Writing YA Fiction When You're An AdultThroughout the writing process I learned that it can be very tricky to not travel back to the '90's when I actually was a teenager. I had to find a way to keep things current without dating them as well. I have one character in particular that I wanted to be a huge music lover, and of course I wanted that to reflect the music of my youth. Problem is, it's 2013 not 1999. Would today's YA audience even know who Nirvana was? The Smashing Pumpkins? The Cranberries? I still hope so, but having several nieces and nephews that are teenagers, I put it to the test. It was a 50/50. So there was some relief knowing that today's YA audience had at some point been introduced to some of the bands that defined my generation.
Another obstacle to overcome was clothing, fingernail polish, cosmetics....The list can go on and on. At 32, I work in a professional setting where I'm surrounded by contemporary business looking folk. At home, my husband is a blacksmith/artist/musician sporting a beard so glamorous it landed him on the USA's national beard team (I'm not kidding). And then there are my two beautiful daughters who are 7 and 4 and are the poster kiddo's for Disney. Who was I to turn to for today's YA fashion advice? The lovely crew of nieces and nephews yet again. My first approach was to snoop through their closets. I found myself sifting through bizarre articles of clothing like I was an unthawed cave girl exploring other options besides loincloths and boney bra's for the first time. When my nieces caught me, they wore matching looks of creeped out and it sounded something like this, "Aunt Sasha, what are you doing?" My reply was, "Listen girls, you know I'm writing a book, if you ever want to go on a beach trip again or get any Christmas presents from me, you'll spill the info I need. Deal?" That seemed to produce some prompt results. After enduring Fashion 101 with a team of teenagers, I have to admit I was creeped out. How had I never noticed the whole "Emo" thing? Or duct tape being used for anything other than window/car repair, or kidnapping? When was red fingernail polish replaced with black? I had always associated black fingernails with necrosis or some kind of exotic fungus. Even the jewelry stumped me. When I was a YA there was only two kinds of jewelry: gold and more gold, everything else was purchased from a gumball machine. Abercrombie & Fitch sounded like a set of modern day explorers to me. I had soooo much to learn...it was painful!
And then the devices and technology of today! I remember when we installed our first cordless phone. It was insane to be able to walk out on the front porch holding a 5lbs contraption that facilitated communication. You weren't cool if you didn't have a cordless phone with an antenna that measured 12 inches long. Once, I asked my 17-year-old niece if she knew what a Walkman was. Remember how cool those things were? She replied with a confused look on her face and said no. Again, my age seemed to be slapping me in the face. When I attended college, I noticed several kids (I was in my 20's) wearing these small devices around their neck. I thought they were memory sticks for your computer, but later found out they were iPods. I came from a world of Walkman's and cordless phones and somehow an entire decade slipped past me where iPhones, iPods, iPads and all sorts of other witchcraft had replaced the technology I was used to. To sum things up, I, the adult, who knows everything, had to turn to kids half my age to learn a thing or two.