JK Rowling’s new book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, has just been published. But JK is not the only writer who has made the transition from children’s to adult fiction. Many authors write across the age groups, myself included.
My first book was a cookery book for children, Kids Can Cook, which was followed by Kids Can Cook Around the World. I also wrote several guides to children’s books before I turned to writing for adults. I now happily write for both age groups and will continue to do in the future.
Why did I make the change? Because I had a story that I wanted to tell, a story about three women in their twenties, simple as that. I was also inspired by Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly, Patricia Scanlan, Sheila O’Flanagan, all of whom had started to make a big splash in the UK and worldwide with their wonderfully warm books set in Ireland.
Popular fiction writer, Judi Curtin started off writing for adults and then very successfully turned her attention to children’s fiction. Pauline McLynn has just made the transition from adult fiction to teen novels. John Connolly, John Boyne, Roddy Doyle, Darren Shan, Eoin Colfer, Martina Reilly, Roisin Meaney and Marita Conlon-McKenna all are writing across the age groups.
This is not a new phenomenon. Roald Dahl also wrote for adults and children, as do Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and most recently, Philippa Gregory. The American crime writers like James Patterson and John Grisham are all at it; and ex-SAS men Andy McNabb and Chris Ryan write popular action/adventure series for younger readers.
But nowhere are there more writers who write for all ages than in Ireland. Again, this is not a new phenomenon – Oscar Wilde’s exquisite fairy tales, including The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince are still admired worldwide and even James Joyce dabbled in children’s literature, as did Mary Lavin and Belfast-born CS Lewis.
For most writers, the story comes first, not the age group. Some characters and situations would interest an adult more than a child, and vice versa. As writers, we write what we have to write. We write the story that forces itself most strong into our heads. And if we are lucky, readers (of all ages) connect with that story.
I wish JK Rowling all the best in her brave new world of adult fiction. I for one can’t wait to see what she does next!
In the Sunday Independent (23rd September), I asked several leading Irish writers why they write across the age groups. Read their answers here.
- Sarah Webb
Sarah Webb’s latest adult fiction novel, The Shoestring Club, was published yesterday. Her most recent book for young teens, Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze was released in August. Both are available in Eason stores nationwide and online at Easons.com!
Maeve was a huge inspiration to me as a young writer. I was the neighbour’s child – my mum grew up on the same road as the Binchy family and as a girl I heard all about Maeve and her marvellous writing career. She was the pride of Dalkey and everyone in the village was thrilled at her success after Light a Penny Candle was published.
After I published my first novel for adults, Three Times a Lady (2000), I met Maeve again at the launch of a charity book that we’d both contributed stories to and we had our photo taken together in mad hats for the Irish Independent. She kept everyone amused the whole way through the shoot – she had such a great sense of humour. She asked me about my book and gave me such encouragement that day – I’ve never forgotten her kindness. There were sixteen women contributors to the book – Irish Girls About Town – which went on to raise over 40k for St Vincent de Paul and marked the start of the long lasting friendship between the second wave of Irish women writers (after the first wave of Marian/Cathy/Sheila/Patricia), including Martina Devlin (columnist and author of Ship of Dreams), Martina Reilly and myself. We enjoyed ourselves so much at the event that we’ve been firm friends ever since (the ‘Irish Girls’) and meet as often as we can for lunch, dinners or to attend each other’s launches or special book events.
Maeve led by example. She firmly believed that the more women writers in Ireland the better and encouraged other women writers on their publishing journeys. She gave advice at launches and events, reviewed our books warmly yet honestly (most recently Kathleen McMahon’s This Is How It Ends), welcomed us into her home, talked about our books on the radio and the television.
As a young bookseller, I was always struck by the kind, considerate way she treated the staff, always interested in us as real people, always listening to our stories and our book recommendations (booksellers love waxing lyrical about their favourite new reads). She sent handwritten notes to the shop, thanking us for stocking her book. This is something that I have also tried to do along the way, inspired by Maeve. Booksellers are amazing, hardworking, passionate people, and deserve to be thanked!
Maeve will be terribly missed but never forgotten. And for the record, my favourite Maeve book is, and will always be, Circle of Friends.
- Sarah Webb