Laura Bradley Rede grew up as the oldest of nine kids in a small town on the coast of Maine. She now lives in Minneapolis, MN with her partner, their three kids, one great dane, and six city chickens. She is a Writers of the Future award winner and author of the YA paranormal romance series The Darkride Chronicles, along with numerous YA short stories. You can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the Darkride fan page on facebook.
The Top Ten (and-a-half) Reasons Why I Write YA
(This is the part where I kiss up to all the teenagers I know! Okay, not really. It's not kissing up if you mean it, right?)
1. Because Whitney was right. I actually do believe that "children are our future," or at least teenagers are. I know that sounds cheesy, but particularly as a queer person I always feel hopeful when I meet teens who aren't homophobic, who really don't understand why anyone would have a problem with GLBT folks. I get happy when I meet teens who are vegan or who are very into animal rights and environmentalism because when I went veg at the age of 15 in the 1980's, there was only one other vegetarian in my highschool. Seeing how all that has changed makes me feel the future is in good hands. I like to write for the future.
2. Because teenagers aren't rats. I always think about those noise-making devices that some stores use. They make an obnoxious sound at a frequency that adults can't hear and they are supposed to drive teenagers away as if they were mice or rats or cockroaches, so that the teens don't "loiter." I always think that, if this invention were designed to keep away some other group-- say, African Americans or Jews or the elderly-- we would see it for the bigotry it is, but since the target is teenagers people don't question these things. I mean, everyone knows that teenagers are trouble, right? I like to write for the underdog.
3. Because teenagers are Ace cards. When I was in acting class in college, we used to do an exercize on characters and status. You drew a card from a deck and, without looking at it, stuck it on your forehead facing out so everyone else could see it. Then you had to guess what card you had, based on how other people treated you: If you had a high number card, they treated you like you were of high status, and if you had a low number they treated you like you were of low status. This made it fairly easy to figure out your card, unless your card happened to be an Ace, in which case no one could agree on how to treat you because sometimes an Ace is worth eleven points and sometimes only one. The person wearing the ace card might be admired by one person and treated like crap by the next. This, in my opinion, is what it feels like to be a teenager. In advertising, teens are worshipped and pandered to because they supposedly have so much disposable income. Airbrushed images of teenagers are held up as the ultimate examples of youth and beauty. But in real life, real teens often don't have any power at all and don't get much respect. Being both the highest and the lowest status can make a person feel fractured. I like to write the fracture.
4. Because I miss my mom. My mom died of cancer when I was nineteen. She was my closest friend. My books aren't about me-- they are about my characters, who don't always like being teenagers. But I won't lie to you: I like getting in touch with my teenage self and remembering a time when my mom was still around. I like to write myself back.
5. Because being a teenager sucked. Even though I sometimes wish myself back in time, I get it that sometimes been a teenager sucks and I think books help. They help you escape from your life and live out some of your drama through someone else's drama and remind you that other people feel the same way you do, even if those other people are sometimes werewolves or vampires or zombies. I have been lucky enough to have fictional characters around to walk with me and hold my hand in the dark times. I like to write other people through the dark.
6. Because being a teenager didn't suck. Okay, I'll say it: I liked high school. I mean, not every moment of it, but till. After the suckfest that was junior high, where I was teased and bullied constantly for being a smart, queer girl, high school felt like a relief. I went to a small Catholic prep school that was geek chic before geek chic existed, where academics were actually considered cool. In a lot of ways, my life really started in high school. I like to write from the start.
7. Because teens know how to read. Okay, technically adults know how to read, too, but it's the teenagers (and the adults who read YA because their inner teen is alive and well) who really know how to give over to a story, to abandon themselves and live the characters. One of my favorite experiences was going to a midnight premier of one of the Twilight movies. No matter how you feel about Twilight-- and I know you have an opinion!-- you can't deny that the energy in that theatre was electric. I like to write for people who actually care.
8. Because I am a prom addict. I went to prom five times in my high school career, and watched the prom scene in Pretty in Pink about five million times. I am a huge, geeky sucker for a formal dance. I have to write YA because it's hard to write a school formal into a grown-up book. I like to write pretty dresses.
9. Because teenagers are like vampires... and werewolves and zombies and all the other creatures I love. They are powerful outsiders who are sometimes out of their own control. They are feared and admired. Sometimes they seem immortal, or like they will always be young. Teenagers get the paranormal thing because they live it. All the questions we explore in paranormal-- what does it mean to be human? What would it mean to live forever? Would you die for someone you love?-- are the same questions people have been asking themselves for thousands of years, and teenagers get that. I like to write for people who get it.
10. Because teenage characters are more fun to write than adult characters. They take more risks, feel things more intensely, make more epic fails, triumph more triumphantly. They love more passionately, question more deeply, make better mistakes, ignore more advice and are generally made of more awesome than adult characters. I like to write interesting people.
10 1/2. Because some of the people I cherish most right now are teenagers. And some of them were teenagers once, and still are somewhere inside. And the rest of them will be teenagers some day. And because I am a teenager, by vampire standards. I like to write for the peope I love.