What Kids Demand in a Novel

Maile Meloy:

Sometimes you find yourself part of a trend accidentally: Some old, beloved jacket in your closet becomes fashionable, or your private, favorite novel is discovered by the world. Having written four books of fiction for adults, I wrote a novel for kids, and looked up from the first draft to find that other writers were doing the same thing–and adults were reading the books.
My plunge into the world of children’s publishing surprised my friends as much as it surprised me. One asked, “How did you make the change? Did you have some kind of magical elixir?” I did, if you consider that magical elixirs are slow and difficult and sometimes frustrating to make, and involve wrong turns and unexpected discoveries. But here’s the basic recipe:
1. Don’t worry about what category the book belongs in. I thought I was writing a young adult novel and discovered that there was a type of book called “middle reader” only when my publishers told me I’d written one. I worked in a state of utter naïveté about what the rules are for writing children’s books, which was liberating.