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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why do I write for teens?

It's actually sort of an accident--not that I write for teens at all, but that I write for teens only.

When I was a teenager, I was reading both adult books and teen books, back and forth. It was Paula Danziger's YA (or middle grade, by today's standards) Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? that made me want to be a writer myself. When I was 18 and in college, I took a trip to Boston University to visit my BFF from high school, and that experience formed the basis of my first novel. At that very moment I happened to be reading one of my all-time favorite books, an urban fantasy YA romance called The Beginning Place by Ursula K. Le Guin, for the third time. I remember this specifically because I lost it on the airplane and had to look everywhere for another copy (this was before you could order anything off the internet). I finished writing that first novel when I was 20, and although I can see now that it was clearly a YA book, at the time I thought it was an adult literary masterpiece. All English majors want to be Hemingway, at least for a little while.

Well, my agent had the good sense to tell me that novel #2 was a YA rather than an adult book, but I did not have the good sense to take his advice. By the time I purposefully wrote a YA novel, #5, the market for YA had crashed, and nothing was beeing published for teenagers but those Goosebumps books and other horror stories. I got a "good rejection" from an editor for novel #7, saying that she would have bought that book if the YA market were better.

So I went back to writing adult books. But as I was finishing up novel #9, I saw that the YA market was finally making a comeback. I decided that novel #10 would be another YA. I knew of several authors who were publishing romantic stories for both adults and teens: Jax Abbott a.k.a. Alesia Holiday a.k.a. Alyssa Day, and Katie Maxwell a.k.a. Katie MacAlister. This was the career I wanted for myself. My agent sent novels #9 (an adult romantic comedy) and #10 (a teen romantic comedy, Major Crush) to editors simultaneously. We were both astonished that novel #10 sold, and novel #9 did not.

And that's where I still am, with one half of my career goal fulfilled. I have three YA novels out now, The Ex Games coming out on September 8, and two more YAs coming from MTV Books in 2010 and 2011, with no adult book in sight--not that I'm not writing them! I'm actually finishing up an adult urban fantasy/romantic comedy as we speak. But if I never got an adult book published, that would be okay with me too. I do love writing YA. And as long as I have an opportunity to write, I am grateful and happy.


MssJos said...

Your readers are grateful and happy too Jenn! I can't wait for The Ex Games and the upcoming MTV novels and I'm sure all of your readers feel the same! :)

P.S. Love the photo, I think we need a reprint of Major Crush with that as the cover! ;)

Jennifer Echols said...

LOL--thank you! You are so sweet to me, as always.

jongibbs said...

The thing that struck me most about this post was that it seems like novel #10 was your first sale.

With tenacity like that, nothing can stand in your way.

I salute you :)

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Like you, I didn't really intend to write for teens, I mean, I did, but not under the YA label. But like you I am also just happy and grateful for the books I do have out.

And I am soooooooooo excited that you have two more with MTV Books! Congrats!

Jennifer Echols said...

Thank you Steph! And Jon, it bears repeating: a published author is just an unpublished author who didn't give up.

purpleranger said...

To borrow a line from L. Sprague DeCamp, you write for teens because you get paid to do it.

And I think I may have said this when I reviewed Major Crush, but you looked really hot in your drum major uniform.