Though I’m more well-known in the UK for my contemporary young adult fiction, in the States, I’ve won awards for my historical romance – the 1920s era, to be exact. I dig historical stories. In fact, I have an ongoing love affair with All Things Vintage: I collect old Ouija Boards, I like movies from the 1940s, and my favorite ice cream flavour is decidedly old-fashioned (butter pecan). But despite all my retro quirks, if you were to meet me in person, you’d find me to be unabashedly modern. Because even though I appreciate the past, I love living in the present. Looking at old Ford Model Ts from 1919 is cool, but who wants to actually go outside and hand crank one in the rain or snow? And, sure, it’s romantic to read about young love in Georgian England, but what about the convenience of hot showers and pizza delivery at midnight?
That appreciation of my own time period, I believe, makes me a decent contemporary author. Because the best contemporary fiction is able to do one thing well, which is to pull you into the moment that’s happening now. The worst fiction, on the other hand, gets lost in clumsy details…awkward slang or tired, outdated plot setups. Worse, it commits emotional forgery, which is the biggest writing sin of all – and one that readers can see right through. If you aren’t being emotionally honest on the page, don’t bother. Teens know when you’re faking it, and that’s something they’ll never forgive you for. And can you blame them? Look around. Everyone is publicly sharing their opinions, television habits, daily meals, fights with their boyfriends, dressing room photos…and on, and on. Life is lived inside a fish bowl, for better or for worse. It just is. My mom used to complain about me being on my phone all the time when I came to visit. Now she’s on her iPad, texting me photos from across the room. God only knows what she sends my dad. Welcome to the modern world!
Being a contemporary author is easier when you enjoy everything our contemporary world has to offer. That doesn’t mean being the first to buy each shiny new gadget the second it comes out. But take a look around. No, really. Do it. What do you see? Because I see we’re living in a time that’s given us: Stupid-fast Wi-Fi! Miracle surgeries for sick children! Fantastic movies, music, and books that encourage us to dream bigger dreams! And so much more. For all the horrible things that happen in our world, there’s twice as many that are pretty freaking amazing. So you can appreciate the past – I certainly do – but you’ve got to live in the present. Right here, right now. For all its faults, it’s still a beautiful time to live. I wouldn’t want to write (or read) in any other one.
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