Should authors experiment?

In the past few years there have been many adult authors trying their hand at writing books for children and teens.  Just because they’re best-selling adult authors doesn’t always mean they will write best-selling (or even good) books for younger audiences.

Clive Cussler, for example, has written dozens of books for adults and is an author who is always on our best-seller lists. However, back in 2006, he released a book for children called The Adventures of Vin Fiz.  It was so condescending and old-fashioned that I gave up after a few pages.

John Grisham is another adult author who recently turned to Young Adult fiction, with his Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer books.  I haven’t tried it myself (I couldn’t bring myself to do so), but the reviews have been pretty bad all round.

There are equally as many adult authors who have written some amazing books for children and teens.

Should authors experiment or should they stick with what they’re good at?  What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Should authors experiment?

  1. Robyn 13 October 2011 / 9:25 am

    I don’t mind when adult authors who have actually written books branch out, although sometimes I wonder quite why they have. What really annoys me are the celebrity authors who think anyone can write a children’s book. Madonna! Don’t get me started.

    • zackids 13 October 2011 / 2:37 pm

      But they’ve brought us such classics as Budgie the Little Helicopter (Fergie), The Adventures of Abdi (Madonna), Ugenia Lavender (Geri Halliwell) and now Modelland (Tyra Banks). If you haven’t already read the blurb for Tyra’s book, you need to read this:

      “No one gets in without being asked. And with her untamable hair, large forehead, and gawky body, Tookie De La Créme isn’t expecting an invitation. Modelland—the exclusive, mysterious place on top of the mountain—never dares to make an appearance in her dreams.

      But someone has plans for Tookie. Before she can blink her mismatched eyes, Tookie finds herself in the very place every girl in the world obsesses about. And three unlikely girls have joined her.

      Only seven extraordinary young women become Intoxibellas each year. Famous. Worshipped. Magical. What happens to those who don’t make it? Well, no one really speaks of that. Some things are better left unsaid.

      Thrown into a world where she doesn’t seem to belong, Tookie glimpses a future that could be hers—if she survives the beastly Catwalk Corridor and terrifying Thigh-High Boot Camp. Or could it? Dark rumors like silken threads swirl around the question of why Tookie and her new friends were selected… and the shadows around Modelland hide sinister secrets.

      Are you ready? Modelland is waiting for you…”

      What absolute rubbish!

      • Grace 14 October 2011 / 8:30 am

        That sounds absolutely horrifying! O.o

      • Laraine Barker 17 October 2011 / 1:02 pm

        Never heard of Tyra Banks, I’m afraid. But from the ghastly title of her book I’m guessing she’s a model. That’s probably why I haven’t heard of her. And now I’m going to instantly forget her name so I can say “Never heard of her” next time her name crops up. :-0

  2. Helen Lowe 13 October 2011 / 9:41 am

    I guess if authors–or anyone, in fact–don’t experiment, they’ll never find out what they’re good at. 😉

    From my point of view as an author, I feel that the really important thing is to follow “the calling of my heart” in terms of what I want to write, rather than being diverted by notions about what’s hot right now, eg YA, vampires, dystopia–and hope that what ‘speaks’ to me as an author resonates with enough readers to allow me to keep going at the writing game. But experimenting and trying out the new is still an important part of that equation, because one thing I am quite sure of is that I don’t want to write the same book over and over again!

    • zackids 13 October 2011 / 9:54 am

      Thanks Helen. You’re definitely an example of an author who writes really well for whatever audience. I think sometimes those hugely popular authors get pressured into writing for children or young adults and it really shows in their story.

      • Helen Lowe 13 October 2011 / 10:24 pm

        Thank you, Zac, re my own writing. I believe that Junior/YA fiction is seen as a “hot” area to be writing in right now, but I must be going against the trend as The Heir of Night & series is seen as adult. In fact I just wrote both stories as they wanted/asked to be written and it was the industry that decided that Thornspell was Junior and Heir adult.:)

        Anyway, you have sparked a spin off post for my blog, on ‘Experimentation & Finding the New’, which should be up tomorrow. 😉

  3. Grace 13 October 2011 / 9:42 am

    Experimentation can be a good thing, but authors need to remember not to dumb themselves down when writing for younger audiences.

  4. Laraine 13 October 2011 / 1:17 pm

    I’m with Helen. If authors didn’t experiment I hate to think how boring writing would get. But unfortunately most best-selling authors for adults who branch into children’s literature land up writing rubbish. I sure hope Dan Brown doesn’t write one because he can’t write to start with. Read this at Language Log if you want to know what I mean. Linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum explains what’s wrong with Dan Brown’s writing far better than I could.

    Yes, Robyn, those children’s books by celebrities (and that includes royal ones) are enough to make you cringe.

  5. Nicole Murphy 14 October 2011 / 11:24 am

    Was pointed over here by Helen Lowe and wanted to put my two cents worth in.

    Absolutely, writer’s should experiment – if there is a story burning in their soul that they want to write, then they should write it. As a writer, I try to experiment as much as I can, in order to develop my craft and trial ideas.

    Whether they should all be published is another matter entirely 🙂

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