Here is the trouble with writing from instinct. My novel Tower of the Mountain King features a central protagonist who is fifteen. Now in this bronze-age/iron-age Celtic neo-Ireland, this is old enough to be standing in the front ranks. Making young Lathel the central character in this adult novel made sense to me – and it was a gut instinct thing.
I have read plenty of heroic fiction that begins with young protagonists. David Gemmell has written many, the best example of which may be Sword in the Storm. Then there is The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, which is an absolute classic, and sits on my all-time-favourites shelf.
The choice made sense to me, and I considered that it should increase the reader engagement, with a sense of Lathel being the underdog.
Which only increased my surprise when a major Australian editor, who shall remain nameless, declared that adult books required adult protagonists, then continued to advise me to consider marketing it as YA. After a few startled days, I compiled a list of reasons why I considered it an adult manuscript, and also a list of books that were clearly adult, yet had young protagonists. There was never a response to this email, which either indicates they had lost interest and did not bother reading it, or perhaps that this was not the real reason they rejected the manuscript in the first place.
So what do you think? Can you think of some other examples where a young protagonist has worked in adult fiction? Did you think that it sometimes doesn’t work? Or should not be attempted? In which case why?