Meg Wolitzer recently announced that her next project is going to be a young adult novel. Wolitzer, author of the critically acclaimed The Interestings plans to base her YA novel, titled Belzhar , on Sylvia Plath.
It may seem surprising for Wolitzer, coming off an adult literature high, to switch gears and direct her attention to a new audience — but it's not a new idea. Many famous authors have parlayed their successful careers in adult literature to find new audiences in the young adult and middle grade space. Sometimes it's a one-time thing, and other times it launches a completely new career path. But the question remains: Why would an adult author move to YA?
Some authors claim their publishers or editors pushed them into the booming market, and others were inspired by books they read in their youth. No matter their reasoning, these 10 adult authors made the jump to YA, and found solid ground.
1. NICK HORNBY
Nick Hornby, best known for confessional adult novels such as High Fidelity and About a Boy, didn't know he was writing a YA novel when he started Slam. He had recently been planning with his editor to write a young adult book, he told the Atlantic in 2007, but it wasn't until after he had formalized his idea for Slam that he decided it would be the YA book. Hornby wasn't always a fan of young adult fiction. In his monthly Believer column, he talked about his discovery of the genre.
“I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of.”
2. Richelle Mead
Adult urban fantasy novelist Richelle Mead started on her Vampire Academy series because her publishers basically said, "YA vampires are so hot right now." And it was a good thing she took that advice, because the six-book series was able to wade through the Twilight backlash and find great success and even launch a (albeit not well received) movie.
3. Meg Cabot
Long before Anne Hathaway was stumbling around as Mia Thermopolis in the big-screen adaptation of The Princess Diaries , Meg Cabot was writing adult romance novels under the pseudonym Patricia Cabot. She published more than a dozen more adult novels — many under her real name — through the 1990s and 2000s, but Cabot has never found as much success as an adult author as she did in YA.
4. Carl Hiaasen
Carl Hiassen was a investigative reporter when he wrote his first solo adult novel, Tourist Season, in 1986. But it wasn't until 2002 that he ventured into YA literature with Hoot. Hoot — and the subsequent Flush , Scat , and Chomp — all tackle environmental issues, a serious subject, with a sense of humor and whimsy. Despite his prior success as an author, Hiassen told The New York Times that he was sure Hoot would "bomb." It didn't. Hoot won a Newbery Honor, one of the highest awards for children's and YA lit, in 2003 and it was made into a movie starring Brie Larson and Luke Wilson.
5. Michael Chabon
The Virginia Quarterly Review has called Michael Chabon "one of the most celebrated writers of his generation." And we have to agree. He found massive success with his adult novels, most notably Wonder Boys , which was made into a movie, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, but that didn't stop him from taking a risk and aiming a new book at younger readers. The risk paid off: Summerland received a starred review from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus , which said of it:
"This raucous, exhilarating, joyful, and, above all, fun offering displays an enormous respect for the tradition of great fantasies that come before it, from Irving, Baum, and Nesbit, to Lewis, Tolkien, and Pullman, while confidently taking its place beside them."
6. Salman Rushdie
British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie is a living legend in literature. He was even knighted for his contributions in 2007. Rushdie won the Booker Prize for his 1981 novel Midnight's Children , but he is perhaps best known for 1988's The Satanic Verses , which caused a major controversy and lead Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran to issue a fatwa against Rushdie, only lifted in 1998. During the fatwa, Rushdie published his first of two YA/children's books, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which is seen as an allegory for issues plaguing life in the Indian subcontinent. He dedicated the novel to his estranged son. His second book for younger readers, Luka and the Fire of Life , was released in 2010.
7. Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich most recently made headlines with her bestselling adult novel The Round House , which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2012, but it wasn't her first National Book award nomination. Erdrich, who began writing adult novels in 1984, was a 1999 finalist in the Young People's Literature category for her debut YA book, The Birchbark House, the first novel in an enthusiastically received series that follows a Native American community near Lake Superior.
Click here to buy The Birchbark House .
8. Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie's first foray into YA literature in 2007 is now a mainstay of teenage reading lists. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been called Alexie's semi-autobiographical tale of growing up of Native American ancestry. His adult novels, essays, poetry, and screenplays also tend to center around his heritage. One of his most famous novels is The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven , and his first adult novel, Reservation Blues, received an American Book Award in 1996.
9. Kelley Armstrong
Extremely prolific fantasy novelist Kelley Armstrong also dabbles in writing for a young adult audience. Her most recent journey into YA is April's upcoming Sea of Shadows , which will kick off her Age of Legends series. Armstrong switches back and forth between writing for her teen and adult audiences, always seemingly working on more new series or additions to existing ones. In an interview with the Literary Rambles blog, Armstrong discusses the difference between writing YA and writing for adults:
Two things surprised me. One, how little of a difference there was in the actual writing of the books. The YA are paced a little faster and the characters must be teens with teen issues, but otherwise, there's not much difference. Except for the second thing...the audience. Fantasy readers can become very invested in a series--quick to let you know what they like and dislike. But they have nothing on teens!
10. Gillian Flynn
Everyone get excited: Following the massive success of Gone Girl, Flynn is writing a YA novel, set to release in 2015. Flynn's upcoming YA book is as yet unnamed and no details have been released, but if Dark Places , Sharp Objects , and Gone Girl are any indication, I bet we'll see small towns, dark, creepy themes, and complex characters. And it's going to be awesome.