Okay, I had the best chat with a couple of charming pre-teens this weekend.
Pre-teen A was approximately 12, and a copy of Harry Potter #5 didn’t leave her hand all weekend.
Pre-teen B was approximately 11, and spent a good chunk of Sunday night calculating how fast he could read a given book, if Pre-teen A would lend it to him.
So I asked Pre-teen A what she thought of Harry, and we agreed he’d gotten pretty dark by the time book five came along. She figured he should have been cooler about his “chosen one” status. Apparently Harry is a bit of a downer. (Wait till book six!) We also spoke for a while about some of the books I’ve been reading – I just finished THE LIGHTNING THIEF, which she’d heard of – and I heartily recommended CITY OF EMBER to her.
Anyhow, when I told her I was reading this stuff because I was attempting to write a book like this, her eyes got all big and round, and she said: “The first thing you have to do is choose a name. You can go with your own, but you could also choose one that’s cool and a little ironic.”
So then I informed her that J.K. Rowling was asked to use her initials on the Harry Potter books so boys (unaware that she was a woman) would be more likely to buy the books. Both pre-teen A and pre-teen B stared at me like I had just said the most absurd thing they’d ever heard. Then they launched into: “If it’s a great story, who cares who wrote it?” and “I would never look at the author’s name and use that to decide if I wanted to read a book,” and “I read books about boys all the time!”
Then I had to back-pedal a bit and explain that sometimes it’s the parents who are more worried about this than the kids.
I’m here to tell you – pre-teen A and pre-teen B were a little irate about it.
And me? I was blissed out.
I love middle grade kids – they’re just figuring out what they think about things – they have no tribe, they have no guile, and their reactions to the world are honest.
They’re the ones I want to write for.