Thursday, September 6, 2012

Time After Time

***Sleuth Alert: Malcolm at Midnight by our very own W.H. Beck is in stores sure to grab a copy!***

We tend to focus on the aspects of mystery here at SS&A. Crimes, clues, research. Today, I want to discuss another aspect of the books we write, the 'Young Adult' part.*

The precise subjects and age ranges that justify a Young Adult classification can vary depending on who you ask. But, it's safe to say that the Sleuths on this site are a bit older than the target YA age range (for the record--and this may sound coincidental--we're all celebrating our 21st birthdays this year). Lately, I've been thinking about the ways I tap into the memories and emotions of my own teenage experiences (just a few years ago, really...yes, really) and channel those thoughts into my writing with hopes of touching today's youth.

I write darker things, so I find myself accessing the painful, angsty memories most often. When it comes to character emotions, that tactic is effective, though sometimes uncomfortable. Seriously, who REALLY wants to go back to high school, even if it's just in your memory? Obviously, that's not enough, because things do change, and unless I want to write a series of period pieces set in the [actual year/decade redacted], I need to do an accuracy check with some modern teens. And I do. With interesting revelations...

Timeless YA Attributes:
  • First love hasn't changed much over the years. 
  • Neither has being an outsider.
  • Parents still don't know anything (until they do)
The Future is Now:
  • Tech is so very important. "No one talks on the phone anymore," says my high school senior sister via text.
  • The internet makes being mean a superpower.
  • The world feels more dangerous (things like school shootings have more relevance when you actually go to a school everyday).
This list goes on, but I'd like to hear from readers and writers out there. If you're a young reader, are there any specific books that you feel most true to your age and experience? If you're a not-as-young writer, how do you stay tapped into the group you write for?

*Sorry Middle Grade sleuths, just speaking from my own experience here.


Lamar "L. R." Giles writes for adults and teens. Penning everything from epic fantasy to noir thrillers, he's never met a genre he didn't like. His debut YA mystery WHISPERTOWN is about a teen in witness protection who investigates his best friend's murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that leads back to his own father. It will be published in Summer, 2013 by HarperCollins. He resides in Virginia with his wife and is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find out more on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


  1. It's been quite an exhausting year with all these twenty-first birthdays, hasn't it, L.R.?

    Teaching middle schoolers keeps me tapped in -- but when I write, like you, I tend to focus on the emotions I remember myself, and set things in a surreal enough world that it doesn't need to feel totally current. Is that cheating? I suppose!

  2. Not cheating at all. I actually think that's a pretty clever technique. Consider it stolen! :)


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