when Jordan meets a boy with oversized kneecaps and her best friend Felix falls for a girl who is inexcusably English. Olive must juggle her friends and untangle her feelings for Dillon and Tom, while her hunt for the truth lures her from the peaks of the Himalayas to the purr of New York City, climaxing on the stark Irish shore, where Olive, implausibly, intends to break the curse for once and for all.

Tonya Alexandra is the author of The Implausible Story of Olive Far Far Away, the sequel to her book The Impossible Story of Olive in Love. In this latest adventure, her hero, invisible Olive causes havoc backpacking around the world. She admits she may just have imagined the above wonders, but really really hopes they’re real.

About the Author:

Tonya has worked in marketing, travel and publishing for just under twenty years, writing for print, TV and online. She lives near Manly in Sydney with her husband, three sons and a puppy, Lola. She is on the committee of the CBCA northern suburbs branch, and believes in promoting reading and writing for mental health.


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