I never “chose” to be a YA writer. It just happened. I’ve always been fascinated with the paranormal, the extraordinary and the unbelievable. Ever since agent Mulder was chasing aliens and telling us not to trust anybody and keep looking for the truth because it’s out there. Nobody believed him but the viewers.
But my obsession with the inexplicable forces had probably started when I was a little girl with pink ribbons in my hair. Not that I remember anything vividly but my mom has a story she loves telling at dinner parties (or when she was meeting my boyfriends for the first time). Apparently, when I was about 5, people started asking me the eternal question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I, very proudly, used to say: “A witch!” Their stunned faces made my mother cringe and she used to take me away and say: “Why do you want to be a witch? Stop saying that!” And I would reply: “But mom, it’s cool, they ride brooms and make spells and if somebody makes them angry, they turn them into a frog!”
Instead of being delighted with my answer and my happy face, one day my mom gave me the talk. “You can’t say that anymore, people get the wrong idea. Why can’t you be a princess or a ballerina like a normal person?” Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t being nasty or unkind, she just didn’t want her child to be stared at with obvious horror. “OK,” I said, “can I be a chimney sweep?” “What? Why do you want to be that?” she asked. “Because, they bring luck to people who touch them.” My mom smiled and deep down she knew I’ll never be content with being a princess or a ballerina. But still, she didn’t want to feel like she wanted the earth to open up and swallow her whole when I said something inappropriate. So, we settled on a ballerina for strangers or people we didn’t know that well, and a chimney sweep for friends and family. The whole witch thing was forgotten.
At least by her. The more I grew up, the more interested I became in every book, film or even magazine article that portrayed an imaginary creature – a werewolf, a vampire, a witch, an elf, a fairy – you name it. Unfortunately, when I was growing up, there was almost no such thing as books for teens let alone YA fiction. I read everything I could get my hands on in that department, and a lot of adult books a well – Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Dickens, and later on Stephen King, John Grisham, David Baldacci… But still, something was missing. I needed a book that really interested me, that provoked my imagination and transcribed my own teenage girl emotions.
So I started writing. I used to write short stories all the time. Back then I didn’t have the patience or the skill to complete a whole novel, but it gave me an outlet to write what I wanted to read. I’m way beyond my teenage years now but I still enjoy the YA books – reading and writing them. I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of something so huge – not just in popularity but huge in a sense that teenagers today have such a big choice of books that correspond their emotions, their state of mind and the things that interest them. I’m so glad that young people read and more importantly, enjoy reading. They swap books, share opinions, fight for their favourite characters and have library cards. And that doesn’t make them uncool like it used to make us.
The book world is adapting to the ever changing technology – more and more people have Kindles, Nooks, iPads and tablets and they use them to read. That opens up a whole new world for them – they can read books, magazines, blogs and stories that they can’t find in the bookshop or newsagent. They have the choice to read what they like, not what is available right now.
And when I say “they” I mean “we”. You have no idea how excited that whole new magical world makes me – the one that is a short trip to the bookshop or a click of a button away. I’m so glad to have my own private door to it.