Reality Skimming

Interview with Gordon Long


After 30 years of teaching, 40 years of theatre, and 20 years of playwrighting, I think I’ve paid my dues, and it’s time to become a novelist.

I also adjudicate Speech Arts Festivals, and direct two different Seniors’ performance troupes. Sometimes I teach ESL in Korea. My latest fun job was supervising the medal ceremonies in Speed Skating for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I crew on a 32-foot racing sloop called “Planet Claire” out of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, and I’m starting to compete in Agility with my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh. (Actually, he competes. I run around and look like I’m contributing).

What constitutes "young adult" fiction for you?

The YA genre was created for two separate reasons. The first and simplest one is the decency rating. Just like for movies, parents and librarians and other censorious types want to know that their children aren't corrupting their minds with nasty stuff. So a YA novel is supposed to be sort of a "PG13" rating. Nowadays, of course, it's more like "PG16" or more.

The other reason is for marketing, and this one falls down in an even bigger mess. In fact, the reading abilities and preferences of teenagers vary so widely it's hard to pin down what the group is reading. As a writer, targetting these people is a very chancy affair.

In general, I suppose you could say that teenagers are less sophisticated readers, so they will probably like a straightforward plotline, lots of action, and usually simpler characters. As do a lot of adult readers.

My observation of young people is that they seem to like stories about people about two years older than themselves. Remember how in high school you always knew all the kids in the grades above you, but you didn't care too much about those below? That applies to the main characters in YA books as well.

Marketing-wise, you can always look at what's selling, and try to jump on the bandwagon. Paranormal is big right now, but it will go the way of the hula hoop. Probably too late to jump on that one.

I wrote "A Sword Called…Kitten?" with YA in mind, but I know from talking to customers that one of my main markets is mothers and grandmothers picking up presents for younger members of their families. Who knew?

As an author, I think you're much better off just writing a good book in your specific genre. If it's a genre that teenagers are reading, they'll pick it up. Unless you're the kind of genius that knows what the next hula hoop is going to be, and can get everyone jumping through yours.

Gordon A. Long  

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