My “Other” Audience

I have come to the realization that I don’t write for teens. I mean, I do, but let’s consider this: the majority of you reading this post are adults, and you are here primarily because you’ve read my work. Therefore, it stands to reason that as much as I envision my audience as under eighteen, I could be completely wrong.

And I’m okay with that.

Recently, the topic of adults reading YA books has received heavy consideration. If you’d like to read more deeply about this, go here, here or here. I find the issue intriguing for a number of reasons, but mostly because from my perspective, at signings and promotional events, I don’t see a lot of teens. I see adults of various ages, buying for a friend, a cousin, a niece, a nephew, a son, a daughter. However, they ALL say they same thing, “I’ll read this first to see how it is.”

It’s difficult to hold back a smirk. I sincerely appreciate that my novels will eventually make their way into the hands of teens––if those teens exist­­––but I have to wonder if this purchase, ostensibly for someone else, is a ploy, and if these adults are purchasing what they deem guilty pleasures.

Now, I hate the term “guilty pleasures.” Like what you like, especially when it comes to reading. Don’t let someone knock what you read because it isn’t in line with what they want you to be reading. The mere fact that you as an adult are reading is wonderful, because it’s not the standard.

I’ve talked to enough adults who haven’t read a novel since high school. I’ve talked to plenty of adults who stopped reading for pleasure in college because the classics bored them to death, and the suggested contemporary, adult lit, was more of the same. These same adults will say to me about my work, “I haven’t read a book that I was unable to put down in so long, I’ve forgotten that feeling.”

And that, right there, is everything.

The nature of this issue boils down to one point: storytelling. I don’t care if it’s a classic from the canon, a children’s picture book, some chic new adult genre, or YA, if the story grabs you and won’t let go, that’s awesome. And as I’ve said before, the goal for my work is for it to be awesome. Sure it can be other things, too: deep, intriguing, dark, gritty­­––but it has to be awesome. Because that is the hallmark of good storytelling. You want it to go on. You’re angry when it’s over, but also elated because it was such a thrill. And you know you’ll recommend the story to others, and you’ll think about it for days and weeks to come. It will become a piece of you.

Young Adult lit does that. It has that power. So does adult lit, and children’s lit. But YA is unique in that it has the power to wake up something inside of you that has lain dormant. All those intense teen emotions. They haven’t gone away. You haven’t really grown up. You’ve only gotten older.

And once you’re comfortable with that notion, once you abandon the idea of guilty pleasures, because of age, the reading landscape will open to you. And it is full of capital A, awesome.

Go, read it all. And if you need suggestions, I’m here for you. 

Launch Party Thanks

My launch party for Dare Me was this past Friday, and it was awesome. Not only because it was at a bar, during happy hour, and not only because the turnout was wonderful. It was an excellent event because of the vibe created.

I’ve done a fair amount of signings/events, and it’s near-to-impossible to feel anything more than a bookish flair when you’re in a library or bookstore. But at McGreivery’s, surrounded by Halloween decorations, people burning off steam on a Friday afternoon, and a genuine interest in my work, I felt more than happy to be perched in my corner, taking it all in.

Writing is a solitary act. It’s 5:15 AM as I write this. My house is quiet and the sun isn’t up, but I’ve been awake for close to an hour, clacking at my keyboard. And this is my job morning after morning, including summers.

So when I am afforded the opportunity to go out and meet with people who enjoy what I’ve created, especially in an environment that it less stuffy and more “shot-friendly”, it’s difficult not to be appreciative. All those hours alone so that I can get together with people and say, “Damn, we did this,” are worth it.

Because, yes, I did. But so did you. Because I’m not here without your support. So I offer my sincerest THANKS! I fully intend to keep up my end of this relationship, and I know you’ll do the same.

Read Dare Me, love it, and then share with people how you feel. Offer some of that vibe. Do it in the real world or virtually, but let them know about this party they can get in on.

Because as the saying goes, the more the merrier.

MCG

Times Like These

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If it weren’t for copyrights I think I’d use songs in every one of my stories. Seriously. It’s difficult not to get inspired by certain lyrics or the emotional resonance of a song.

