Sunday, May 16, 2010

Charles Benoit Returns!

Hi there, Type M types. I am very pleased to announce that an old friend has returned for a Sunday visit. Charles was one of the original members of Type M for Murder way back when computers still ran on steam and the Internet was a newly-minted wonder. Well, perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but the fact is, I recently asked Charles to let us all know what he's been up to. Here is the answer.

Thanks, Charles and best of luck with your new novel!

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“So I hear you’re writing Young Adult now.”


A little over a year ago, I was happily plugging away on my next mystery, the first in a series that would follow the Flashman-esque exploits of Eddie Nichols — con artist/cat burglar/outright thief — as he traipsed through the second half of the 20th century, stealing stuff from the most influential people of the era and always finding himself in the middle of what the textbooks like to call Key Turning Points in History. Then I got a note from my agent and everything changed.

After over a year of shopping it around, she had sold the young adult novel I had written to HarperCollins Children’s Books. It was a two-book deal with a nifty advance, so that meant that I had to put other projects on hold and focus on writing my second YA. I had over a year to complete it and it only had to be 45,000 words – about half the length of my adult mysteries. I assumed I’d zip through it and get right back to writing Eddie’s book. After all, I had left the poor guy behind German lines, impersonating an SS officer, with the plans for the defense of Nazi Germany in his briefcase, just as an Allied bombing raid was destroying the building he was hiding in. I owed it to him to get him out of that mess.

Eddie is still waiting.

Writing for young adults has proved to be much more challenging than I’d assumed it would be, not because young adults are remarkably different from other adults, but because they aren’t.

Young adult readers expect the story to make sense, the characters to seem real and the dialog to ring true — just like adult readers. But unlike adult readers, many (most?) young adults aren’t reading for pleasure. At this point in their lives they’re often reading because somebody told them they had to so they can pass the course so they can get their diploma so they can go to college so they can get a job so they live on their own, at which time they’ll realize that reading is their only escape from the meaningless monotony that is their mortal coil. But I’m jumping ahead.

While adult readers are willing to look for a reason to stay with a book to the end, young adult readers look for any reason to give up on it. Action lags? Gone. Character takes forever to develop? See ya. Pages of beautifully written descriptions of stately mansions and peaceful gardens? Cliff Notes, please. I can’t blame them. When I was handed a book to read for school, I automatically assumed I wouldn’t like it. Everything else about school followed that rule so it was a safe assumption. Writing for young adults means never giving the reader the slightest chance to say ‘this sucks’.

The young adult books I write don’t involve vampires or wizards or rival cheerleading squads out to win national titles. They’re books about average guys who find themselves in situations they didn’t expect, with no clue how they’re going to get out of the mess that they made for themselves. Just like my adult novels. And instead of exotic, around the world settings I used in Relative Danger, Out of Order and Noble Lies, my young adult novels take place in same boring, predictable places we’ve all been trapped in, the places that we dreamed of getting out of without knowing where we wanted to go. And that has nothing to do with age.

The most common question people ask me is if I miss writing for adult readers. I tell them I never stopped.

* * *
Charles’ first YA novel, YOU, will be published August 25th by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Visit Charles’ brand new, spiffy website at CharlesBenoit.com

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for checking in, Charles. Nice to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the new book. Thanks for blogging about it!

Rick Blechta said...

What about poor Eddie?! I have a vision of him crouched behind a wall as the building burns around him and the whistle of bombs dropping filling his ears. Everything is frozen in time and in Charles' handwriting we see "To be continued..."

The suspense is killing me!

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