“Will I have heard of anything that you’ve done?”
“I doubt it. I write for a young adult audience.”
“What’s that when it’s at home?”
“Teenagers and…young adults.”
“Oh. Children’s books.”
There was a pause while she considered this, her lips pursing a little, making the bright red lipstick daubed upon them all the more prominent.
“Have you thought about writing for adults?”
There it was. That question.
Normally I just come back with a glib reply. Something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t think I could. That’s a whole different kettle of fish, and I’m probably not clever enough.” But she’d really pressed my button, this one.
“Why do you assume that I want to write for adults?”
“Well, it’s natural isn’t it? I just thought that you’d move on to that.”
“Because writing for adults is more difficult?”
“Yes. Well it is, isn’t it?”
I took a deep breath, mumbled something under my breath, pretended to spot someone else across the room, and moved away from her. What I really wanted to do was to hit her around the head with the hors d’oeuvre tray that was making its way around the room, but I figured that that wouldn’t go down too well at a christening party.
Ever since then I’ve been kicking myself for not being as rude to her as I would have been if I wasn’t such a nice bloke. So I’m left fantasising over what I wished I’d said. My fantasy response goes a little like this:
“You know, there are a number of well respected people who consider writing for children to be harder than writing for adults. I’m not one of those people. I just think that writing ANYTHING – anything that’s good, that is – is bloody hard work. I also think that good children’s literature can be as appealing to adults as good adult fiction is to children. Treasure Island, Little Women, The Jungle Book, Oliver Twist, His Dark Materials, and yes, Harry Potter, are all examples of books which easily cross between the two groups and have a universal appeal. Why? Because they’re good.
My books are marketed to children. I don’t write them for children – not in a way where I consider who my target audience is and what they want – I just set out to write the best book that I can. Pace, narrative and well-rounded characters who the audience can empathise and identify with are all key to writing good children’s fiction, but those things appeal just as much to an adult audience. Good is good, simple as.
Why don’t I write adult books? Because adult books didn’t choose me. I didn’t get inspired to write for adults.
Do adults enjoy my books? Yes.
Would you, red-lipped harridan, enjoy my book? No.
Why? Because you’ve already made your mind up that you wouldn’t.”
THEN I would hit her over the head with the hors d’oeuvres.
So endeth today’s rant.
I feel a bit better now.