Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Friday, July 5, 2013

Raw Nerves: The Two Most Common Questions About My Book

The two most common questionsRaw when I tell people about "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" are:

"Is it the story of your career?"  (nice guess, but no).


"Do you have kids?"

Do I have kids?  

It's a common precept that writers "write about what they know," but I'm almost always surprised when an individual assumes that I must have kids to have written about them.    
I suppose that relates to the perception that a writer often writes what he knows, but the idea that I would have to have kids to write about them is a curious concept to me.  I think it suggests selective memory some people have about their own childhood.  In particular, many don't like to recall the time in their lives represented by the main characters in "Food Chain."  In may or many not be a dramatic time in everyone's life, but being thirteen is almost always confusing and anxiety-filled. 

Many who have enjoyed the book mention the connection they feel with Alexander and his friends.  One friend, though, says he enjoyed the book, but hated Alexander for reasons directly related to a less-than-pleasant middle school experience of his own (it would be a spoiler if I was more specific, but it wasn't one of Alexander's proudest moments!).  The book touched a raw nerve.
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"Food Chain" may not be autobiographical, but it relates directly to my own junior high/middle school anxieties - particularly the fear of what might happen.  It also reflects my experience as a teen with friendship and observations I've made with a number of kids I've interacted with over the years. Most importantly, it reflects the common fears and desires most people have in common.  

When I wrote "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain," my hope was to create a novel to which individuals of all ages might relate.  A good novel doesn't succeed simply because of plot or setting.  It succeeds because the reader understands the characters.   Whether a character is young, old or alien, we relate because, ultimately, he or she says something about the human condition that we all share. 

From Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" to the works of William Shakespeare to John Green, the hottest young adult writer ("The Fault in our Stars") at the moment (and a prominent YouTuber, by the way), classic and/or successful writers and novels last because they hit a nerve - raw or otherwise.  That's my ambition as a writer.

While I understand why someone might ask, "Do you have kids?", I wonder what someone would have asked had I written a novel about a serial killer....