I really have had a fascinating January. Book Two is almost finished, I wrote an article for a national newspaper, I gave my first ever talk in a School and I’ve been on the twenty first century authors programme. I’ve also been chatting with a brilliant and very gifted American writer about the process (dabs brow) and an equally ace and successful blogger.
Giving yourself the time to get into the connecting space (networking) has become an vital part of being an author. I love it. I love writing the books but equally I love chatting with people who have read the book (or not to be honest because it gives me a chance to employ my sales technique, honed over many years) and with other writers, bloggers or people in the industry.
As I confessed in an earlier blog, the life of an author is very different from the life of a lead singer, the fundamental difference being social.
Basically when you’re in a band you’re surrounded by people twenty four seven. When you are writing novels you are not. Its why I think I enjoyed the author programme so much. I had a chance to share, listen and talk about being a writer with other writers.
Equally I loved going into a school (with the very fantastic Bali Rai, if you haven’t read any of his books then do). Having the opportunity to talk face to face with my target audience was so rewarding. I am going to do a lot more of that I can tell you.
The discipline of writing an article for a national newspaper was also very interesting and challenging. Take a look at the article published in The Sun in Dec 2013. It’s a subject very close to my heart.
Rock Authors plea to teenagers
When I was fourteen I was obsessed with football, music and girls, in that order. The only books I read were the ones I was told to read by school. I didn’t relate to them at all and the fact we had to study them didn’t help. It put me off reading anything else. A few years on and
I’m still obsessed by the same things, except of course not in that order. At least that’s what I’m sticking to, my friends might tell you different.
Nowadays, I find reading for pleasure a necessity. Not just because I write songs and books - I love the detail; there are depths to a good novel that no TV show, video game or film can achieve. Once you’re hooked into a great story it’s another level of entertainment. You get lost in the pages and time flies.
We know now that reading for pleasure increases young people’s vocabulary, boosts their understanding of the world around them and is even credited with supporting good mental health into adulthood. It’s a fact that children who read for pleasure do better in life than those who do not.
On the trains and tubes I see a lot of people reading Kindles. I often peer over shoulders to see what they’re getting into. I don’t see young teenage boys reading, Kindle or otherwise. It occurred to me that the characters in my books are teenagers and that at least half of my target audience are teenage boys. I decided to dig deeper and find out why I wasn’t seeing any teenage lads reading.
Many boys leave reading behind in their mid-teens - way more so than girls. They don't find books out there that engage them as much as other leisure activities, like video games, and they think reading is boring and un-cool. Why not have a stab at changing this? I wanted to write a novel that they could instantly engage with, that could reflect their lives, use the language they use and convey the emotions and dilemmas they deal with. A teen novel like Melvin Burgess's ground breaking Junk didn’t pull its punches. I didn’t want to pull mine. Once I’d finished my novel I started to chat to people. I talked to my partners in the project (The Script). They were equally horrified at the teen reading crisis and far more altruistic than me on the subject. This isn’t just about boys not reading The Rock ‘n’ Roll Diaries, this is about boys not reading at all. Where will the next generation of writers, poets and lyricists come from? I hope I’m doing something about it by putting The Rock ‘n’ Roll Diaries out there. I’ve got over a hundred five star reviews on Amazon and readers are telling me they love it – even ones who don’t normally read. I hope we’ll start to see more books on publishers’ lists which reflect real teenagers’ lives; books they can truly identify with.
Let’s get boys reading again! We’ll be giving them an advantage as they grow up and unlocking a whole world of excitement, laughter and wonder. Maybe one day when I peer over someone’s shoulder at their Kindle I might see them reading my book, so I can give a gentle nudge, smile and say. “I wrote that don’t you know.” I imagine they would turn to me and grin. “I love it, can you sign the back of my Kindle?”
Some reading gems for 14+ teen boys to try:
Melvin Burgess - Junk
Robert Muchamore - Cherub series
Dan Tunstall - Big and Clever
Bali Rai - (Un)arranged Marriage
The Knife That Killed Me - Anthony McGowan
Louis Sachar – Holes
Holly Smale-Geek Girl series
Kill your friends - John Niven