Driving home this afternoon I heard the acoustic version of “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters. As usual, I cranked it up and just drove. It was fantastic. And then I remembered, that back in 2010, I did write story with a song in it, the exact same one on the radio.

I know I plug my gritty, violent, dark and sometimes foul novels, but in 2010, I wrote something much more quiet, and slightly haunting.

Riptide Journal, a UK publication, had a contest for YA stories with crossover appeal. The entries were judged by Philip Hensher, whose acclaim I didn’t know at the time, and the top ten entries were published. Yes, mine was one of them.

“Times Like These” is a story of a mother and son trying to find their way again, as a new family, with a stepfather and infant brother added to the mix. That family dynamic is one I’ve watched for years as a teacher, and one day decided to write about. And that Foo Fighters song stuck in my head and pulled it all together.

So if you love the song or are interested in the premise, pick up a copy. The volume is great and I was so glad to be a part of it.

If not, no worries. In the big push and aplomb of Dare Me, I was reminded of this bit of something more gentle, and thought you might enjoy.

The Weekend of Awesome

This past weekend I met my number one fan, signed copies of Dare Me and Tap Out, spoke on a panel about the creative writing process, and received a congratulatory note from my former high school English teacher. Overall, it was awesome, but, of course there’s more to it than these cursory details.

Saturday was Troy Author Day, an event created to celebrate the local talent in our area. Over twenty authors were in attendance, including some heavy hitters like the Man Booker International Prize winner Lydia Davis. The atmosphere was ideal. We were situated in the upstairs of the Troy Public Library, surrounded by readers who came to buy books, meet us, and listen to discussions about the process and the industry.

However, for me, the highlight of the day was meeting Natalie.

She is my number one fan, and came with copies of all my novels. Natalie and her friend Melinda help run Pendragon, SienaCollege’s literary magazine, and I will be at Siena at some point in the near future to speak to the group because Natalie reached out to me on Twitter and Melinda following up via email. Take note readers: if you want to have contact with your favorite author, hop on social media. Chances are we’re more than willing to be there for you.

If you are interested in more about the event, here’s a local article that covers the day, and even quotes me a few times.

On Sunday I had a signing at Barnes and Noble in Saratoga Springs. What was unique about the signings this weekend, and in particular at B&N, was having customers interested in copies of both Dare Me and Tap Out. It’s not that Tap Out has died in any way, but my energy has been focused on Dare Me. So when people came up and asked about both books and then bought both, it was kind of astounding.

It was fantastic to meet local readers, who either came out specifically to meet me, or those who stumbled across my table and got very excited about my work.

That’s what I’m in this for, not the sales figures, nor the awards––even though I need the former to continue, and the latter are really nice. I’m there for the stories. To tell people about mine, to talk with them and learn theirs, to help connect readers with work that will resonate with them. And to be with other authors doing the same, to meet people so excited about my work that they vibrate, yeah, that’s the definition of awesome to me.

So if you missed me this weekend, have no fear, my launch party is Friday at McGrievey’s restaurant from 4-7. There will be free appetizers, excellent beverages, and even more excellent company. Come on out. You won’t be disappointed.

B&N Teen Read Week–DARE ME signing

B&N

On Sunday, 10/20, I will be at Barnes and Noble, Saratoga from 1-3, to bring an end to Teens Read Week. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)–who put Tap Out on their reluctant reader list— and Barnes and Noble have teamed up again to celebrate all things YA lit related and I’m happy to be a part of the week.

If you’re in the area and want to support our local teens, stop in and get a copy of Dare Me signed. I promise it will be worth your while.

Pub Day Q&A

In case you didn’t know, it’s PUB DAY! 

But before that, as promised, the winner from Challenge #5 is Megan Cruz, a local news reporter who admitted to living dangerously by riding in the trunk of her friend’s car. All right, Megan, for your honesty, you win a signed copy of Dare Me. Send me your mailing address 🙂

*Drum roll* *Confetti* *Champagne* (You get the idea)

Dare Me has finally made its way into the world and I can only hope those copies find some good homes. I know you all are providing such. And for those who want a little more info about this daredevil tale, I’ve provided a Q&A that my publisher is using for promo purposes. The insight should add to your reading pleasure.

