"Do you think you'll ever write anything for adults?"
This is the question I have been asked time and again ever since I had my first children's book published 24 years ago. It's as though there is a value attached to writing a "grown-up book" that is not attached to writing for young, inspiring and expanding minds. As though you will only have grown up yourself and matured as a writer once you have graduated to writing for adults. Does it really matter, though? If you are a writer, isn't it the writing itself that counts, not the market for which it is intended?
When I was a student, I wanted to write an Important Novel. I read Important Novels. So naturally if I were to attempt to write anything, I should attempt to write just that. Except that I had no idea how to do this. I had nothing Important to say. I had never experienced anything that I considered to be Important. So I scribbled in diaries and wrote pieces for school and college magazines and wrote stories in secret which I never showed anyone.
And then I had children. And suddenly the world of children and their vast imagination was what I was engaged with on a daily basis. And I was re-reading all the books I had loved as a child and realising that this was what I wanted to do - I wanted to add to this glorious canon of story-telling.
As the award-winning writer David Almond said on realising for the first time that he was writing for children: “I got halfway down the first page [of writing Skellig] and realised to my astonishment that this was a story for young people. And I felt liberated… I began to discover a way to write very plainly about very ordinary things, but somehow to expose the extraordinariness in them.”
To write very plainly about very ordinary things, but somehow to expose the extraordinariness in them. Isn't that the essence of all good writing? To expose the extraordinariness in the ordinariness of life? It is for me. For life is rich in stories, whether it's the overheard anecdote on the bus, or the ripe gossip your best friend serves up on a long country walk, or the shocking tale your mother tells you that she learned about at her bridge club, or the tiny story about the drowned girl tucked into the middle pages of the Sunday paper.
It doesn't much matter to me whether I am writing for adults or children. My latest book happens to be for adults because I am not sure that many children would be interested in the subject matter. My next book might be for adults, it might not. I am not sure yet. I am never sure who my books will be for - is my story best published as a picture book, a poem, a short story or something else? It is the publishing industry that is best posed to answer that question.
I am a writer, so I just write.