Paolo Bacigalupi Podcast
^So, this is almost a year old, but I stumbled across it only recently. Paolo Bacigalupi is one of my favorite authors, and hearing him interviewed was pretty inspirational for me. The podcast touches on writing from ideas without being didactic, writing for young adults, and the writing process. I’ve pulled out a couple of quotes here to riff on a little, but I highly recommend listening to this interview. In fact, if you’re interested in writing, I would basically say this is a must-listen 😉
“No matter what I’m writing about, it has to be about something.”
I don’t always write purely from ideas or high concepts, but much of my writing does stem from that. This is especially true of my short fiction. And I will say that I am somewhat skeptical of stories that don’t have some kind of message, especially in YA fiction. I think YA has the opportunity to convey impactful thoughts and concepts to a young audience who are still forming their ideas about the world. Adults tend to have their ideas formed and will likely gravitate towards things that reinforce their worldviews already, but younger people will listen to new things if they are delivered in a compelling fashion.
As a writer, working from an idea is more appealing to me as well, since it adds depth to the story. You’re no longer just telling a story, but rather you’re trying to spread an idea through a story, which I think is one of the more powerful ways to do so.
“I want him to be able to see himself on the page.”
There are two great points Bacigalupi makes about YA fiction in this interview, and one of them is this. His son is half-Indian, and so creating characters that non-white children can identify with is very important to him. I share similar values, and much of the reason I am working in a YA series based on Korean folktales is to provide relatable characters for other Korean-Americans (or even Asian Americans in general) who have grown up in the United States. I sincerely hope that we start to see more minority voices in genre, and especially YA, fiction in the near future.
“Young Adult fiction is the place where story is celebrated.”
This is an observation I hadn’t really thought of, but I think it’s true. One of the reasons that YA is so captivating, not only for kids but also for adults, is that all of the stories have strong, well-paced, moving plots. While I love a good rumination, when done poorly it can be very boring, and YA, particularly sci-fi or fantasy YA, does always promise a good romp of an adventure. There will be action, there will be romance, and it will be fun.
On an aside, those who know me know that I often bash YA fiction, an odd position given that I’m working on writing it. Sadly I feel that it (and SFF fiction actually) are filled with pretty terrible writers. That isn’t to say that other genres don’t suffer that problem as well, but I feel the SFF genre, YA or otherwise, suffers more of it…though this could also be something I notice because I happen to consume so much more of it than other genres. However, despite its short comings, I do believe that YA, when done well, can be very good, very powerful, and very fun to write, something that Bacigalupi touches on in his interview and that I’m harping on with the above quotes.
Anyway, aside over, I hope you enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I did and find it help, inspirational, or at least fun.