Following the recent launch of Boy Underwater (read our review here), we are delighted to host a guest post from author Adam Baron.
In this blog post, Adam discusses how writing his first children's book was different to writing books for adults.
The first thing about writing Boy Underwater that was different from my other novels (for adults) was that I made a big mistake - I told my children I was writing it! I even read them the first chapter, just to see if they’d be interested. I was then subjected to pressure a thousand times more stressful than any applied by even the most insistent editor. Have you written the next bit? What happens to Cymbeline? What happens to his mum? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH IT? This barrage did perhaps expedite the conclusion of the novel but did nothing for my nerves, believe me.
To begin with, though, writing Boy Underwater seemed no different to setting out on my other novels. A character, a story, ideas to unpick, relationships to build. Cymbeline’s voice appeared in a second, seemingly out of nowhere, and I was off. I’d written in the first person before (in four books) and enjoyed the limited point of view, the fact that all of reality needs to be filtered through the narrator’s mind. I soon realised, however, that nine-year-olds, even perceptive ones like Cymbeline, encounter things in the adult world that they cannot immediately decipher. How could I let the reader know what was going on when, sometimes, Cymbeline himself has no idea?
The answer to this was simply to be truthful to him and let him present the world as he sees it. I realised that I could trust the reader to understand the things that Cymbeline doesn’t. The fact that the reader might well be nine was something I held at the back of my mind but didn’t worry about too much – all I had to do was be true to the narrator and trust that young readers would follow. The fact that Boy Underwater seems to be popular with adult readers too means, I hope, that this worked. Why should it only be nine-year-olds who are interested in the story of a nine-year-old?
I did get stuck though: I encountered a new problem, one I’d never confronted before as a writer. Adult characters have control of their lives. The hero of my crime novels can go anywhere he likes, at any time of the day. Children can’t do that though, so how could I get Cymbeline to the places he needed to be? Back home, alone, at night, when he’s staying at his aunt’s house? To his friend Veronique’s home, or to the country house he needs to get to at the end? It was only when I realised that these problems offered me the chance to come up with creative solutions, that I was able to move on. It was so much fun to solve these problems.
The final difference is becoming clear now that the book has been published. I’ve always enjoyed the feedback I’ve been given on my novels, in reviews or in person, but the response to Boy Underwater has been truly special. Knowing that so many young people are reading it makes me feel both nervous and privileged. Good books were the cornerstones of my childhood. They set me up for a lifelong love of reading and now, unbelievably, I have the chance to do the same thing for today’s children. A friend of my daughter’s isn’t really a reader, but is loving Boy Underwater, which makes me very proud. I’ve even been asked to open a school library in a couple of week’s time.
What could be better than that?
BOY UNDERWATER by Adam Baron out now in paperback (£6.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books)
#BoyUnderwater @AdamBaron5 @HarperCollinsCh
Many thanks to Adam Baron for this guest blog post and to Laura at HarperCollins for inviting us to be part of the blog tour.
You can read our review of Boy Underwater here.