Teenagers in the country are writing way more than just projects and essays these days. If the shelves at major bookstores are any indication, a growing crop of youngsters are writing their own novels, alongside school, exams and life. A prime example is Anusha Subramaniam, now 16 and a student, who wrote her first novel, Heirs of Catriona, when she was just 12, and recently launched her second book, Never Gone. Similarly, indicative of a growing trend is the long showing of books at bookstores by authors under 18, such as Zuni Chopra’s (15) The House That Never Spoke, Insiya Patanwala’s (16) Esoterica, and Melita Tessy’s (16) Battle of the Spheres: Crust, Mantle and Core.
This isn’t just a new fad made possible by self-publishing. Publishers are taking an active interest in bringing young voices to the fore. “We have always believed in nurturing young talent. We are focusing on identifying powerful, new voices. That is the larger strategy for us,” says Sohini Mitra, executive editor for children’s and young adult books, Penguin Random House India.
Speaking about her debut novel, Zuni, the daughter of film-maker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, says, “I’ve wanted to write a novel since I was seven. I used to make up my own stories using toys, but I only started writing them later. Now with my book finally published, I have realised that I loved writing the novel more than I thought I would.”
AGE NO BAR
But can one be too young to write good fiction? Literary agent Kanishka Gupta says there are several factors to consider. “There is the question of quality, and if these writers have lived and experienced enough to write convincing stories and characters. Publishers such as HarperCollins India have launched some tween writers, but none have been able to break through,” he says.
On the other hand, Zuni feels that readers are finally taking teen authors seriously. “People think teenagers are silly and immature, but with so many of us writing and getting published, we are now being taken seriously,” says the 15-year-old. Anusha, the daughter of Indian thriller writer Ravi Subramanian, says, “The writing industry is not as complicated as it looks. When I started writing in 2012, teens were not taken seriously, because we wrote in the young adult genre. Now with more exposure to the genre, many authors are slowly emerging.”
A GROWING MARKET
Publishers certainly have no prejudice against young authors, especially in the growing young adult market. When asked if there is a low benchmark for teen authors as compared to adults, Mitra says, “The only parameter would be how good the writing is, irrespective of the age of the writer. But we are proud of the ones that we have [published], either because of the freshness of their voice, originality, or how readable and accessible they are.”
The young scribes may have gained popularity, but it remains to be seen if they can emerge as best-selling adult authors. “We have Samhita Arni (Sita’s Ramyana), who wrote a bestseller when she was just 11, and continues to write popular novels decades later. I think their success as adult writers depends on their interest and discipline to some extent,” says Gupta. However, Mitra believes teen authors are the ‘voices of tomorrow’. “I would love to see them grow. If their current work is anything to go by, they will only get better with age. It’d be fun to watch out how their careers pan out,” she adds.
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