Monday, October 26, 2009

Featured Genre Day - YA Fiction by Melody Carlson

Annette's teen daughter loves Melody Carlson's books. Recently we asked the author why she writes young-adult fiction. Here is her response this Featured Genre Day.

Why I Write YA Fiction
Melody Carlson

Ironically, some of my earliest writing was targeted to teens. This was probably due to my own kids’ ages at the time—just entering their teens. But then I moved on…writing novels for women as well as some children’s books. At that point, I assumed I’d never write a teen book again. Then in 1999 I wrote Diary of a Teenage Girl. I think it was an “experiment” because the assumption was that teens weren’t really reading books. Consequently, the YA novel was written as a stand-alone story with very low expectations. Ten years later, the Diary series has 16 titles with sales totaling over 700,000 books—and I’m as surprised as anyone.

What I find even more surprising is how much I enjoy writing for teens. A teen girl once said to me, “Mrs. Carlson, I think you have a teenaged girl trapped inside the body of a—” she stammered, “a—a middle-aged woman.” Well, once I recovered from being reminded that I was middle-aged, which was absolutely true, I realized that she’d given me quite a compliment. And I think that’s why my books work in the teen market—because I keep the teen girl inside of me alive and well (okay, well is an overstatement since my inner teen girl embraces insecurities, neuroses, confusion, angst, adolescent challenges, delusions of grandeur, and self-identity issues…). And when I write for teens, that’s the voice my readers hear and relate to.

Some novice writers assume it’s easier to write for teens, but I beg to disagree. Sure, the word count is less, but teens require more in the sense of reality, authenticity, and relativity. Plus, they can quickly sniff out a fake, and they reject pat answers or adult characters who “solve teen problems.” Also, they do not want to be written down to. In fact, the way I write for teens is not much different than how I write for adults, except that the content is usually edgier…rawer…more uncomfortable…for the teens.

After writing more than 60 books for teens, I am still surprised, touched and humbled by the letters girls write. And every time I finish the latest series, thinking I’m ready to hang it up, it’s usually those letters that push me to write more. So maybe someday a teen girl will say to me, “Mrs. Carlson, I think you have a teenaged girl trapped inside the body of a really elderly lady.” Hopefully I’ll laugh and say, “Thank you!”

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books for teens, women and children. Before publishing, Melody traveled around the world; volunteered in teen ministry; taught preschool; raised two sons; worked briefly in interior design, international adoption, and as a senior editor. Her teen series include Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors, The Carter House Girls and several others. For more information visit her Web site.


  1. Thanks for visiting, Melody! It's a pleasure having you here.

    :) Annette

  2. Great post. I have read Just Another Girl. It was good.


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