So, read, enjoy and thank  you all for supporting me. I sincerely hope you like this story so much you’ll force others to read it. At gunpoint. Or just talk about it a lot on Facebook and Twitter, whatever’s more your style.

I raise my glass as you raise your books. Cheers!

Q: This whole book is based on the premise of completing dares.  Did you get the idea for this book because of a dare you witnessed? If so, what was the dare?

The premise is more from the culture of teens watching dares and stunts via YouTube, Facebook, Jackass, and Tosh. O. If teens are spending time devoted to anything, there has to be an allure, and then something deeper. I wanted to see what that would look like and why these boys would continue beyond one stunt into the elaborate game of one-upmanship they enter.

Also, there was no one stunt that I witnessed that set this in motion, but rather the collage of them, both in my own life and vicariously. The bridge jump has many factual elements. It’s safe to say I have been there and have done that.

Q: Ben becomes a part of the Daredevil Crew initially to become a legend at his high school.  Why do you think most teens participate in these groups, and how do you believe it helps them cope with today’s societal pressures?

I believe teens today—as teens of my youth and prior—push envelopes to see how far is too far. Because of the stage the internet provides, these actions now have a greater audience, and with that comes sweeping feedback.

Teens and adults love the risk-taker. Our legends are built on such men and women. It only makes sense that the combination of this classic desire to risk, coupled with the unique elements of today’s virtual existence, creates a perfect vehicle for being seen, which, at heart, is what everyone wants, regardless of age.

The actions get reinforced from an online community who values the behavior, and that recognition turns into reinforcement, and becomes acceptance.

To risk it all may seem unintelligent, but I think the activity speaks from a very emotional place.

Q: Do you personally identify with characters in your book, or have you, as a high school teacher, based your story off students you have taught?

Some author once said that all of our characters are a part of us, and I agree. I identify with all of mine for different reasons. Do I agree with everything they do? Not even close. But I understand their motivations, and hope what I provide with these individuals offers others a chance to consider alternate perspectives.

I have also based characters off students. Not exact replicas, because that, by its very nature, is no longer fiction. Rather, I use traits, reactions, quirks, etc. I am surrounded by uniqueness and thousands of stories on a daily basis. It would be a disservice to my students if I didn’t incorporate them in some way.

Q: What do you believe is the real thrill that teenagers experience from completing dares like the ones mentioned in your book?

The short answer: it’s fun. The rush of risking your life—or at minimum, injury—is visceral on a biological, neuro-chemical level. The body loves it.

The long answer: it’s all about the identity ritual. Every group has a way of marking itself, be it fashion or music or language. Teens who participate in such risky behavior are no different. They want to show others that this is who they are: unafraid, brave, a bit crazy, and willing to do whatever. It sets them apart from the rest, builds a bit of cred, and for someone with nothing to lose, is the sort of validation sought.

Q: Ben is constantly thinking about how Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Relativity compare to his everyday life, budding romance, and the dares he is performing with the other boys.  What inspired you to use Newton as a control piece in your story?

I began it as an interesting juxtaposition, a demonstration of the missed warning signs life throws at us—the ones we see in hindsight—but also as a play on the inability for any of us to overstep the natural laws. It was during my conversation with Lisa Cheng about the necessary revisions to the first draft that the idea solidified. She enjoyed the scientific touch and wondered if I could play it up more. It became one of the best threads throughout all of the dares.

DARE ME Countdown Giveaway Challenge #5

All right, here we are at the last challenge. Which means two things. One, we have a winner from yesterday, and two, Dare Me hits the shelves tomorrow. Make sure you are buckled in and the seatbelt is secure. Yesterday’s winner is Mark Ayotte. Check out the amazing stunt compilation below from him and then meet me on the other side of the craziness.

