Why I Write Young Adult Fiction by Eleanor Beaty
The term Young Adult in my mind is connected to uncertainty, endless hours of daydreams, infinite amounts of hope that the future will be bright, an amazing capacity to fall in love with many different kinds of people and concepts, the ease to go off on adventures, the belief that obstacles aren’t for us because nothing can stop us when we’re determined, and most important, the knowledge that whatever difficulties we go through as teenagers will pass when we hit the twenties, when freedom is ours to enjoy.
For some, being a teenager isn’t easy. Even knowing we have all the time in the world ahead of us it can be a painful time in life. I was intense in my early teens. I was demanding and strict, critical of others, not easy to get along with. I was outspoken. Thoughts didn’t pause in my brain, they were like a high speeding train, once they formed, they were blurted out, loud and clear. I got in a lot of trouble for it. I saw things black and white. I didn’t have anyone to teach me the value of the grays. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be free. Not that I had chains around my ankles, but there were those few annoying limits set by life itself.
FREE! I was so blind by that thought that I never stopped to realize how free I was then. What were my worries? Would there be a party Friday night? What was I going to wear? Would the hot guy be there? Should I hydrate my hair with egg yolk? Yeah, once my friend used my recipe, but I forgot to tell her to rinse with cold water and she ended up with cooked eggs stuck to her hair.
The only chains I had were those I created for myself. And having spent so much time waiting for the future I missed out on some of those amazing years as a young adult.
While writing Veiled Mist, I began by using someone close to me as an inspiration for the teen character, Hanna. Teen years are the years where ‘no one but us’ matter and parents are a ‘backdrop to our scenery.’ Until Hanna, I always managed to distance myself from my characters as if they had nothing of me in them. When I began the novel I was looking in from the outside, using what I saw and what I felt, being the backdrop to my person/inspiration.
Then I came to a point in the story when I had to dive into the teen. That inevitably took me back to my past and I realized what I had failed to see before. I had been no different than my inspiration. It wasn’t comfortable having to face that mirror. We do tend to forget our unpleasant side, but it was liberating.
Now I fly as a teen in my stories. More comfortable with the mirror. I can make the mistakes and feel the consequences, and I get to right the wrongs. I get a chance to go back and be the teen I wish I had been. Enjoy my freedom of burden from the adult world. Of course, in my stories I have parents that provide me with that freedom and come to my rescue when I screw up. I can be anyone, and nothing is set in stone. I can expose my fears, my thoughts my anger through a character, behind a mask, as someone else. And with each novel I get to know more of myself, my teen self.
And then comes the most fulfilling side to writing Young Adult Fiction, besides the fun of course, the possibility of helping teens with my experiences. We writers tend to be a bit of a teacher, a mother, a sister, and even a mentor in our books. We can use all our bad mistakes, even the very ugly and unspeakable ones, to give our characters their personality and turn them into a mirror for teens. Not so much the ‘in-your-face mirror’ kind, but ones that plant seeds. Makes them ask themselves, am I like that? Do I treat people that way? Do people see me that way? How can I change?
Writing for young adults for me is like entering a dark tunnel without knowing where it leads. No matter how sacred you are as you walk through that tunnel in darkness, your youth and naivety will always lead you to believe there will be something fascinating waiting on the other side. That is the magic of being a teenager. Everything is still to come.
My first creative writing success happened by chance in high school. A teacher gave us an assignment I thought was dumb, something about patriotism, so I twisted it and wrote whatever came to mind – A Cockroach Goes to War. The story was about a cockroach that marched side by side with the army as they headed to battle. She was a true patriot, and wanted to show her support for the troops, however her intent was misunderstood and she ended up squashed by a soldier’s boot. I got an A for creativity, a B for the writing. And here I was thinking I would get an F for not following his instructions!
After the cockroach story I was hooked. I think of it as a revelation. That a story, with a crazy theme and a cockroach for main character, was found to be fun surprised me. It spoke of a young soul’s view of the adult world and how confusing that could be. That is when I realized I had found my true voice as a Young Adult Fiction writer.
For sixteen years, Lya, has lived as a normal human, until her father, Walter, gets involved with the wrong people and puts Lya’s life at risk. During a visit to Miami, Lya’s older sister is kidnapped, and Lya and her father are subsequently taken hostage by Walter’s associates and forced to board a plane to India. When the plane lands in Delhi, Lya is rescued by three monks and taken to a Monastery. There her reality is shattered, when she learns the true identity of her rescuers and, even more surprisingly, herself. Lya is now faced with the toughest decision of her life. Can she live up to her ethereal destiny and save her family?