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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Writing YA isn't about censoring but more about communication

by
Barbara Kloss

There has always been something magical to me about YA novels. It's not any one thing in particular, but if I had to focus on one, I'd say the main reason I love both reading and writing in that genre centers around the themes YA tends to deal with. Themes like discovering yourself and finding love for the first time or finding the strength to stand up for what you believe. It's during that period in life where we really find which platform to stand on. Where we truly begin the course that helps define the rest of our life. I love watching characters (and people) grow into who they were made to be and find the courage within themselves to become who they truly are, and YA, for the most part, tends to dwell there.

But what "can" and "can't" you write about for YA? I'm pretty sure anything goes, these days.

YA has changed so much over the years. The lines defining things we "can" and "can't" write about seem to have, well, gone, and more and more often I find myself reading something that surprises me, considering YA is "technically" ages 13+. YA has become more inclusive of what may have traditionally been referred to as "adult themes," because YA isn't just read by teens anymore; adults make up a large percentage of the YA readership. Twilight is proof of that.

For my own writing, however, I draw a line, but it's not because I don't think the YA readership "can" or "can't" handle certain subjects and situations. It has more to do with who I am as a person. Even as a reader, I tend to enjoy books that lean toward the "more censored" side. It's not that I like pretending certain aspects of the world don't exist. I know they do; I just don't like reading about them in great detail when I can get the idea in a few words or sentences. I also have a fairly happy disposition, so while I might appreciate darker novels, I don't typically enjoy reading books with a tone that dwells on the darker side of humanity, unless there is some great redemptive quality at the end.

Over the years, I've really had to think hard about the idea of what I "can" and "can't" write about in YA. But again – YA has changed so much, and I've realized it's more a question of what I "want" or "don't want to" write about, and the answer to that question is so different for every writer. Once I answered it for me, I realized that my answer would have been the same had I written for middle grade or new adult or adult.

It's less about censoring myself and more about what I'm trying to communicate. As much as I write for me, I also believe that I have a certain responsibility to those reading my stories, and now that I have a toddler, I’m feeling the responsibility of that even more. Do I want to write characters who learn the importance of forgiveness? Or do I want to write characters who desperately hold on to grudges and seek revenge? Do I want to show how important mercy is? Or write an emphasis on judgment prevailing? What kind of person is my hero or heroine? What lessons or sense of morality am I trying to convey? I mean really…what is the point of this, anyway?

There is such a rare and very beautiful relationship between author and reader; what am I REALLY saying to others about what I think is important in life? In relationships?

But how does that specifically apply to YA? I love the voice of YA. How raw and real and honest it is. I love its emotional potency and the focus on relational dynamics and personal growth, and I love that emotional connection I tend to feel more with YA than any other genre. Probably because there will always be a little teenager inside me, and I think that's true for most of us. Pretty much anything goes in YA fiction these days, and I think as a writer, deciding what you "can" and "can't" write about is more a matter of personal preference.


Introducing...
Breath of Dragons

After Prince Alaric's death, Daria and Alex set off in search of the legendary box of the Pandors'. The box is famed to hold a secret of power—one strong enough to overcome Lord Eris and the shield of power he stole from Valdon. Daria doesn't know where the box is hidden, but she can't ignore the silent urging, beckoning her to the land of Pendel—the land her mother, Aurora Pandor, was from
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Time is running out. Lord Eris's army of shadowguard vastly outnumber Valdon's forces, and if Daria doesn't find the box in time, Valdon will need reinforcements from the other territories to survive. But those territories will not hand over their armies willingly, not without Daria's hand in marriage. 

And there is another, older power rising, one that hasn't been seen in centuries—one thought lost since the days of Galahad: the dragons.



Barbara Kloss studied biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, and after she began working in a clinical lab, found herself daydreaming about far off lands and slightly deranged wizards. She, her husband, baby boy, and Lhasa currently live in Arizona, where she escapes the summer heat by writing about lush vegetation and moderate to cold climates. Author of the Pandoran Novels, a YA fantasy series.

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Excerpt from Breath of Dragons
Sal left, and Alex put one hand on my waist, took my hand in his, and led me into the next dance.
"Where have you been?" I hadn't meant the words to sound accusatory, but they did.
Alex raised a dark brow, looking a little startled by my outburst. "Where I always am: keeping both eyes on you, and that seems to require a lot of energy these days." His gaze trailed after Sal, who had already found another morsel to snack on in the form of one of Alex's groupies.
"You said he's a thane?" I asked.
Alex nodded, his gaze drifting back to mine. "He governs the land on the western shores. He is Mercedes' nephew. He will be furious with me for cutting in like this, but I couldn't help it. He looked like he was about to eat you alive."
"How do you know I wasn't about to eat him alive?" I teased. I tried pulling Alex closer, but he firmly held me back at an appropriate distance.
"Careful, your grace," he said, eyes locked on mine.
He was setting the precedence for our conversation tonight. He was holding up barriers and urging me to stand behind them. He was reminding me that I was a princess and he was my guard, and that I had better act that way.
A new piece started, much slower than the others, and the melody had a kind of lilting and heartbreaking quality to it. I tried not to take it as any kind of symbolism. Still, the dancing slowed and couples moved closer. Even Alex pulled me close, sliding one arm around my waist, and I was distinctly aware of the warmth soaking through the fabric of his sleeve and onto my bare lower back.
"How are you feeling?" Alex asked. His expression was carefully stoic, but his eyes were layered in concern.
"Well, if you must know, I feel a little bit like a pinwheel. Much more twirling and I might just twirl myself right off the edge of this balcony."
Alex grinned. "We don't have to dance. I could escort you back to—"
"No." I held him tighter, gazing defiantly into his eyes. "I missed my turn last time, and I've regretted it ever since. But I am a little surprised you're allowing this…?"
"Allowing what, exactly, your grace?" Even behind his walls of formality, he made the words your grace sound like an expression of intimacy only lovers used.
"Us dancing together."
"Ah." He was so controlled and elegant. "I didn't see any harm in it, considering I'm your Aegis and that you've already had your fair share of attention this evening." There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he'd heard Sal's proposition.
"And I see that you've had yours." I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I'd stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, "It's nice seeing you jealous."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
"Allowing what, exactly, your grace?" Even behind his walls of formality, he made the words your grace sound like an expression of intimacy only lovers used.
"Us dancing together."
"Ah." He was so controlled and elegant. "I didn't see any harm in it, considering I'm your Aegis and that you've already had your fair share of attention this evening." There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he'd heard Sal's proposition.
"And I see that you've had yours." I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I'd stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, "It's nice seeing you jealous."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
"Us dancing together."
"Ah." He was so controlled and elegant. "I didn't see any harm in it, considering I'm your Aegis and that you've already had your fair share of attention this evening." There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he'd heard Sal's proposition.
"And I see that you've had yours." I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I'd stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, "It's nice seeing you jealous."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
"Ah." He was so controlled and elegant. "I didn't see any harm in it, considering I'm your Aegis and that you've already had your fair share of attention this evening." There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he'd heard Sal's proposition.
"And I see that you've had yours." I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I'd stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, "It's nice seeing you jealous."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
"And I see that you've had yours." I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I'd stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, "It's nice seeing you jealous."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, "It's nice seeing you jealous."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
I let out something of a snort. "Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I'm not so sure I want to share you." I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex's grip firmly held me back again.
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
"I'm sorry, your grace," he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, "but I would have to politely refuse those orders."
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