|I read books. If you want others like me to|
read your book, you may want to know
what I enjoy.
At left is a friend I made via twitter. His name is Lee and he's a boy that reads books. The New York Times asks the question, "is there any hope?" with regard to boys and books. I think that there's plenty of hope. But we authors need to step up our game. We need to provide books that appeal to both girls AND boys and that is a tricky devil and no...Eat, Pray, Love is not going to appeal to most boys (sorry ladies).
So those of you who are interested in catching a teenage boy's attention may want to listen to what Lee says about what he likes to read. Sure, he's only one guy, but take a look at his picture and ask yourself...would you like him to read your book? Would you like other boys like him to be riveted by your words? If so...read on and find out what he loves about books, authors, and the written word.
First off, I would like all of you to hop over to his blog located here and to please follow him. He's brand new to the world of blogging and hasn't made many friends at all (he will also follow you back--he's really considerate like that). And please drop him a note and thank him for taking the time for us authors to pick his brain.
Additionally, he's also on twitter and quite active. His twitter handle is @fleenewbery and again, he always follows back.
Q: Please give us a title or two of books that you would recommend to other boys because you thought they were amazing (feel free to elaborate on what you thought was amazing about these particular books).
A: ‘Warm Bodies’ by Isaac Marion is fantastic. For years now, the bestseller landscape has been dominated by vampires and werewolves and dark fantasy...stuff like that. But I think we're forgetting quite possibly one of the coolest and most grisly horror creations there is – zombies. I love zombies, so I was immediately drawn to this book, which is about a zombie named ‘R’, and how he’s a little bit different to all the other zombies. During a hunting expedition into a nearby abandoned city, he decides to save a girl called Julie (instead of eating her) despite the appetite for brains and other various bodily stuffing that all zombies share. There is, quite obviously, a romantic element to this novel, but it really is a treat to read. A very clever and refreshing twist on the whole zombie myth, and it ends up being more of a commentary on humans than anything. I believe it’s being made into a movie too.
Anything by Neil Gaiman is good, too – this guy is like my idol! Such an artistic and creative literary force, I adore his work, although I have quite a few of his books to zip through yet. So far I’ve read ‘Neverwhere’, ‘Stardust’, and ‘The Graveyard Book’, which is more of a children’s novel, but is personally one of my favourites. I’m halfway through reading ‘American Gods’. Definitely would recommend his work to anybody – not just boys, anybody! He just tackles some really interesting themes in such a different way. Sort of leaves you thinking ‘damn, why didn’t I think of that’, you know?
I’m currently reading ‘The perks of being a wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky, as well. It doesn’t sound like a boyish book – in fact, it sounds quite the opposite – but I really am thoroughly enjoying it. Charlie is just such a memorable character and you can’t help but love him and want good things to happen to him and for him to be all right. That’s when you know a book is brilliant, when you genuinely feel for a character and care about them for long after you’ve finished reading it.
And how can I forget Stephen King! One of his most recent novels, ‘Under the Dome’, epic in both size and content, is a brilliant book. Far-fetched, but since when does Stephen King approach his ideas in a tame way?
Q: If you had advice to give to a writer in reaching boys as their target audience, what would you tell them to do in their books? In other words...what grabs your interest?
A: I’m a sucker for dark themes. I like it when authors take something supposedly light and fluffy – like a fairy tale – and make it odd and disturbing. I think it’s important that authors don’t shy away from all the raw and grisly details – honesty is key, whether you’re writing completely from the imagination in a fantasy world or drawing from life experiences.
As for other things that interest me when it comes to reading, I have to say I love apocalyptic stories. I have a morbid fascination with things like that, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the fact that I’m a boy. I just like thinking of scenarios like that, and I like being scared. Fear is a big attention grabber for me. If a book can scare me, I’m probably going to read it all and enjoy it.
Advice-wise, all I have to say is don’t waste time. There is absolutely nothing worse, especially for us boys, than dragging ourselves through the first few chapters of place-setting. Chuck us straight in at the deep end so that we can’t climb out again. No point dragging out the tedium of the shallows, because we’ll probably just get bored and walk back to shore.
Q: How often do you choose a book based off of its cover art?
A: To be honest, quite a lot. I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but honestly what else are you going to draw a first judgement on? It’s the first thing you see. If it’s got a dull cover, why on earth would you even want to pick it up and read the back? I think the cover is very, very important. It has to grab your eye, it has to be catchy, otherwise your eye is just going to flit over it and find something else. I’d want my book to have the most interesting cover art possible. I think the cover art is a very big decision when it comes to marketing your novel. It’s basically a little manifestation of your book. It has to be good. It’s what invites you to pick up the book and read about it.
Q: When you begin to read a book, at what point do you give up on it if the book is not working for you and why?
A: If within the first 100 pages I’m still not interested, I give up. No matter how widely acclaimed it is, no matter how compelled I was at the idea of reading the book, if it’s just boring to read, then I can’t enjoy it. When the book begins to feel like a chore, that’s when I put it down and move on to something else.
