W Wade DeVinney: How did you start writing young adult literature?
Shaun David Hutchinson: When I actually started, I didn’t know I was going to be writing YA adult fiction. I was just writing books, because what I knew of YA fiction back in 2008-2009 was, like, Judy Blume RL Stine, Goosebumps. I mean I grew up with books like A Wrinkle in Time and Chronicles of Narnia and I didn’t know that those type of books had evolved.
WWD: How do you deal with criticism?
SDH: My [to criticism] answer is always that my job is to be honest. I deal with a lot of things in my books: suicide and mental illness, sexuality, gender roles, grief and poverty, to name a few. These are all things that people consider to be controversial, but that’s life. They say ‘Well, that’s too many issues in one book’ and I say ‘Who do you know that says ‘Ok, I’m gonna deal with depression today, and everything else is just gonna have to wait.” That’s not real life. A teen who is dealing with poverty at home, and they don’t even have enough to eat, is probably also dealing with depression at the same time and maybe dealing with a family member who is struggling with addiction. People deal with different issues all the time; that’s real life. I respond the same way: that’s reality and that’s my job. I get far more emails from teens that say ‘I felt seen from reading your books and I found someone who actually saw and understood what my life is actually like.’ Its adults, and teachers and librarians who actually need to be listening and hearing what they’re having to say.
WWD: How do you feel when teen’s reach out to you and applaud you for your work?
SDH: It’s just this feeling that I’m doing something right. I know my books, just like every book, isn’t for every person. For me, I don’t write every books for every person. No book can resonate with everybody. Success for me means that I have written to one reader in a way that fundamentally changes them. Think about that. How many people have the opportunity to put something out that changed anyone’s life? When I was a teen, it wouldn’t have taken me much to give me some sort of hope. I hope that when I write about things someone has never read about before, it will help them empathize with people who aren’t like them.