Wednesday, August 27, 2014



I know a lot of middle-aged writers! We were raised in the 50’s and 60’s and I think have a fair amount of nostalgia for those times. Young people today roll their eyes when we reminisce about actually walking to school, playing outside unsupervised, riding our bikes anywhere. It was a time of great freedom for kids and, with the exception of TV, no technology!

The world of kids today is so different. If you want to write a contemporary novel, technology rears its intimidating (to some of us) head! How can you write about teens and not include Facebook? Even preteens. And how do you write knowledgeably about Facebook if you never use the darn thing? Not to mention all the other stuff – downloading music and movies, ITunes, iPhones, tweeting etc.

One solution is to dive in and learn how all this stuff works, if you don’t already know. The best way is to have a helpful teen fill you in on what’s current and what’s not. Do kids ever email each other or do they just text? Do they ever use old-fashioned cameras or do they just use the camera on their phone?  Do kids blog? You need to know all this. And to make matters more difficult, it changes fast.

What if you’re just not interested? (I tend to fall into that category. A half-hearted use of Facebook and this blog is as far as I go!) I can offer a couple of solutions.

Write about a pre-technology time. You don’t have to go back that far (the 80’s will do it) or go back even further and make it a true historical novel. I did that with Finding Grace which is set in the 1950’s. I had many reasons for setting my book in 1954 (eg. polio is an important issue in the book) but it was fun to be able to write about childhood the way I remember it. I will say there seem to be a lot of books in recent years set in the 50’s and 60’s. Will editors start getting weary of this?

Another solution is to choose a setting where the kids don’t have access to technology. I didn’t have to even think about computers in After the Fire because the story takes place in a wilderness setting with no electricity and no Internet! How refreshing!

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t write about a contemporary teen who uses technology sparingly or not at all. Make him or her abit of an oddity! You’ll have to make it convincing though or your readers just won’t believe it!

I write mostly books for 8 to 12 years old and technology isn’t as big a problem there. A little bit of computer use, a little bit of texting and the story feels contemporary. I think it is a much bigger challenge for the young adult market, and may be the reason my only young adult book If Only is set in 1968. (I am currently working on a young adult historical novel set in 1908 – you see where I stand on this!)

So if you want to write contemporary fiction for kids and you’re not a techie, find yourself a willing teen and plunge in!

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