I think the thing I’m most insecure about is ever connecting with my audience and who that audience might be.
I am constantly under the attack of “that’s not what teenage girls are like.”
I think that’s my favorite statement ever. I love it because it seems to always come from men, but also because it completely ignores the fact that there’s no one thing that teenage girls are like. If you had fifty teenage girls in the same room, yes there are going to be some commonalities, but there’s going to be a huge spread about what they like and what they want to do. More importantly, there’s going to be a huge spread about who they think they are.
Caveat: I say think because the first encounters you have with college and adult life afterwards sometimes destroy who you thought you were in highschool. And sometimes, it only hardens it. One of my favorite quotes after coming back from college was that someone said “Wow, you haven’t changed a bit.” To which I replied, “I’ve changed a lot!” And the kind person said, “I know, but you’ve become so much more you than before!”
I digress. My point is that people are different and they have different desires. When I was in high school, there was this terrible choice you had to make: You could either be tough and sporty—able to change your own tire and throw a pass—or you could like pretty things. I see now that it was just another way for society to try to change me into a less powerful version of myself by letting me be tough, but denying me something that I really wanted.
As an adult, I see that it was a falsehood. Who would have stopped me from wearing pink fingernail polish while changing sparkplugs? Would the fashion police have stopped me if I’d worn a cute dress before the game? (okay, well, after the game, that might not have been as practical, but still). My point is I liked to do things where you got your hand dirty AND I liked pretty things.
This is something that I try to write into my characters, but it’s really hard because I’m constantly up against the “but teenage girls aren’t like that.” It’s something that I’m always insecure about. I’m always checking myself, when I start up a new character, are teenage girls like this?
And then I remember how I was forced to choose, how society didn’t seem big enough for my peers to not tease me mercilessly for have diametrically opposed likes. How could I possibly like fingernail polish and soccer? They teased me when I dressed nice. They teased me when I painted my nails. They told me I wasn’t taking my sports seriously enough.
It was all a lie.
Every scrap of it.
So when people tell me that “teenage girls aren’t like that,” I tell them to fly a kite. My only concern is that when you write a book with a character like the person I was, constantly rubbing against the grain of what others want you to do, it can be hard to find my audience.
Because my audience are the people who are still struggling with who they are and what they like and how life has pigeon holed them into “but that’s not what teenage girls are like.” I know there are people out there who are struggling, but trying so desperately to fit in, and I’m worried that their trying so hard to fit in makes them close off to the things they might actually love. And those people are my audience. I’m literally trying to reach the kids who are hiding who they are because they fear being called out the same way I was called out. In short, the people who might literally be afraid to pick up my book for fear of not fitting in.