Thursday, May 24, 2012

Guest Post: Geoff Herbach

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!

A bit about Geoff (as found on Goodreads): I am the author of the YA title, Stupid Fast. I also wrote The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, a Novel from Three Rivers Press. When I'm not writing books, I'm writing for Radio Happy Hour or developing ridiculous musical bits. When I'm not writing, I'm teaching writing at Minnesota State, Mankato, which means I write a lot of comments about writing on student writing. 


  1. Great guest post! I tend to struggle a lot with male readers, particularly tween and teens, who are extremely picky. First the cover has to be just right and the synopsis which can be frustrating but the more I work with them the more I realize what works and what doesn't. Sometimes finding the right book can start off a trend. I've already had a few moms coming and thanking me for finding books where their sons would prefer reading in bed than turning on their video games. :)

  2. Love this post. I think it's fantastic that we're seeing more and more male YA authors and books with a male POV, because I agree--girls and women tend to not only read more, but to be more flexible about genres, and whatever helps to get boys reading more is a good thing. But having more male perspectives is nice for all of us, really.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


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