Writing Across Age Bands – A Conversation with Author Julie Buxbaum


writing across age bands, author Julie Buxbaum's young adult novel Tell Me Three Things on a table outside

I will forever fangirl over Julie Buxbaum. My love for her work began in July of 2016. This picture was the start of my love affair with stories crafted by Julie. And on that day, her work sparked the inspiration that sent me on my writing journey. Her skillful abilities in writing across age bands helped unbox my dreams of writing books for children of all ages.

Julie Buxbaum is the New York Times best-selling author of Tell Me Three Things, her young adult debut, What to Say Next, Hope and Other Punchlines, and most recently, the very popular middle-grade series The Area 51 Files. She’s also the author of two critically acclaimed novels for adults: The Opposite of Love and After You. Her work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Julie’s writing has appeared in various publications, including The New York Times. She’s a former lawyer and a graduate of Harvard Law School. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, and more books than is reasonable.

Your debut and sophomore books were both critically acclaimed adult novels. They were followed by your incredibly successful young adult books that include NYT bestselling novelson writing across age bands, profile of Julie Buxbaum smiling, author. writing across age bands Tell Me Three Things (my favorite YA of all time) and What To Say Next. In 2022, you again expanded your readership’s age band with the release of the first book in The Area 51 Files series for middle-grade readers. Did you start your writing career aware that you would be writing across age bands?

Nope. I never expected to write across age ranges or genres. When I first started out, I couldn’t think beyond the first book. I didn’t even let myself imagine that writing would become my long-term career. But over the past sixteen or seventeen years that I’ve been doing this, my life, and who I am as a person, have fundamentally changed, and so it feels natural and organic that my interests keep shifting. At the moment, my son is a middle-grade reader and I very much wanted to write a series for him. He’s the reason I ended up turning to The Area 51 Files.


Your popularity transcends generations, something that is not easy to achieve. Will we soon see your name on the shelves for early readers?

Thank you! I would love to write a picture book! No plans for one at the moment, but you never know when inspiration will strike. I do have an idea that has been percolating for years, but I’ve never been able to crack it.


You’ve proven that writers do not have to confine themselves to any genre or age group to find success. For the writer out there reading this, looking for advice on crossing readership age brackets, what is one thing that you’ve learned that surprised you the most about writing across age bands and categories?

Writing is writing. I find it is equally hard to write for young people as it is to write for sophisticated adults. On the other hand, it’s also equally fun! Each genre requires me to lean on a slightly different skill set, and I find my instinct sort of guides me toward what I’m best equipped to write at the time.

For example, during the height of the pandemic, I wasn’t in the right mind space to dig into serious material, so I wrote The Area 51 Files, which was pure joy. My YA and adult editors would have never let me get away with so many fart jokes! And it was just what I needed to help me get through what was otherwise a not-so-happy time. Which is to say, I think it’s helpful for writers to be adaptable and responsive to their own needs when deciding what they want to work on.


Regardless of the characters’ age, wit and humor are consistently present in your writing. My favorite thing in your stories is the clever banter within the dialogue. Do you have any tips for writers transitioning from writing teen or adult characters to exploring middle-grade novel ideas?

I approach my MG much like I imagine Pixar writers approach their movies. That is with the idea that I’m writing for two audiences at once. I’m writing directly to the middle-grade reader who may be reading on their own before bedtime—and I want my book to be a delicious, funny, adventurous delight for them. But I’m also writing to the parent whose lap they may possibly be sitting on.

So I try to have my humor work on multiple levels. My MG books are 95% jokes that kids will hopefully find hilarious, and then there are maybe 5% written as a wink for the grown-ups. Also, I think it helps to remember that kids are so freakin’ funny, and so they are always down for a good joke. No one makes me laugh as much as my ten and thirteen-year-old kids. They have perfect comic timing.

Also, this might sound like conflicting advice, but I think it’s super important never to write down to your audience. Kids these days are smart and sophisticated. At the same time, especially when writing middle grade, it’s important to always remember your readership and be mindful of their need for movement in the text to keep them engaged. You need to consistently be turning the dial up on every front because it’s hard to compete with the X-box!


To those that aren’t writers, it can seem like things come easy to successful authors such as yourself. After having written for teens and adults, did doubt ever enter your mind while drafting your middle-grade novels?

I doubt myself with every single book! After I wrote The Opposite of Love and After You (both adult novels), I spent two years working on a novel that will forever live in a drawer. You never know what’s going to work until it works (or in some cases doesn’t). Each time I sit down to write a new project, it feels like starting all over again, because each idea is fundamentally different and its own animal. That’s both my favorite and least favorite thing about being a writer. It’s always exciting and challenging, but it never gets easy. I’ve just gotten used to doubt being baked into the process.


Parents are never supposed to admit which child is their favorite. I suppose the same may be said of authors and their book babies, but, (IL lowers her voice to a whisper), do you have a favorite between writing adult, young adult, or middle-grade novels?

Honestly, I love them all! I find what I like writing the most has way more to do with where I am in my life, than the genres themselves. When the world shut down, writing middle grade felt like getting to go outside and play and laugh. At the moment, I’m working on middle grade and adult at the same time, because my brain and life have a little more room to breathe. Both feed different parts of my soul, so right now, it’s like asking me to pick between chocolate and coffee. I can’t live without either.

((If you enjoyed Writing Across Age Bands – A Conversation with Julie Buxbaum, you’ll love this piece.))

Want to Buy the Book?

You can find all of Julie’s books here


To buy The Area 51 Files for your middle grader, click here (


And pre-order the next in the series here



Ines Lozano
Ines Lozano is a children’s book writer who best aligns her creative style with Mrs. Frankweiler’s thinking in this quote: “…you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you.” As such, Ines draws her kidlit fiction inspiration from personal experiences and her Latine upbringing. Ines is the social media coordinator for the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival and a contributor for Parents Magazine. She lives on Long Island with her husband, teen daughter, and their aspiring TikTok-star dog. Visit her at https://www.ineslozano.com.