James Lee, author of the Ghostworks series, gives us some insight in to what he is offering readers.
In today’s world of TV, mobile phone apps and computer games, how do we get kids to read? As an author, I believe that people will always read what they want to read. Getting them started is the real challenge.
As readers, kids are more open to new ideas than adults. They are also sterner critics! Which is why I often argue that I don’t write for kids as such — I write for “short adults”. Treating young readers with respect is essential. It’s amazing how they can grasp new concepts, absorb new information, and come with you on a reading journey.
And while kids love the genres of fantasy and horror — while they love being cerebrally whisked out of their daily lives into scary situations — I would argue that writing horror stories does not call for gratuitous shocks and terrors. If I had a mantra, it would be made up of these three words:
Entertain — it goes without saying that an entertaining story will keep those pages turning, and keep those young readers absorbed in the reading experience. But it can’t be all doom; I love adding humour to dangerously scary moments. It’s very human to make fun of fear. (A tenet I learned from the master, Alfred Hitchcock.) I also make the stories as “real” as possible, by using everyday settings — schools, apartment blocks, shopping malls — so kids feel they could step into the story and become one of the characters. And of course that’s another old Hitchcock trick: make the familiar unfamiliar!
Educate — horror should always be anchored in reality, which means I can explore fascinating real-world settings, paint historical backgrounds, inject famous people from the past, and share weird and wonderful facts. Trivia will always spur kids to do further research into a subject.
Empower — I’ve come to believe that horror is a metaphor for real life. Kids will always face so-called insurmountable problems. In my stories, the characters resolve their terrifying problems with ingenuity, lateral thinking, courage, and teamwork. And the characters always demonstrate gender respect. If some of that rubs off on the readers, well and good.
Ghostworks offers two self-contained stories per book. If one story stars a girl protagonist, the other will star a boy. That means two sets of different characters, two different plots, two different settings — per book. Where do all these ideas come from? It’s all about never-ending observation, and never relying on inspiration! Of course, writing a series of books like GW is not a race, it’s a marathon. It’s a non-stop battle to avoid formulaic writing. And what is scary for me, as an author, I don’t plot out my stories in advance; I just start writing and let the characters take me wherever they will. Which means, when I begin a story I have no idea how it will end. Then again, neither will the readers!
Books 1-4 in the Ghostworks are on sale now. Books 5 and 6 will be published in October 2016.
Thank you James, for sharing.
- Read Sharon Smith’s review of Ghostworks #1