On inner ages: A guest post by Kate Gordon

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One of the questions I get asked most frequently – by adults and teenagers alike – is how I am able to write from the perspective of a teenager when I am … well … considerably older than a teenager (okay, I'll admit it, I haven't been in my teens for nine whole years – eep!).

I also get asked pretty frequently why it is that I choose to write for teens and not adults.

The thing is that, inside, I am about fifteen years old.

I had coffee with the super successful children's writer, Lian Tanner a few months ago and she confided in me that her “inner age” is twelve. That's why she writes books for and starring twelve year olds. I've tried writing books for that age group before. I suck at it. I just can't get into the head-space of someone that age. Similarly, I've tried writing books for adults. Once. Never again. It was like pulling teeth. Probably because, when it comes down to it, I just find adult issues and concerns so … boring.

The only adult novelists I really enjoy are Nick Earls and Nick Hornby and both of them are really great at writing adult characters who are, in some way, still quite childlike. Apart from them, whenever I read a book with an adult protagonist, I often find myself giving up halfway through. Who cares about mortgages, jobs, babies, paying the bills on time? Yawn.

It gets even worse if the book is so-called “literary fiction”. Not only do I find most “literary” books incomprehensible, pretentious and dull, they almost always seem to be without hope. They are about people being miserable, people making other people miserable, people being made miserable by other people, people hitting small children and then cheating on each other and taking drugs for four hundred pages (no particular book in mind there...) ... Excuse me while I go and jump off the nearest mountain.

Teen books, on the other hand, are so hopeful. I have a theory that this is because, when you're a teenager, the world is full of hope. Your life is ahead of you and full of possibility. You actually could be an astronaut or a pop singer or a neurosurgeon. By the time you get to thirty or forty, and have a marriage, mortgage, babies and bills to pay, the possibilities become narrower.

Except if you're me. Or, I should clarify that: except if you're the inner age I am. See, I don't think I've ever really left that stage where the world is full of possibility. Even though I'm pushing the big 3-0, I'm refusing to believe that the life I live now is set in stone. I still believe I could be a famous writer and own a castle in Scotland! I have no interest in mortgages (though, sadly, I do have one). I skip through the finance news on the telly, and go straight to the entertainment report. I'm just as much of a pop culture junkie as I was when I was fifteen. I pore over gossip magazines. I live for going to the movies and listening to music and I love to dance like a mad person. My favourite food is still “chips” - of the hot and cold variety.

I also have many of the same insecurities as I did as a fifteen or sixteen year old which is, I guess, the less pleasant flipside. I still look for approval. I still always think I look bad in photos. I still worry I'm not doing enough or doing well enough.

And I still love my husband with the same mix of gooiness and ferocity that I loved my first ever boyfriend. Only difference is I love him because of who he is instead of the fact that he plays footy and … oh no, that was the only reason!

Some people would say I have “Peter Pan” syndrome – the inability to turn into a grown-up. I prefer to believe I have “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome – an abiding sense of awe, wonder and often bewilderment at the world around me. And a penchant for rabbits.

I have read a couple of books lately by authors who are actually the age I am inside. One of them was by the author of this blog. One of them was by Alexandra Adornetto. I have seen, and read, interviews by both of these young women and – in both these interviews and in their writing – they seem to me to be incredibly wise, grounded, quick-witted and articulate. I am sure they have their share of teenage “issues”, but if they didn't their writing would be so much the less for it. I am in awe of the talent they both display, not just “at a young age” but at any age.

It will be interesting to me to watch how their (sure to be stellar) careers progress over the coming years; whether they will continue to write books aimed at readers whose age they share, or whether their protagonists will grow older as they do.

As for me? I think I'll stay fifteen. I like it there.


Kate Gordon grew up in a very booky house, with two librarian parents, in a small town by the sea on the north-west coast of Tasmania. In 2009, Kate was the recipient of a Varuna writer’s fellowship. Her first book, Three Things About Daisy Blue – a young adult novel about travel, love, self-acceptance and letting go – was published in the Girlfriend series by Allen & Unwin in 2010. Now Kate lives with her husband and her very strange cat, Mephy Danger Gordon. Every morning, while Kate writes, Mephy Danger sits behind her on the couch with his tail curled around her neck. Kate was the recipient of a 2011 Arts Tasmania Assistance to Individuals grant, which means she can now spend more time losing herself in the world of Thylas and Sarcos. She is currently working on the sequel to Thyla. Kate blogs at http://www.kategordon.com.au/blog and you can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/misscackle. She sometimes says some funny stuff!
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