Q: Are there any things that you would like to see in a story that you've never come across as yet?
A: That’s a tough question, because I like to write myself. So, if there’s something in a story that I’ve never come across before, I want to write it myself before somebody else does! I’m just not sure. It’s like being an inventor and asking yourself what does everybody want in their home that hasn’t been invented yet – it’s complicated just to brew up an idea like that, because until you’ve read it or you’ve got it, you never knew how much you loved it or needed it. But when I do think of something I’d like to see in a story, I’ll write it down myself! There’s nothing more evasive than a completely original idea.
I suppose I want this whole vampire-werewolf craze to die down already. I like when people toy with supernatural beings as themes for their stories, but it really is just becoming repetitive now. Maybe somebody should write a story about some other supernatural being and start a new craze.
Q: Do you stick to a particular genre (i.e. fantasy or science-fiction or contemporary YA)?
A: When I was younger, I wouldn’t stray from fantasy. That was my little niche. But these days, I really do read anything I can get my hands on. I still have a passion for fantasy stories, and I think I always will, but I also have a big appetite for ghost stories. I’ve always been interested in the paranormal and the supernatural and things just beyond our understanding; I don’t think I ever want to exist in a world where an objective opinion on these things has been drawn. To me, the purpose of a book is to take you somewhere extraordinary, a different realm, and I suppose that’s why these genres are so appealing to me. I always want to live in the worlds that the books I read paint.
Q: Do you prefer first-person or third-person storytelling?
A: I’m indifferent when it comes to this one. I thoroughly enjoy both. I feel like third-person offers a more traditional, simplistic, almost fairy-tale narrative perspective, whereas first-person can be very intimate and make it a smoother read. Saying that, almost all the books I’ve read lately have been first-person, so I suppose I’m going to go with that one.
Q: Do you prefer e-books or paper books?
A: Paper books for sure. Call me a romantic, I don’t care. I just love holding a book in my hands and ruffling the pages and curling up with it. It just feels warmer, if that makes any sense? It’s just like holding a little portal in your hands. Also, paper books smell nicer. E-books don’t smell of anything, and it all just feels a bit cold and inauthentic. Somehow, the format makes it feel more like an article.
Maybe the kids who are growing up now around e-books will feel differently about the topic, but I will always be more for paper books. It just strikes me as the truest way to document a story, and the truest way to read one. It’s just more physical, more personal – I think it’s strange that e-books don’t actually exist anywhere other than on the computer screen, just sitting there in cyber-space. Then again, maybe I don’t know enough about e-books to comment.
Q: What is a deal breaker for you in a book? In other words...what drives you away from a book?
A: I don’t even have to think about this one. Cheese. I just can’t read something that is cheese-infused. Sometimes it works in movies and TV shows, but it just doesn’t work for me in books.
And also, being unrealistic irritates me. Now this might sound ridiculous because I like to read fantasy novels, but what I mean is if a protagonist is presented with trial after trial, obstacle after obstacle, and still manages to come through unscathed, or even alive, this annoys me. It’s like in movies when the stars manage to still look clean-shaven and attractive even after an hour-and-a-half’s worth of action – it just wouldn’t happen. I guess this ties in with the whole honesty thing again.
Q: Do you write? If so, tell us a little bit about your writing.
A: Of course! I love to write. I like to think of writing as my ‘thing’. I don’t quite know how to define that thing, but that’s what it is to me.
I’ve been writing ever since I was little – I don’t quite remember the age, maybe around seven? I was always a big reader, but one of the defining characteristics of my personality is my hunger to replicate things that inspire me. So when I initially first read the Harry Potter books as a child, I was so mind-blown that I decided to make it my life mission to one day write books just as good and just as loved. A big goal perhaps, but I was young. Of course every writer dreams of their novels hitting number one and being read by millions, but these days I try to be a little more realistic.
I like writing fantasy stories, just like the ones I read. I haven’t finished a novel yet – unless if you count a book I wrote as a 13-year-old – but I’m hoping that I will over the next year or so. The thing with writing is that you can be anywhere to do it – you don’t have to be sat at your desk with a computer or paper and pen. I’m writing all the time, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. I’m constantly watching storylines evolve in my head, and forever forgetting to write them down, which is perhaps my biggest downfall. At the age of 19, I’d say I’m inspiration and no motivation, but this really does need to change soon.
I’m serious about becoming a writer. My dream is to one day craft a living out of writing. I want to be able to scrape enough money from it to call it a day job and I’d love this to happen sooner rather than later because it’s all I really want to do. I know how tough the publishing industry is these days, and I know just how incredibly difficult it is to make at least a decent living from writing. So I desperately need to knuckle down and get writing. Sometimes I feel a bit lost, because I’m young and I’m dreaming of making a life for myself out of such a tough industry, but other than writing I don’t know what I want to do.
I’m hoping to participate in NaNoWriMo this year (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time ever, and maybe this will help me to organise my priorities.
Wish me luck!
So what do you think ladies & gents? Can you get boys to love your books?
So what do you think ladies & gents? Can you get boys to love your books?