Please welcome this week’s guest Max Elliot Anderson for The Journey. He answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
A question I’m often asked is why I write for kids and not adults. Given my life of world travel and working on so many different kinds of film and video productions, why write for kids? Why not write about all those interesting countries and the people I’ve met? I could tell some wild stories.
Like the film I shot in New Guinea. New Guinea isn’t far from Australia by distance, but people in the area where we went practically live in the Stone Age. We traveled by truck until the road ended at a riverbank. From there we journeyed by large canoes with motors on the back. I was sure the camera and all my equipment were going into the drink any second because the water came right up to the edge of the boat. But I was more concerned about crocodiles, which are known to drag people right out of their canoes in New Guinea.
Men took our crew up river for several hours until we reached an outpost that was only fifty miles from where cannibals still live. This village was the headquarters for a translation team that had been working on the Bible for many years.
After a couple of days of filming in the village, a tropical storm blew in, swelling the muddy river over its banks. Now it made sense why all the huts were built up on stilts. In the middle of the night we had to escape to higher ground in the jungle. And don’t forget about snakes, those cannibals, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and all the wild animals in the dark. So why not write books about stories like that? God had different plans.
I chose to write middle grade fiction for a number of reasons. It is clear that some of the most critical patterns for a lifetime are decided during the tween years. This is that awkward time between still trying to be a “little kid” while doing your best to convince your parents and friends you’re all grown up.
As a child, I hated to read. In a family of seven children, I wasn’t especially pushed to read, so I never formed good reading habits. The funny thing is, my father published over seventy Christian books during his lifetime. A number of these were written for children, but I never read any of them. I was more interested in going outside to find any adventure I could. I’d rather be doing something than reading about it in a book.
A few years ago I decided to look into some of the reasons why I didn’t like to read. My findings lead me to begin writing action-adventure and mystery books for readers aged 8–13, especially for boys. These were to be the kinds of stories I would have read when I was a boy. The books are highly visual, and contain lots of humor, dialogue, and plenty of heart-pounding action. Much of the content is influenced by my years of dramatic film production.
During my study into why I didn’t like to read as a child, I discovered books with large blocks of copy, making it easy for a reluctant reader to lose his place on the page. Books tended to be produced on a brown shade of rough paper with small type. A reluctant boy reader is not going to be interested in endless details and descriptions. He wants something happening on every page, fast action, and humor. Most of the books I found in my research were written for girls as the primary audience.
Again, taking a page from my film experience, I patterned my books after previous film marketing experiences. We had learned that girls would watch adventure and mystery films whose main character was a boy, but that boys were not at all interested in films where the main character was a girl. We were able to measure this by the popularity of various titles and through user surveys. I used that same pattern to create stories that boys would like, but that girls could enjoy reading just as much.
As a result, some of my books are larger than many on the market, the paper is brighter, and the type is also bigger. Sentences and paragraphs are short. Readers won’t find huge blocks of type containing seemingly endless description and details. Most chapters end in a cliffhanger, nearly forcing the reader to start the next chapter.
The biggest surprise, outside of the fact that reluctant reader boys enjoy these books, is that avid boy readers, girls, and even adults also enjoy them. Stories cover character, moral, and spiritual subjects that even secular reviewers report are not “preachy.” Ten books are already published, I’ve completed thirty-six manuscripts, and have contracts for 18 of those.
One of my concerns has been that boys may think reading is dull or boring. Who wouldn’t rather watch movies, play a video game, play a sports, or log time on a computer, right? So I put together a forty-five-second video. If somebody tries to give you a hard time because you like reading, click on the link. I guarantee they’ll be impressed by the fire and smashing TV. They could even decide that reading might be cool after all http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgzkiTCeTEU&feature
Sometimes I wonder how my life might have been different if I’d grown up as an avid reader, like some of my brothers and sisters. But I’ve come to understand that I’m able to write books that will get boys reading, and the very reasons for that are found in why I write for kids today. Only God could take a struggling, reluctant reader who hated school, plus did poorly in English, and turn him into a multi-published author.
Bio for Max Elliot Anderson
Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a struggling reader. After surveying the market, he sensed the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys.
Using his extensive experience in the production of dramatic motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings that same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. His books include different characters, setting, and plot as well as two series.
Ten middle grade books are published, sixteen more are under contract, with several additional manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like actually being in an exciting movie.
Books for Boys Blog: http://booksandboys.blogspot.com
Author Website: http://www.maxbooks.9k.com/index_1.html
My YouTube Videos http://www.youtube.com/user/Maxbooks100?feature=watch
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Max-Elliot-Anderson/e/B002BLP3EE