A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
By the time you read this I’ll have left the country. I’ll be out of your clutches. Somewhere safe. Don’t try to find me … Okay, the mundane truth is that by the time you read this I’ll be just about to turn 49. I’m blessed with an August birthday, and, what do you know, it’s come round again.
It’s 30 years since I was a teenager, so why do I write for them? Why do I, a middle-aged woman, have the arrogance to think that I can write stories that teenagers will relate to? I’ll get to that later, but first, the real question – why do I write at all? The answer lies in the first few sentences of this blog. I’m prone to flights of fancy. I like making up stories about people I see in the street (or myself). I love asking myself bizarre ‘what if’ questions. What if we could see death dates in people’s eyes? What if a brother dies, but refuses to stay dead?
This interest in ‘what ifs’ was fairly active when I was a child but then lay dormant for a good long while in my teens and twenties. It re-emerged in my mid-thirties when I started writing for fun, just to see if I could do it. I’ve been writing for nearly 15 years now, the last 4 as a published novelist. The more I write, the more interested I am in stories – not just stories in books, but real-life stories, stories on TV and in films and plays. As a writer, I fear that I’ve already written the best story I’ll ever write, but I hope that a better one is just around the corner.
So why write for teenagers? Well, I suppose the answer is that I started writing novels for my kids. Numbers was partly written for my daughter Ali, who was 14 at the time. She’s my inspiration, the reason I got started in teen/YA literature. I guess I felt that I could relate to her, so maybe I could create a story that she would like. Since then I’ve had feedback from lots of other teens who connect with my characters, so fuelling my belief (arrogance) that I can do this.
It helps that I like teenagers. I love going into schools and talking with teens about reading and writing, and hearing their (sometimes brutally honest) feedback about my books. I enjoy their conversation and their company. I like the way that you can write about pretty much anything – certainly the big questions in life – and they’re willing to engage with this.
It also helps that even at this distance I can remember my own teenage experiences and emotions very clearly and I definitely ‘mine’ these to find the emotions of the teen characters I write about.
Will I keep writing books for teens? I hope so, but I don’t want to limit the stories that I write or the medium. I’m still writing to find out if I can do it. I’ve got a feeling that increasingly I’ll write the book, short story, film or play that each idea calls for. I’ll carry on writing the best story that I can at the time and hope that someone will want to hear it.
Rachel Ward is the author of the Numbers trilogy and The Drowning. You can visit her at her website http://www.rachelwardbooks.com or find her on Twitter @RachelWardbooks