I’m no hunk; nor was I ever. I’m perfectly well aware of that. Nevertheless, I’ve had my admirers over the years and I remember each and every one of them with gratitude, even though some of those relationships were somewhat tarnished.
Like the young woman - let’s call her Lucy - who gave me a tape (the fact that this was in the days of cassettes tells you how long ago it was) which she said she’d recorded specially for me because the singer put it much better than she ever could. As I listened to Paul Brady gently crooning,
Right now I only want to be with you
Till the morning dew comes falling.
I want to take you to the island
And trace your footprints in the sand,
And in the evening when the sun goes down
We'll make love to the sound of the ocean.
I was greatly flattered. Until a few days later when her flatmate, a deeply embittered woman, and one who made little attempt to conceal her contempt for men in general and me in particular, informed me that Lucy had actually made that tape for her previous boyfriend. Too late to stop him dumping her though, she added, with a certain degree of satisfaction.
After that it was all downhill for Lucy and me.
It seems to me that some people try to do the same thing with manuscripts. They start out writing something for adults, or perhaps with no very clear idea of the audience at all. It doesn’t quite work out so they think that with a certain amount of judicious tinkering they might be able to recycle it as a novel for children, or maybe for young adults.
I suppose it might work sometimes, just like it might have worked between Lucy and me if there hadn’t been fifty other things wrong with the relationship. However, you are much more likely to succeed as a writer for young people if you like young people; you enjoy talking to them; you take pleasure in reading children’s and young adults’ fiction, so much so that you read a hell of a lot of it; you have significant experience of working with children, or looking after them; and you make a clear choice that this is the work that you want to do.
If, on the other hand, you’re fiddling about trying to write a play for the radio, a collection of short stories, a novel that might win the Booker, and a whole load of poetry; and at the same time you have a slightly mangled idea that you think might just possibly make a children’s novel with a bit of work, my advice is forget it. Nobody is interested in second hand love.