Jun 22, 2011
A message to my adult readers
Every so often I get an email message in which a reader apologizes for reading my novels because they’re adults, and they think my books are only for teenagers. “I know I’m out of your target demographic,” they say, or “I’m not really the desired audience for your books.”
But I want to assure you, adult readers, that yes you are indeed part of my desired audience! That’s not to say that my books aren’t also for teens and some sophisticated children. They are! But don’t be misled by the fact that my books are categorized as “young adult” in the bookstore and in libraries.
The “young adult” classification only means that my publisher is primarily targeting those age groups in its marketing efforts — it does not mean that the only readers who are allowed to read my books must be between 12 and 18.1
Let me put it this way. Do you watch Glee? Or, perhaps more relevant for my novels, did you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Those two TV shows are the televisual equivalent of YA. John Hughes movies, every single blockbuster summer comic book movie, even Star Wars (at least Episode IV, the original) could be thought of as YA-ish in feel. And when those media properties are novelized, guess where they’re often categorized? Young adult.
I think that sometimes adult readers feel a little embarrassed about reading a YA novel because they think that YA novels are, you know, less complicated than adult ones. So, if someone catches you reading a YA novel, they might think you’re a bit immature and can’t grasp the complexities of adulthood. You know how we all tend to judge people based on what they’re reading. If you’re trying to look impressive to your date, you’d probably bring War and Peace or some super highfaluting literary novel, not Teen Witch 3: Revenge of the Goth Girls. (I made that title up, although now I kinda want to read it!)
But you know what? The idea that YA is somehow dumbed down literature is a big fat lie. Children’s and YA books can be every bit as sophisticated and beautifully written and engaging and complex as adult novels. (Not all of them, of course — YA has its less-well-executed books just like adult fiction.)
In fact, I think that YA is really just another marketing category like romance, science fiction, mystery, or literary fiction. Every category of fiction has specific myths and stigmas attached to it. E.g., all romance readers are housewives; all sci-fi readers are nerdy men. If you buy into these stereotypes, that only serves to narrow your reading choices. So I advise you to forget about the stereotypes associated with YA or any other category of fiction, and choose what you want to read based on whether the story appeals to you. That’s really the only thing that’s important when you’re choosing a book.
And in case you’re still unconvinced my books are for you, let me tell you a secret.2 I wrote Ash for myself — when I was in my early thirties, not when I was a teen — and I fully believed it was an adult novel until it came time to sell it. Then I realized that it fit better into the YA market, because there really is a long tradition of retold fairy tales published as children’s and young adult novels.
When my publisher bought the book, they asked me to make the main character younger, but just by lowering her age, not by changing anything about her. In my original manuscript, Ash was in her early twenties at the end of the book. So I did what they asked — in the published version, Ash is about 18 at the end. But you know what? Nobody else’s ages really changed. Sidhean stayed the same (really old!). And Kaisa stayed the same; I just omitted any mention of her age at all. Originally, she was in her late twenties; now she’s just sorta … older. Now that Ash is 18, Kaisa’s maybe 10 years older. If it helps, feel free to think of Ash as an adult. I do.
Last but not least, I think many of my adult readers are lesbians and bisexual women who have found my books because they were looking for novels about women like them. A lot of you write to say that you wish you’d had a book like Ash when you were a teen, and I’m very honored to hear that. Also, I get it, because I wish I’d had a book like that, too.
You, especially, don’t need to apologize to me for reading my books. There is no better audience for my book than lesbians and bisexual women, of any age. You are absolutely my perfect audience. Thank you for reading my books.