Why do I gravitate toward young adult fiction, both in my reading choices and my own writing? Young adulthood is an exciting period of life, full of changes and choices and myriad possibilities. It is the period of life most suited for the metaphorical hero’s journeys that dominate fantasy, and even as adults it is easy to look back and identify with young people. On top of that, YA fiction is typical shorter, and therefore tends to be more tightly written, with less space for meandering. I don’t usually set out deliberately to write YA fiction, but it’s what I keep coming back to, time and again, so there must be something compelling there. Having said that, my current work in progress is about a woman about to enter middle age and menopause. Sometimes it’s good to branch out.
Speculative fiction – fantasy and science fiction – provides, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “so much more scope for the imagination.” Creating worlds outside of the bounds of reality allows us to rise above the distracting minutiae of life and focus on the broader themes – good and evil, friendship and love, morality, ethics and human nature. The power of metaphor cannot be overstated. It’s not quite the same as straight allegory, where each element of the story has a corresponding real-life meaning. Details in well-written speculative fiction can contain multiple layers of interpretation, often meanings that the author never even intended. I read Lord of the Rings and see Gollum as a metaphor for an addict. Was that the intended meaning – the only meaning – the wrong meaning? It doesn’t matter. It works for me; it resonates with me. That’s the power of speculative fiction. I must add that I also adore Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery (obviously), and I have the seed of an idea for a young adult novel that contains not a drop of fantasy or science fiction. There’s good to be found in every genre.