My March UBFP Column – Writing Books for All Ages

3 Mar

I know I’m not supposed to be posting today, but I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press(the newspaper I write for) for the March issue! The online version was just published. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE (see page 16 🙂 ). I hope you like it!

Writing Books For All Ages

jackblank

I always say if the books I review contain bad language or graphic violence. There are a lot of books meant for “middle grade” readers that have things in them that parents might not like. I have also found a lot of “young adult” books that are fine for younger kids to read.

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation is one of my favorite series. The story and writing are incredible! It has everything, action, excitement, good guys, evil villains, aliens, robots, and it is totally appropriate for young kids to read because there is no bad language or graphic violence.

The author of the Jack Blank series, Matt Myklusch, agreed to answer some questions I had  about writing stories that are good for all ages.

matt

Matt Myklusch

Erik: When you wrote the Jack Blank series, did you make sure you wrote it to be appropriate for all ages or did it just come out that way?

Matt Myklusch: I wanted the book to be appropriate for all ages, but I think there is some confusion about that term. People hear “all ages,” and they think, “Okay, that’s for kids.” Not true. “All ages” means ALL ages. Everybody. The real win for me is a story that both a child and parent will both love. The Harry Potter series and most of the Pixar movies are great examples of this. That’s my goal— to create worlds that people of all ages want to visit, and characters that everyone wants to follow. It’s not easy. You have to make the story tough enough for the older crowd, and light enough for the younger audience. Dwelling on that fine line for too long can paralyze your creativity as a writer, so I keep the rules simple when working:

Rule 1: Watch your language.

Rule 2: When it comes to the action, go with what feels right for this story.

Rule 3: That’s it. Start writing already.

Erik: Did you ever get to a point in the stories you wrote where you thought it was going to get too violent or creepy for kids to read?

Matt Myklusch: The nice thing about writing fantasy books like the Jack Blank Adventures is that you can rig the game when it comes to stuff like this. There is plenty of action and fighting in all three books, but it doesn’t get bloody because of who the bad guys are. The main villains, the Rüstov, are cybernetic parasites that take over people’s bodies and steal their life force to stay alive. Their victims turn into scrap-metal covered zombies who bleed oil and coolant. When one of the Rüstov falls in battle, you don’t feel too bad for them. I have a few villains like that in the story. I’ve got soulless, undead ninjas that bleed black sand (the Ronin). I’ve got monsters who are made from dirt and mud (the Gravens). There are lots of bad guys for my heroes to cut loose on and kill without feeling the least bit guilty. If you get really creative, you can have an all-out, no holds barred, life or death battle that is a totally bloodless affair.

Erik: The characters in your book, Jack Blank and Stendeval, especially, are just awesome. They have fights and talk tough but don’t curse or do unnecessary violence. Do you personally think the characters would have been more “authentic” if you had them curse or go over-the-top with violence or are there cases that you think you may write like that?

Matt Myklusch: It’s funny to worry about authenticity and realism in a story that has alien zombies and superheroes, but I do give that a lot of thought when writing. I try to make everything the characters do and say seem believable, given who they are and the situation they are in. Cursing or over-the-top violence doesn’t get you there. Knowing your characters inside and out does. They all have to have their own vocabulary, opinions, hopes, fears, dreams, prejudices, and more. If you know all that stuff as the writer (even if most of it never makes it onto the page), you will know how the characters will react to any situation. What’s more, you are more likely to keep their personalities and motivations consistent throughout the story. That’s what makes them feel like real people.

Erik: Thank you Mr. Myklusch!

To learn more about the Jack Blank series and Mr. Myklusch, please visit JackBlank.com.

For more reviews, please visit my website at thiskidreviewsbooks.com.

22 Responses to “My March UBFP Column – Writing Books for All Ages”

  1. Beth Stilborn March 3, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    This is excellent! Thank you, Erik and Mr. Blank!

    Like

  2. readingwithrhythm March 3, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Great interview Erik!

    Like

  3. Claire Caterer (@ClaireCaterer) March 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Nice interview, Erik, and great advice from Matt Myklusch!

    Like

  4. Michelle Isenhoff March 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Great interview, fellas. Micah and I are reading The Secret War right now and loving it. What Matt says is true and reflects my own “mission” as an author. You CAN write a captivating, clean story. Thanks, Matt, for Mom-approved literature!

    Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks March 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      I think Mr. Myklusch brings up some very good points about knowing your character and writing for EVERYONE! Thank you Mrs. Isenhoff!

      Like

  5. Myra GB March 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Lovely interview you have going here, Erik. I like the discussion on age appropriateness, language, and violence. Always very significant elements in any book. I haven’t read any of Matt Myklusch’s books yet so thank you for introducing me to him. 🙂

    Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks March 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      I think you and your daughter would like the Mr. Myklusch’s books. They are action/adventure books, but also have a great plot.

      Like

  6. Darlene March 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    A wonderful interview Erik. It is the job of a writer to make sure the story is good for all ages when writing children’s books. I try to keep this in mind. I am always doubly pleased when an adult says they enjoyed my book. There are ways of describing bad people without using bad language and gruesome scenes. Mr. Myklusch seems to do it very well.

    Like

  7. KidLitReviews March 3, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Erik, again a great review. I love that you write for a local paper. I am a little confused by your first sentence. It feels like there should be more to it. What am I missing? What is it you say?

    Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks March 4, 2013 at 6:41 am #

      Hmm… that isn’t a very good sentence. I should have said “In the reviews I write, I always say if a book contains bad language or graphic violence.”
      I like to put that in there so that people know that before they buy a book for a kid. I hope that explains it better. 🙂

      Like

  8. Susanna Leonard Hill March 4, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Great interview! Thanks for sharing. I really like the idea of stories being appropriate for ALL ages – that really is the win!

    Like

  9. ontheplumtree March 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    WoW! Erik! You pat such attention to detail…essential for any budding interviewer, journalist or novelist! Great stuff!

    Like

  10. Joanne Fritz March 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Erik, it’s so cool that you write for the local paper. Keep this up and you’ll be writing for The New York Times when you’re 15. Great interview, too. I’m happy to hear these books aren’t too violent.

    Like

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