Our Stars, Our Memories (Or, a YA Reminder)

“So, why do you write YA fiction?” is a question I get often.  “What is it about YA that inspires you to write in that genre?”

I suppose the question is natural enough.  After all, The Eye-Dancers is a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel, and its sequel, The Singularity Wheel, due out late this summer, is as well.  But the truth is, I’m not a YA writer–at least, not exclusively.  Prior to The Eye-Dancers, in fact, I had rarely ventured into the YA waters.  For years, I wrote short stories–dozens of them.  And nearly all of them are mainstream/literary.

 

Even at that time, though, there was an occasional appeal to write about younger protagonists.  One story in particular, called “Marbles,” about a teenage boy who has a moment of epiphany causing him to realize and fully embrace that he’s no longer a child, and that he must look forward and prepare for his life as an adult, stayed with me.  It wasn’t long after writing “Marbles” that I began working on The Eye-Dancers.

 

It’s odd on the surface.  I am a long way from being a teenager myself.  The days of junior high and high school, for me, reside in a previous century, back when smartphones were unheard of and the personal computer was only just becoming mainstream.  When I was in junior high, Larry Bird was the three-time reigning NBA MVP, postage stamps cost 25 cents, and Tiffany was topping the pop charts with “Could’ve Been.”

 

It was a long time ago.

And yet . . . are we ever truly beyond our formative years?  Do we ever “outgrow” our first date, our first rejection, our first triumph?  Experiences from our past do not disappear like smoke upon an autumn breeze.  They linger.  Sometimes they hide in the shadows, buried beneath the layers of intervening years.  Other times they rise to the fore, reminders of an experience decades gone, remarkably vivid, as sharp and vibrant in our mind’s eye as the day they happened.

 

But still.  Why revisit the old haunts of adolescence on purpose?  Why write an entire novel (or two!) about teenage protagonists up to their chins in angst and insecurities?  Why walk the perilous path down memory lane that retouches old wounds and scabs?  It’s something many writers, as well as readers, do.  In fact, a 2012 survey concluded that 55 percent of YA readers are adults.  Again, the question of why resurfaces.

 

I can’t speak for others, only myself, and for me, writing The Eye-Dancers–and now, finishing up The Singularity Wheel–has been a labor of love.  The characters of Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Marc Kuslanski, and Ryan Swinton were all inspired by neighborhood friends from my childhood, and then merged together with sprinklings from my own life.  When, for instance, I describe Mitchell’s enjoyment of his favorite comic book in chapter 1 of The Singularity Wheel, I am, in essence, remembering my own discovery of that same issue when I was a teenager . . .

 

“He refocused on Fantastic Four number 51.  It was a remarkable issue—the first appearance of The Negative Zone, an alternate universe composed of negative, rather than positive, matter.  In the story, Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, has just made the discovery and resolves to explore this new and dangerous place.  He journeys through the void, bridges the gap between dimensions.

“Just like I did once, he thought.  Like we all did.  Five years ago.”

Of course, I’ve never traveled across time and space, as Mitchell has, but the appreciation he and I share for old comic books is real–and a reminder for me of what it was like when I was Mitchell’s age.

 

Not all of my adolescent memories are positive. Some of my most humiliating experiences happened in school.  Like so many others, I was at times the butt of jokes, the object of derision.  In high school, I struggled with acne and was overweight.  Believe me, I was made aware of both on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.

 

But I was lucky.  Even on the worst days, I understood that.  I had a strong, stable family life–my parents never moved.  Many of our neighbors remained the same through the years.  Friendships in the old neighborhood ran deep.  The real-life inspirations for Mitchell, Joe, Marc, and Ryan would all get together with me–especially in summer.  We’d hang out on the driveway, shooting baskets; we’d invent games and spend entire afternoons arguing about the ever-evolving rules, having a blast the whole time; when we grew a little older, became teenagers, we’d talk about the things adolescent boys talk about, and we’d compete in sports and play strategic board games that lasted for hours.

 

Through it all, there was a camaraderie that was resilient, strong, enduring.  We still keep in touch today–not that often, not like we used to.  But whenever we get together, special things happen.  The years peel away, and the memories merge with the present day, creating a synchronicity in the space-time continuum that can only be described as magic.  And I am taken back to a simpler time, a time when forty was still decades hence, when, despite setbacks and doubts and insecurities, opportunities still seemed endless and all things were possible.

 

Maybe that’s why we write, and read, YA fiction, even as we get older.  Maybe as we take on the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood, as we perhaps feel trapped in a career we don’t love, a situation we can’t extricate ourselves from, a diagnosis we can’t pretend away, we need a reminder.  We need to remember what it was like when we were young.

 

As I look back through the lens of memory, I remember those summer evenings, lingering in the driveway, leaning against the car, talking with my friends as we swatted at the mosquitoes in seek of our blood and watched the fireflies dance and glow in the dark.  We’d talk about nothing, and everything.  We weren’t in a hurry.  Just being there was enough.

 

And we’d look up at the night sky, feel a sense of awe, and wonder.  I hope that sense of awe, that desire to probe and question and discover, that willingness to wonder and to believe in the so-called “impossible,” remains always.  I hope it never grows old.

 

“The stars are yours,” Ray Bradbury once wrote, “if you have the head, the hands, and the heart for them.”

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anisioluiz2008
    May 27, 2017 @ 18:24:23

    Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

    Reply

  2. magarisa
    May 27, 2017 @ 20:43:32

    Illuminating post!

    Reply

  3. cindy knoke
    May 27, 2017 @ 22:45:22

    Wonderful!

