What inspired you to write The Unidentified?
Short answer: The Young Adult librarian I worked with at Seattle Public Library gave me FEED by MT Anderson to read and I was impressed with and inspired by the kinds of social topics and experiments with language that were being explored in YA. So, indirectly, The Unidentified was a result of me wanting to read “more books like that,” but with more focus on the inherent creativity and defiance in youth cultures, I guess. Because what’s NOT inspiring about that time in your life when you’re discovering how the adult world really works and trying to figure out how to be a part of it, even if you’re not sure you want to be a part of it?
I was 25 when I started writing what would later become the Unidentified. I intended to describe an optimal learning environment for functioning in a hyper-contemporary world and it turned into what people are calling a dystopia, so I hope no one hands me the controls to their society. I obviously don’t know what I’m doing. But building up a world with words was a really fun way to work through ideas and share stuff I think is interesting at least. I didn’t set out to write a novel (because I didn’t know how). It was a long process of learning the art of story-telling before the words I was writing ever even got close to resembling a novel.
But I wrote it to see if I could. I was inspired by the challenge.
Why do you write YA?
I write YA because I like tight storytelling. Even with complicated stories, the telling needs to be streamlined to the essential so it just MOVES. I’m always so entertained when some people dismiss it as “only YA” or “writing for kids” like it’s easy. We write for a more demanding audience! And I like the challenge.
I also think there’s more room to experiment in YA than adult. (1st person/present, anyone? and what are they called… novels written in verse!?) I’m personally not interested in writing or reading those, but young readers can be more open to stuff adult readers think of as weird and I find all those possibilities super exciting.
Also, I’m more interested in the kinds of stories that come about when writing from a teenage character’s POV. They’re more likely to question the world around them, take risks, believe in things intensely. I just think that age of discovery and working out how to be/act is so INTERESTING.
I write YA because it’s fun.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a story now that I jokingly refer to as “Juno set in the semi-post-apocalypse.” It’s about a really smart seventeen-year-old named Starlee Sanders who discovers how much she took people and things for granted after massive rainstorms cripple Seattle’s infrastructure and the survivors mob up to secure resources. The story is basically about figuring out how to move forward after it’s already too late to save the world… but not as dismal as that sounds, I promise. I call it End Generation.