That was awesome, right? Thanks, Mark! Send me your details 🙂

And now, the last challenge. But first, some required reading–the first paragraph in the Acknowledgements section of Dare Me:

This story is about our culture, our desire to be seen, and what we are willing to risk for that visibility. It is not a glorification of the daredevil, but rather an examination of why.

The challenge: What is the craziest stunt/dare you performed AND what did you learn?

Tell me your story. Post anonymously if you need to, and tomorrow, when Dare Me drops, I’ll be sharing your feat of awesomeness with the world.

Go, dig into your memory and consider about all the crazy things you’ve done. Then examine what you learned. Drop that story here, on Facebook or on Twitter. I look forward to them. And thanks for playing along.

DARE ME Countdown Giveaway Challenge #4

Thank you all for taking yesterday’s science challenge. I knew it would be difficult, but also that someone would rise to Newton’s standards.

Fortunately Beth Fehlbaum’s answer hit the mark: I think that Law # 1 most applies to life, because unless a person decides to take responsibility for their own lives, they have no one to blame but him/herself if it’s not going well. I’d sum it up as, “You have to be your own best friend.”

That’s perfect, and part of what Ben comes to realize throughout the story. So, Beth, hook me up with your contact info and a copy of Dare Me is coming your way.

And for today’s challenge, something easier, but equally educational…

The challenge: Send me the best YouTube dare that you can find.

Ben, Ricky, John and Trevor do some insane stunts, but I know what else is out there from my hours and hours of research. So find those awesome dares and shoot me the link here, on Facebook or on Twitter. The best dare will air tomorrow and you win a signed copy of Dare Me.

Please make sure the dare is awesome, but I am uninterested in seeing anyone getting seriously injured. Let Tosh. O handle that.

Go, have fun, enjoy Sunday, send me links, and tomorrow I will reveal the last challenge.

DARE ME Countdown Giveaway Challenge #3

If you are familiar with the dashing dude above, then, yes, you guessed it, today’s challenge is all about Newton. No, not the fig kind. But first, yesterday’s winner.

For her account of Dairy Queen disaster and being called “Butterscotch Girl” (see the comment section), Stephanie Rosch wins a signed copy of Dare Me. Send me your email, and thanks for the great story!

And so, back to Challenge #3 and Newton. Surprise, surprise, Ben the kid who does crazy stunts, considers the implications of the physics to them as well as the Natural laws, as they defy them. Therefore, there are the excerpts below from Dare Me. You’ll need them to understand the challenge, as Ben does a good job of summarizing the three laws.

The challenge:  Which law most applies to life?

Answer that with an example, and you’re entered to win. Do so here, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Enjoy Ben’s ruminations below, and remember, Newton’s watching you.

Excerpts:

Law #1

I head to physics and learn about Newton’s First Law. Who knew that it took a genius to figure out that objects at rest or in motion stay that way unless acted upon? It seems rather simple: The beginning of something, or the lack of beginning, is up to the individual, unless someone else forces the issue.

Law #2 

I read Newton’s Second Law: The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

Right. So, positive things continue in a positive direction, negative, well, negatively; the acceleration matches the force applied, and the larger the mass, the slower the acceleration. Hmm. Was Newton also psychic?

Law #3

I step into physics, and it seems as if we’re continuing a theme here. On the board is written: Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The words are more like something out of a fortune cookie than a scientific law. Still, maybe I should pay more attention.

DARE ME Countdown Giveaway Challenge #1

First challenge: Give me a quote.

I love quotes, famous, infamous, the everyday. My classroom walls are covered in hundreds. My students love them, choose favorites and point theirs out to each other. Those pearls of wisdom stick.

So imagine yourself, on the edge of that bridge, as Ben is on the cover. What would you say to him? How would you make him believe he’ll be fine, that in fact he is brave? What dash of daring words can you provide?

Leave those in a comment below or hit me with your best @eric_devine. If you send a link alone, please reference Challenge #1, or I’ll think you’re a spammer, and I’ve seen enough weight loss ads, thank you 🙂

Now, go, pen your own, steal someone else’s; just give us all some inspiration. I’ll reveal the winner in tomorrow’s post and new challenge.

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