This past Sunday, I gathered with a number of librarians and other ALA attendees to meet with and hear from four of the ten authors whose books were honored with the Alex Award, which is given to books that are written for adults but have special appeal for young adults. The four authors that were able to come were Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One; Rachel Woskin, author of Big Girl Small; Brook Hauser, author of The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens; and Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus. Each author was given time to speak about their goals and roads to writing their books, and all four authors, in their own way, shared one idea: they wrote for themselves first.
Ernest Cline started writing Ready Player One to please himself. He was once given the advice to write the book you’ve always wanted to read, and the book he wanted to read was full of 1980s pop culture. He was very much influenced by the writing of Roald Dahl, particularly James and the Giant Peach, and wanted to include a lot of the underlying darkness in his own novel. His greatest discovery about Ready Player One, he said, is that he never expected it to go beyond a small cult sci-fi novel, let alone appeal to anyone who didn’t live through the Eighties, but he gets emails from teens all the time who love the adventure stories. To them, Eighties pop culture is more like an adventure — and since some of them read it with Wikipedia open, it really is like a create your own adventure story. Not to mention teens and their parents can make a great bonding experience out of it.