Today, I'd like to welcome Geoff Herbach, the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special to my blog. Geoff is here to talk about how he strikes a balance between writing books that target male teen readers while also trying to make female readers want to read his books.
Yes. I go on and on about how boys need to read. It’s true. I believe it. Reading is good for a person. Readers build empathy for others. They experience all kinds of lives they’ll never lead. They see far beyond themselves. Also (and this is my big concern about boys), good readers generally succeed in college. Bad readers have a hard time. I don’t want the little dudes to struggle!
But they do.
I’ve taught college English for years. I see how reading habits impact classroom performance everyday. The young women in my classes tend to be life-long readers. They’re great and smart! They tend to express themselves in writing really well. The young men tend to have played lots of video games. They tend to struggle writing (struggle even to think straight) (of course, this could be partially hormonal – mostly not, they aren’t used to reading and thinking in complex terms – I’m not saying they don’t have hormonal problems).
And so, I write books I hope will speak to these guys at a critical moment when I think we lose them. Teens. True, I do this.
Here’s a good question: Do I want girls to read my books? Holy cats, yes. I really do. In fact, when Stupid Fast first came out, I was filled with fear that the football player on the front cover would scare away girls. In truth, it might scare away some. Thankfully, not all. I know, now, for a fact, lots of girls really like the book. I’m so, so glad.
Do I do anything intentionally to attract girls to my work? No. I trust girls a lot.
I didn’t add a romance to attract girls. I’m into love, naturally. I didn’t throw in Andrew, the main character’s brother, because he’s weird and needs protection, so that girls will want to protect him. I want to protect him, too. Felton, the main character, is a rambling wreck. He’s not a nicely quaffed vampire (or ghost or rich man’s Porsche-driving son). He just feels real to me.
This is what I think I think: for whatever reason, a much higher percentage of girls read. This is a tremendous thing. Those who read a lot are trained (like martial arts trained) to extend their empathy far beyond themselves. Girls who read a lot have an emotional flexibility that allows them to take in and engage with a giant set of diverse stories. I try to write good, funny stories with an emotional gravity (I hope I succeed). I believe girls will pick up good stories no matter the protagonist or content. They’re readers. They’re smart. To make a giant, sweeping generalization: I just trust them!
This is what I’d hope for boys, too. That masses will read and get hungry for good stuff and eventually forget about the need to identify directly with a protagonist, so that they go in search of great stories everywhere, so that they expand their minds and lives the most time/money efficient way we humans have created: through books.
Girls are doing that. I’m really, really happy they are.
Thanks for dropping by, Geoff!