Writing Fantasy for Young Adults by Jane Dougherty
What first got me into writing was my children’s frustration at the choice of fantasy fiction in the local library. Looking back on it, I realize my eldest child was fourteen at the time and number three was only nine. Our local library put all fantasy in the kids’ section, so they brought home some pretty unsuitable stuff. However, even the titillation of sexy nymphomaniac warrior queens left them cold. Samey, they said. Predictable. I decided to have a go at writing something that they could get their teeth into, that would stimulate them intellectually, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious.
The result was The Green Woman series. Set in a brutal, misogynist, and repressive society dominated by religious dogma, it tells the story of Deborah, a refusnik who wants out, and ends up accepting her role as the catalyst who will destroy the regime and help create something better. By the time the series was written, my children were older and appreciated the utopian aspect of the story, where the fighting was towards an end they approved of, not just to put some king on a throne.
But since the release of the first volume of the series, The Dark Citadel, I have discovered that the exploration of right and wrong is not necessarily considered suitable for the under eighteens. Moral reflection is not supposed to be part of the package; teenagers should be presented with black or white situations. They should be more interested in love triangles, working through their own (often very banal) problems, and generally navel-gazing.
Frankly, I believe that young adults should be presented with the same moral choices as old adults, and not allowed to cop out of taking hard decisions. Deborah, the main character in The Dark Citadel, starts off as a typical self-absorbed almost-sixteen-year-old, but she grows and matures into accepting that even adolescents have responsibilities. Evil does not always have horns and cloven hooves, it can be found in the most ordinary people. There is some black in the story, and a very little white, but mostly, there are a lot of shades of grey.
I will go on writing with young people as my heroes because they are more versatile than older adults, who have responsibilities of family, jobs, paying for the house or the new car. Teens should be more idealistic, simply because they aren’t burdened with these responsibilities, and they should be heroic in a real sense. Some critics would say that The Green Woman series is a YA series written for adults. While I am pleased that it appeals to adults, I hope the younger people, for whom it was written, will enjoy it too.
Jane Dougherty is a product of the Irish diaspora. When she was a baby, her family moved to Yorkshire where she was brought up. She was educated in Manchester and London before moving to France to work in the wine trade. She has lived in Paris, Picardy, and now lives in the warmer climes of Bordeaux with her family of five children, a Spanish greyhound and a posse of cats.
Her first book, The Dark Citadel, a dark, epic, dystopian fantasy was released on October 4, 2013 by Musa Publishing. The second volume, The Subtle Fiend, was released on January 29, 2014. In the Beginning, released in November 2013, is a collection of three short stories set in the world of The Green Woman.