The third and final part of our conversation with author Eric Gansworth from CCBC-Net.
Writing for Teens
Did you find it
restrictive to orient the novel towards a YA audience?
|Bison Books, 2005|
probably went a fair amount softer than I would have for an adult audience, but
that’s to be expected. Most of the edgier things that I thought were important
to understanding Lewis’s world are still in the novel, if maybe a little more
veiled than they were in the first incarnation. We had discussions about some
of these areas, in the editorial process. Though a few of these passages, even
in their muted versions, may alienate adult folks who feel protectively
censorious on their constituents’ behalf, we left in the elements that were
important. It’s a book about teenage guys. Even sensitive teenage guys are
still, well, teenage guys.
neuter them, worrying about offending someone, would not have been a realistic
representation of the world I wanted to present. Young readers know when you’re
playing it safe and I didn’t want that to be the case. It’s strange to me how
the culture has changed. In many ways, being more sensitive is a great thing,
but young people who want to read provocative, edgier material are going to
find it. Why not offer them some range of choices? I hope I’m not the literary
equivalent of broccoli, but you never know. This book is oriented to late
middle school and high school students. In middle school, I had already read
Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot
and John Russo’s Night of the Living Dead
(one great novel, one workmanlike novelization). Most of the girls I knew in
eighth grade were obsessed with Flowers
in the Attic, an over-the-top contemporary Gothic novel with a primary
narrative focusing on incestuous siblings locked in an attic by their
dysfunctional family. It seemed like Hansel
and Gretel: The Cinemax Late Nite Years.
|Milkweed Press, 2010|
one real restriction I think was great for me, as a writer. I’m generally a
very meditative fiction writer, perhaps even to the point of indulgence
sometimes. I’m interested in the interior lives of characters, the ways their
memories and histories inform who they are at any given moment. My
understanding of YA, from discussions with others and from reading many many
contemporary YA novels while writing, is that it’s got to move a bit faster
than I normally choose to. I’m sure that has more to do with my own temperament
than any issue with the field. I’m a contemplative person, the sort who still
gets insomnia over conversations I had 10 or 15 years ago that didn’t go the
way I’d hoped. As such, my novels for adults probably require a reader with a
greater reservoir of patience than the average reader. If I wanted slower
meditative passages to remain in this novel, I had to find legitimate reasons
for them to exist. I learned so much about writing for an audience in search of
more immediate payoffs, that I believe right now, I could probably trim another
thirty pages out of the first half, and make the pace a little peppier. It’s a
learning curve, like anything else.
so much for taking the time to engage with my work and again for inviting me to
participate in the conversation.