Patrick Ness on Writing.
"And sure, I’d love to see more, but my silent answer to this question is always, "Well, what I really want to see are just more good books." I’d be THRILLED if those good books contained more diversity in their line-ups and made more room for more kinds of teens. And there’s no reason on Earth why those can’t be awesome books. Which is what I want. Just please let them be good. […]"
“Seth is coping with deep guilt and pain from a traumatic event in his past, and there’s an unflinching exploration of the suicidal urge. It’s not the first time that your books have dealt explicitly with violence, and the criticism has been made that this is inappropriate or immoral in a book for younger readers. How do you respond?
Yeah, this comes up quite a lot, but my answer is always the same: read what teenagers write themselves. Those stories contain more darkness and harrowing events than ANYTHING any YA writer would ever publish. So they’re clearly thinking about these things, and my philosophy is that if you don’t engage with the darkness in YA books, then you’re abandoning them to face it by themselves. In my opinion, THAT’s the immoral position. Do it truthfully, do it honestly, and I don’t see a problem at all.”
And now the - for me at least - most interesting question. And a very beautiful answer.
"You’ve spoken about writers as singers, not songwriters. I find this idea profoundly useful; could you elaborate on what you mean?
Well, I believe that books aren’t songs; they’re the performance of a song. So god yes, choose a bloody good song, but your reader wants to hear you sing it amazingly. It’s kind of the synthesis of the way that genre and literary can snipe at each other: The literary complaints that genre is all idea and no execution and the genre complaint that literary is all style with no foundation (though again, I do wonder to what extent this “battle” is real or relevant anymore, but still). It’s just a way for me to really focus on the fact that book needs both: it needs a great song, but that song needs to be sung beautifully, passionately, playfully, originally. If you sing beautifully about nothing, no one will listen. If you sing badly about great stuff, no one will listen. Ideas are everywhere, but my theory is that a writer doesn’t just think of an idea, they perform them.
Just a thought, though; there’s all kinds of ways to look at writing. No one can tell you how to write, they can only tell how they write. Big difference!”
"Any advice for those starting to write?"
I always give the same one: write a book you’d want to read yourself. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t. But if you love it, I really believe your joy will be in it and that’s something readers respond to, no matter how odd the story. Forget market or publishers or whatever. Just write with fire and joy, and in my own experience, those are the stories of mine people have wanted to read. Sounds simple, isn’t, do it anyway.”