    Reply

  4. rmcalzada
    May 28, 2017 @ 01:22:29

    Beautifully written, Mike. I don’t think that we ever leave our formative years behind. I’m glad to hear that I have a fellow YA who is also driven by his early memories. Nostalgia is a powerful and wonderful creature.

    Reply

  5. Lyn
    May 28, 2017 @ 03:01:56

    Great post Mike! Yeah, why do we read YA so much? I’d say that 80% of what I read is YA and I’m 70 in January. My just completed novel is YA. The one I’m outlining is YA. Maybe it’s a wish to regress to a younger age where we didn’t have as many responsibilities and we were the ones being protected. Or maybe it’s as simple as wanting to go on an adventure – the sort we never had as a kid. Either way, long live the YA novel! 😀

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 29, 2017 @ 23:58:19

      Thanks so much, Lyn! Those are great points, and I do think the adventure aspect is key. Maybe, deep down, we’re all still kids at heart looking to explore.:) The more I think about it, the more I hope that’s true . . .

      Reply

  6. ritaroberts
    May 28, 2017 @ 16:10:41

    Simply Ah Memories !!! Love this post,

    Reply

  7. joannerambling
    May 28, 2017 @ 22:43:23

    Oh yeah I liked this post

    Reply

  8. jjspina
    May 28, 2017 @ 22:44:43

    Ahh, nice to relive the good memories in our lives! Hopefully they stay there so we can draw on them when we need a lift. I think writing for YA is a needed field. I enjoy writing for MG/YA too. I look forward to your book, Mike. Thanks for another enjoyable post! 🤗😘

    Reply

  9. Anna Waldherr
    May 31, 2017 @ 07:29:54

    A great post.

    Reply

  10. evelyneholingue
    Jun 01, 2017 @ 15:30:58

    Oh I love how you remember of your teen years. You’re touching on a good topic. Why some writers go directly to writing for teens?
    I think that some of us write YA to retain the strong feelings and emotions from our adolescence, just a little bit longer. It’s also possible that some of us never really leave this state of mind while others plunge easily into adulthood. As much as I am responsible (for my kids and essential matters) I don’t often see myself as an adult 🙂
    My deeper beliefs and dreams are still pretty much the ones I had when I was 13.
    Best to you, as always.

    Reply

  11. The Eye-Dancers
    Jun 01, 2017 @ 19:02:51

    Thanks so much, Evelyne! And I think you make a great point about some of us never really leaving our younger state of mind! Yes, we mature and evolve and learn. But for some of us (me included!) we retain so many of the qualities and worldviews we had when we were 13.:) Which, when you look at it, I think is a good thing!

    Reply

  12. Ste J
    Jun 02, 2017 @ 14:15:25

    Great post, the idea of the fantastical and the yearning to be grounded in a world where anything could be possible are huge pulls. The Eye Dancers (which I shall review soon and mention the upcoming sequel) has a similar feel, in world building that Stephen King has. Making someone born and brought up in England miss those days of American yesteryear is no mean feat.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 02, 2017 @ 19:10:04

      Thanks so much! And wow–having The Eye-Dancers mentioned in the same breath as Stephen King is quite remarkable. Enough to make my day.:) I will definitely look forward to your review! Thanks so much for all your continued support. It is much appreciated!

      Reply

  13. sherazade
    Jun 02, 2017 @ 16:51:40

    A little hard but finally I read (&understood 😉 )

    shera

    Reply

  14. kutukamus
    Jun 04, 2017 @ 22:48:24

    Very much enjoyed the memory
    The now or then story
    The camaraderie..
    And I love good ol’ Larry! 🙂

    Reply

  15. natuurfreak
    Jun 12, 2017 @ 21:16:48

    Excellent photos

    Reply

  16. -Eugenia
    Jun 13, 2017 @ 12:52:08

    Great post and thank you for following BrewNSpew.

    Reply

  17. reocochran
    Jun 18, 2017 @ 01:36:21

    I think your reasons are sound about YA. I chose my first years of teaching to be in middle school. It is full of so much fun, worry and “in-between” feelings, torn between childhood and teenage world.
    I do feel lucky, like you Mike, to have had hope and a strong “core” in my family roots. My main friends who have been with me, though, all are from college or adulthood.
    My two brothers and I are our own “pack” who discuss sports, politics, movies and two of us, still wonder about the confusing dating scene. Even asking what some consider are inappropriate questions, so we can clarify~ “what does the opposite sex really expect or want?”
    I read mysteries and detective stories in books but embrace teen, good quality stories in movies. My very favorite is “Super 8” and also liked “Drop Dead Fred.”
    “Stand by Me,” resonates years later, even how it ends, reflecting how the boys from different sides of town had each other’s backs, despite leaving (escaping) and changing over years. . . they missed and liked their unified front during a stressful period of life.

    I do feel age is relative. I will get to see my college friend, Patrice, this fall for my first major trip since 1979. 🙂 Long Beach, Mississippi. . . we talk on the phone once a month, she was my maid of honor when I married my college sweetheart.
    (He’s long gone yet she and I remain close!) Peace, dear friend. 🕊 Robin

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 19, 2017 @ 19:14:37

      Thanks so much, Robin! It’s always wonderful to hear from you.:) I so much enjoyed reading your thoughts here! And I agree, Stand by Me is a great movie. One of my favorites.:) I may post about it on here sometime! Hope your week is off to a good start.:)

      Reply

  18. reocochran
    Jun 18, 2017 @ 01:40:27

    Oh, he’s remarried. (Not passed away.) Don’t want to sound crass or disrespectful about my first husband, Mike.

    Reply

  19. carolineturriff
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 18:47:40

    Always great to see your posts thanks for the support Caroline

    Reply

  20. The Eye-Dancers
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 19:18:25

    And likewise.:) Thank you for your support, too!

    Reply

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