September 9, 2009

On Y.A. Fiction with Author E. M. Crane

The Writer

Photography by Gordon W. Perkins

E. M. Crane is the author of Skin Deep, published by Random House in 2008. Skin Deep won the Delacorte Press Prize for First Young Adult fiction, and it has been nominated for the 2009 Charlotte Award by the NY State Reading Association. Crane lives in rural northern New York near the Canadian border, where she is a full-time writer. She is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

You can learn more about E.M. at her website.

The Book

If all the world’s a stage, Andrea Anderson is sitting in the audience. High school has its predictable heroes, heroines, villains, and plotlines, and Andrea has no problem guessing how each drama will turn out. She is, after all, a professional spectator. In the social hierarchy she is a Nothing, and at home her mother runs the show. All Andrea has to do is show up every day and life basically plays out as scripted. Then one day Andrea accepts a job. Honora Menapace—a reclusive neighbor—is sick. As in every other aspect of her life, Andrea’s role is clear: Honora’s garden must be taken care of and her pottery finished, and someone needs to feed her dog, Zena. But what starts out as a simple job yanks Andrea’s back-row seat out from under her. Life is no longer predictable, and nothing is what it seems. Light is dark, villains are heroes, and what she once saw as ugly is too beautiful for words. Andrea must face the fact that life at first glance doesn’t even crack the surface.

Click the cover above to order your copy of Skin Deep today!

On Young Adult Fiction

Why write teen fiction?
Because many teens love raw truth in stories. So do I. But the truth is, I don't write for teens. I write for everyone. I do love coming-of-age stories and using teen characters, so I guess that's how I've ended up in the genre, but I definitely don't sit down and say, "This piece is going to be teen fiction." I just write it.

How much research do you do to get into the mindset, the culture of teenagers?
None at all. I believe that while some of the props of being a teen change from generation to generation, one thing remains the same -- emotion. You can be 15 or 39, anger is still anger. Shame is still shame. And no matter our age, we all love to laugh. I guess I don't worry about what's hot or whether the mall is still the place to hang out - I'm aiming for the timeless characteristics of humanity that unite all ages, not the detail activities that separate us. And to me, humanity is unified by emotion. Plus, is there truly one mindset, one culture of teenagers? If there is, what a boring lot! lol. All joking aside, a story needs to be true to one character at a time, not an entire population all the time. As long as my character is truthful to his or her experience, it's all good.

What are some of the themes you tackle most often in your works?
Loneliness. Beauty. Isolation. Gender inequality. Hope. Tolerance.

I notice there are a lot of YA book series in the market; do you think this is a trend with longevity?
I'm not a series writer, but I see that trend, too. I think it does have longevity; historically speaking, good series often build a strong following. Readers become invested in characters and want to travel with them over the space of more than one book. And that's what I think it takes to have a strong YA series -- a fabulous cast of characters.

What are three sources VITAL to writers interested in writing YA fiction?
To me the VITAL sources are all internal: unbridled imagination, the fearlessness to tell the story, and lots of practice.

Any closing comments you'd like to make regarding teens and writing?
Teens get such a bad rap in society, it's almost cliche from one generation to the next. But for me, writing for people who are right in the middle of shaping who they are -- it's an honor. I have tremendous respect for both this audience and for other YA writers. Stories bond us; age is nothing. If a reader can take a piece of a story and find it meaningful in a personal way, it's a beautiful thing for both the reader and the writer. That's the kind of writing to which I aspire, and the kind of reading I love most.

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