Tuesday 18 May 2010

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Guest Post: Adele Geras - Why YA?

I am delighted to share with you today a guest post from Adele Geras, author of Dido, which was released in paperback from Random House on 29th April.

adele gerasWHY YA?

I've now written and published four novels for adults. The first one, FACING THE LIGHT, came out in 2003 but before that date, the one question everyone always asked me was (in more or less these terms, too!) "Will you write a Real Book when you've had the practice?" That's to say, everyone assumed that books written for children were somehow not quite proper books. It was almost as though you didn't have to be quite so gifted, or clever or creative, because the assumption was: children are younger than adults, they don't know as much, therefore you can fob them off with cut-down fiction and they'll be fine.

The exact opposite is true. The younger the child and the fewer the words, the HARDER it is to write excellent texts for them to read. Part of this is: you're reading aloud quite often to very young children and the whole experience can become very boring indeed if the words are not up to scratch, however beautiful the illustrations may be.

When it comes to Young Adults, or 'teenagers', other questions arise. As we all know, YA covers everyone from the non-reading 13- year- old to the reading 16- year- old. The reading 14 year old is reading adult novels for much of the time, I'd guess. The reading child has more in common with the reading adult than she has with another non-reading child. The phenomenon of 'crossover' fiction demonstrates that the borders between adult fiction and YA fiction are very fluid and you can come and go between the two at your will.

dido by adele gerasWhat matters is: how is the book published? TROY appeared on a children's list and ITHAKA and DIDO followed the same pattern. They are genuine YA books in that the main protagonists are teenagers and the stories are told from their point of view. That's not to say that adults can't enjoy them. I hope very much that they can and do, but the emphasis is a YA one.

I've been wondering why the market for adult novels about myths, Greek gods etc is a small one and I don't really have an answer. Marie Phillips published a wonderful book called Gods Behaving Badly some time ago, and John Banville, the Booker prize- winning novelist has written a Greek gods- themed novel called The Infinities, but both of these are set in modern times, in a world that's recognizably our own as though grown-ups are a bit wary of venturing completely into fantasy of this kind and have to dilute it with a bit of real life. The popularity of myth-based movies means I think that they're quite happy to suspend their disbelief in the cinema but the written word is a bit different. Why, I have no idea.

In my own novels, I travel back to the ancient world and the gods appear there as characters in their own right. I'm not quite sure whether a publisher would take on a book such as mine for the adult lists, but I do know that I don't write any differently for the YA audience than I would for the adult one. It's simply that my perspective is a younger one. I could have written Dido from the point of view of the Carthaginian queen and I chose not to. I chose to concentrate on Elissa and tell my story mainly through her eyes.
I hope this doesn't stop proper grown from reading and enjoying it, too.

Thank you, Adele, for such a great guest post! Make sure you check out Adele's website. Also, check out The Bookette from 31st May - 6th June for Becky's Adele Geras week!

You can buy Dido from The Book Depository - free international shipping.


  1. How facsinating! It had never occured to me that you would get adult novels with Greek gods in them. Maybe that is because I stick to YA. I'm over half way through Troy now and even though it is YA I think it would appeal to adults. It is so amazingly well-written but more about that in my theme week. By the way Jo, thanks so much for the free advertising LOL

  2. Lol, no problem, Becky! :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'm the same, I wouldn't have thought of Greek gods in adult books - yet they work so well for movies. It seems odd we wouldn't have thought about it, lol.