When I was in primary school, I got the urge to travel and see a bit of the world. I hadn’t ventured too far from home before, because I lived on a rough Dundee housing estate where the ice cream van was called ‘Jack the Ripple’. So I bravely set out and discovered a Woolworths at the end of the block, which had a bargain book bin with tatty paperbacks for 5p each. Since pocket money hadn’t been invented yet, I bought as many as I could, with the money I had saved for cigarettes.
I can still recall the titles, in order of inappropriateness.
The Hot Rock by Donald E Westlake (Hilarious)
Freebie and the Bean by Paul Ross (Hilarious and filthy)
Through the Dark and Hairy Wood by Shaun Herron (Set during the N. Irish Troubles)
The Edge Westerns by George Gilman (Made American Psycho look cosy)
Nexus by Henry Miller (Probably shouldn’t have been sold to a child)
What was this mad stuff I’d discovered? It was challenging, exciting and forbidden. I dumped my Enid Blyton collection and vowed never to read a kid’s book again.
It’s a mindset I kept when I started writing teenage/YA novels. To me they’re just adult books with the swearing taken out. Younger readers can handle complex plots and ideas and don’t like to be talked down to. Adults can accept a few teenage characters. They were young once. A page turner should transcend age boundaries and that has always been my goal.
‘Bunker Ten’ was the first of these attempts. My publisher said it was too complex, violent and hard to categorize for teens and only brought it out ‘cause they’d paid the advance before they read it. It was short-listed for the Waterstone’s Book Prize, The Angus Book Award, the South Lanarkshire Book Award, The RED Award, the Stockport Book Prize – and won the Royal Mail Award. Voted for by kids.
Ironically, my favourite novel is for children – ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ by Alan Garner (read by mistake when I was in my 30’s). Yet it’s still a struggle to convince people that the same book can be enjoyed by adults and teens.
All it really takes is a bargain bin to get the ball rolling.
That’s why I’m giving away a free eBook of ‘Bunker Ten’ to anyone, of any age, who contacts me and asks for a copy. All I ask is that you tell people about the offer, so they can look up my website and get a free copy too!