By Maggie Faire
I am an author who writes across several genres because I love looking at the world and its problems and resolutions through different perspectives. As Maggie Faire I write Young Adult Urban Fantasy. My current series, The Forest People, is about a young woman who is a human chameleon. She has grown up with “normal” parents and because of her condition has been sheltered from the world. It first manifested at birth, but then becomes uncontrollable during puberty. Isn’t that when everything is uncontrollable? J An important part of her journey is to discover why she has this curse (her view of it) and how she can learn to live with it or use it to her advantage.
Thank you, Judith Ashley, for asking these questions to make my discussion easier!
Why YA? I know you write for adults so why add YA?
The simple answer would be that I’m crazy. Most people don’t think a grandmother should be writing YA and of course I love to disprove whatever “most people” think.J A better answer is that YA, unlike most adult genres, reader expectations are not as prescriptive in the genre rules. This allows authors much more freedom in incorporating a wider range of topics, protagonist experiences, and cross-genre stories within any one book. I think that is also why so many people, both teens and adults, love reading YA novels. Did you know that 50% of YA readers are between the ages of 35 and 50?
Also, YA is primarily about the coming-of-age story—that time in life where a young person becomes an adult and has to figure out who they are separate from their parents, their peers, and form a real sense of “self.” I personally believe that we all go through this who-am-I-really stage at several times in her our lives. Certainly, the move from child to adult is the expected one. However, I think anytime something changes (marriage, death, divorce, finding or losing a job, retirement) we go through some type of re-evaluation of who we are, what we want, and what we are contributing to the world.
The other thing I love about YA books is the emotion. When I remember back to being between the ages of 12 and 19, I remember that every decision seemed life-changing and potentially the end of the world as I knew it. By putting my YA books in a fantasy world, I can truly make the real end of the world a possibility that is all on this young adult’s shoulders. It heightens the emotion and allows me to exploit themes in a different, more exciting way than I can in some of my adult books.
What, if any, message are you sharing with your readers in your stories?
I think the hardest thing to learn in life is that there is both good and evil in the world and, whether we admit it or not, we are all capable of both. It is not so easy to identify what constitutes evil and what that means to how we live our life. Is evil a supernatural entity like the devil? Is it a conglomeration of all the bad we do that somehow becomes something more than the sum of its parts? Is it something that we can define by specific ways we treat people or animals or the things in our life? There is a lot of grey between the two polls of good and evil; and I think it is pretty easy to slip toward evil little by little. And that slippery slope becomes more dangerous when things aren’t going our way, when expectations for our daily life aren’t being met.
In my series, evil is a somewhat ambiguous concept that becomes manifest in an entity called the Abaddon. This name is taken from the Hebrew translation for “place of utter ruin, desolation, or destruction” and is personified as the angel of the abyss. In the series, the Abaddon also creates some real environmental consequences for the Forest People who live in the land of what we might call Faerie or Myth; and when it seeps into the human world it is manifested through behaviors of greed and power. Teens are very interested in the good and evil tug-of-war and I wanted to delve into that in both an existential and practical way in these books.
What are the easiest and most difficult aspects of writing for this age range?
I don’t find the age range more difficult than writing adult books. I simply find it different because the protagonists are younger and, therefore, bring a different level of experience and expectation to solving problems. Writing YA protagonists requires me to revisit that time in my life, or my children’s lives, and recall the emotions and feelings of that age. Fortunately, by casting my protagonist as an outsider, both in the human and fantasy world, I am not tied to knowing the latest jargon, language, or pop culture references that teens experience today or may experience in the future.
The most difficult part of this series is the world-building genre. I’m building a complex world with different races, religions, cultural practices and rules that are unlike the ones we know—yet have some characteristics familiar to us so readers aren’t completely lost. Memory is no longer a strength I have, so I have lots of notecards and what I call a “world-building bible” that is my reference for my character and creature descriptions, rules, practices, religions, relationships to each other and to the human world, etc. Believe me, I have to refer back to that reference almost daily because it is so huge.
Fortunately, I have 3-5 wonderful beta readers for this series. They are between the ages of 14 and 18 and they love a variety of YA books and particularly paranormal or fantasy fiction. These teens are unrelated to me, so they have no problem telling me where I’ve gone wrong or right, and whether they think things are believable or not—interesting or not. This is critical for me. When I release a book, I feel confident that it will work for a good portion of teens in this age group who read fantasy or urban fantasy.
Thanks for letting me share the space here on Romancing the Genres. Tell me, what do you look for when reading a fantasy or urban fantasy novel? If you write in the genre, I’d love to hear your answer to the question of WHY.
Maggie is the author of 18 published books, as well as more than 30 short stories and numerous non-fiction articles. She is also the founder of Windtree Press, an independent publishing cooperative. Her adult fiction spans romance, suspense, and SF titles under the name Maggie Jaimeson. She writes YA Fantasy under the name Maggie Faire. Her non-fiction titles are found under Maggie McVay Lynch.