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About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 15th, 2010, 1:17 pm
by JustSarah
Is it generally to controversial have a childrens book series that starts out as innocent as the harry potter series, but eventually the hero becomes the
worlds worst serial killer? Generally the trilogy with increase in age rating. The first book I plan might be centered to 8-12, then 13-17, then over 18.
So I wondered what the general consensus is? Sort of an Anti-hero novel.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 15th, 2010, 3:18 pm
by John Dillon
Louise's answer was better than mine, so I defer to her.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 15th, 2010, 5:39 pm
by Louise Curtis
It sounds like a bad idea to me, simply because some readers like hero books and some readers like anti-hero books. However, if you sucessfully sell the first few books then you get more leeway (for example, in YA marriage is a no-no, but by the third "Twilight" book Stephanie Meyer had enough cred to break the rules - cred always comes before rule-breaking).

Personally (assuming this is an idea you're attached to), I'd just not tell the publisher that the hero would be turning bad later on (moral complexity isn't something that age group is known for, either). Then tell them AFTER you have an offer for the first book or first few books. You can hide it using what I call "main character syndrome". A main character is sympathetic, and can get away with a LOT just by virtue of being the main character - look at TV drama, and you'll see how much of it is the fault of the "hero" being. . . well, selfish. But because we the viewers sympathise, we continue to sympathise long after we should consider them the baddie.

When you write a series, you just gotta sell the first book. Or, failing that, make the second book the first book and sell THAT. Or, failing that. . . well, you get the idea. So you don't really need to worry about the end of your series at this stage.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 23rd, 2010, 9:16 am
by Bron
For me the issue isn't so much that the hero becomes an anti-hero, it's that the ages to which the books are targeted change so much. Your first cohort of readers will probably age as you write the books, i.e. the kids that are 12 when the book is first published will probably be 18 by the time the anti-hero/serial killer book comes out. But the kids who are 8 and reading your first book by the time the last is published aren't going to want to wait ten years until they are the appropriate age to read the last book. They're going to want to read it right away if it's available.

The Harry Potter books did get less innocent as they went on, but they didn't change quite so much as it sounds like yours is going to. Could you compress the age range a little? Maybe write the first book so it's targeted at a YA audience and gradually up the ante until the last book is over 18?

Anyway, that's just my opinion, which is not backed up by any professional experience. :-) Good luck with the series, it sounds like something I'd be interested in reading.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 24th, 2010, 5:23 pm
by Louise Curtis
John Dillon wrote:Louise's answer was better than mine, so I defer to her.
Hey cool! I'd forgotten I'd commented on this thread, and reopened it because I'm curious. Now, of course, I wish I could remember what you said.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 25th, 2010, 12:49 pm
by Sommer Leigh
First, I don't think the controversialness is an issue. Teens are reading "up" more now than they ever have before, and that's a good thing.

That being said, it is a bad idea to pick different target audiences for different books in a series if for no other reason than marketing would suck. The readers you pick up with the first book would be fine all the way through, but then after your books are all out, you'd have kids reading the first book but be too young for the second, third etc. I would also not start in the YA and then leave YA with 18+. It will cause your marketing group no end of headache figuring out where to shelve and market your books if they don't all fit together in one age bracket.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 25th, 2010, 8:37 pm
by gonzo2802
Are you sure you really want the story to start out as a middle grade book and end as adult? Or do you want a story where the MC starts out as a kid and by the time its done he's an adult? Two totally different things.

You CAN have an adult book with a younger MC. (Think <i>"The Lovely Bones"</i>) But I don't think any agent/publishing house would take on a series that intentionally plans to veer from one audience into another.

Re: About Controversialness for 8-12 readers.

Posted: October 25th, 2010, 9:20 pm
by cheekychook
YA/Adult crossovers can be done...MG/Adult crossovers, in my opinion, should not. That's not to say that you can't write a MG book that will appeal to people of all ages, but to set out trying to write a series that is intended for different age levels seems like a bad idea on several levels. I can see the temptation, as a writer, to try something like that, but as others have pointed out it would only work with your first group of readers, and even then it would be iffy.

Yes, your first books' readers may be old enough to read the second book by the time it is released. It's doubtful they will have aged enough to be ready for an adult book at the realease of the third book if it's truly adult-themed. Any children who start reading book one after book two is available will automatically want to read book two, or book three---that presents a problem.

Another issue is that teens are not going to want to read a MG book in order to read book two (which is geared toward them). Many adults will likewise not read books one and two (MG and YA books) just so they can read book three of a series they are not attached to in some way.

Even series (such as Twilight and Harry Potter) that have successfully aged their characters, brought in more complex and more "adult" themes, and expanded their audience to multiple age levels, have faced tremendous criticism and ridicule for doing so. Harry Potter already had a phenomenal, loyal following of children, teens and adults by the time book four was released, but many parents had to hold of on reading book four to their children or allowing them to read it because it had a decidedly darker theme. I know, I was one of the parents with kids who were in love with the series but were simply too young (and too prone to nightmares) to be ready for that book at the time. And clearly Harry Potter is an example of extreme success with a book series.

Likewise Twilight caught a lot of flack for introducing the marriage issue and for being "too sexual" in the later books---even though Twilight was always geared toward teens and relationships/teen marriage/pregnancy/sex are no strangers as topics in YA novels these topics still brought on criticism. No, it didn't impact the success of the series, but again, Twilight is a rather extreme phenomenon.

There's also a great deal of difference between having a novel where kids/teens relate to the characters and age with them and go through their struggles with them but the characters maintain their integrity vs a story where the kids/teens relate to a character and age with him/her and then the character turns into a serial killer. As a counselor, parent, and crisis intervention worker I can tell you that a series with that story arc that is geared toward children/YA is not going to be an easy sell. If I'm understanding the arc of your character's story you are talking more about an adult novel that examines the early development that leads to the main character becoming a serial killer. If you know that's where your story is going, I'd say your audience is adults from beginning to end.

Also, if you were to release an adult third book in the series you would immediately vaporize your MG market for book one---no one is going to promote a book to an eight-year old that has a main character who grows into the world's worst serial killer. Just my opinion, of course, but one about which I feel really certain.