Writing

SLJ Teen Live: Postscript

Because I love the sound of my own voice and don’t know how to be brief1, I ran out of Q&A time during my SLJ Teen Live event.

So I asked the fine folks at SLJ to please forward the unanswered questions to me so that I can field them here. And away we go…

At what age (ish) do you feel it would be okay for your daughter to start reading your books? — Jasmine

I was going to say that it depends on which books, but the honest answer is: It depends on my daughter! Every kid is different and can handle different ideas and stories at different ages. If she seems mature enough for, say, I Hunt Killers at age 10, I’d be a hypocrite not to let her read it.

I think something else that pertains here is that it’s also probably a little odd for a child to read something written by a parent. She might be ready for something mature in a general sense long before she’s ready to read something mature that her dad wrote.

What ages do you think should read Bang? — Erica

It really depends on the individual reader. Honestly, there are probably eleven-year-olds out there who can handle it, and twenty-five year-olds who can’t. I’m really, really bad at letting arbitrary criteria (like age) dictate reading. Fortunately, I don’t have to decide! I think most kids are better self-censors than we give then credit for and would stop reading the book if it proved to be too much for them.

Is there ever coming a second part of After the Red Rain? — Amanda

Sorry to say, probably not. It was tough getting all three of us together for the book, and Robert and Peter aren’t business partners any more, so it would be even tougher to make everyone’s schedules fit.

You mentioned pizza……are we talking Dominos or Papa Johns? — Ashley

Blasphemy!!!

Do you prefer writing for adults or for young adults? — Kristine

I don’t think of the audience when I write, so I never really think of myself as writing “for” a particular group or age range. I just tell the story to the best of my ability and cross my fingers that someone out there will like it!

What type of research did you do to prepare for writing Bang? — Connie

Most of my research actually centered on Muslim-American experiences and on things like YouTube. The actual shooting itself is very simple and sadly prevalent to the point that no research was needed. I spent a lot of time reading some Muslim personal narratives and also spoke with three Muslims who were willing to offer their thoughts. On YouTube, I sort of delved into how viral videos tend to work and how the system itself works overall.

What about The Flash???? — Lisa

What about it????

It’s a dream come true, honestly. Three books, coming out in October 2017, April 2018, and October 2018. The first book is titled Hocus Pocus and its awesome comic book-y fun!

woooohoooo!!!!! — Amanda

Right back atcha!!!!!

I’m a teen librarian. Could never get my husband to read a YA book. Begged him to try I Hunt Killers… we now have all 3 in hardback. He wants more, but he has brain damage and can’t read print anymore. Best one to rec him in audio? — Rebecca

I’m so sorry about your husband. I’m not sure if you’re asking me to recommend one of my books in audio or just any YA. So I’ll do both!

The I Hunt Killers trilogy and Bang are all in audio, read by Charlie Thurston, who does an absolutely amazing job.

As to other books: I’d recommend Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens and Paul Griffin’s Adrift, both read by the authors themselves!

Not a question – thanks for the short stories you’ve been releasing for the ACLU. Great stories & and great cause! — Michelle

Thanks! Everyone out there, please consider buying my ACLU fundraiser stories each month! This month’s is “Bobby” and the story “Four Minutes” is still available as well.

It happens more than people think.  Many years ago our nephew and his best friend found a gun on the house when they were both 12.  They took turns laughing and waving it around.  Our nephew, Scott, was holding it when it went off and killed his friend. — Stephanie

Ouch. I hate to end on such a downbeat note, but this is the topic, isn’t it? As I said in the SLJ chat, I didn’t invent Bang — it happens all the time. Thanks for sharing your very painful story, Stephanie.



  1. College girlfriend: “Barry, you don’t have conversations with people; you give lectures.”

Flash: Hocus Pocus — Get it fast!

Flash coverWhat’s that, you say? You say you can’t wait to read Flash: Hocus Pocus, the first book in my trilogy based on the TV show?

And what’s that? You say you haven’t preordered the book yet???

Gadzooks!

Let’s remedy this right the hell now! Here are handy-dandy preorder links for you. Or, of course, hie thee to thy local independent bookstore and tell ’em to put aside a copy for you the day it comes in!

August ACLU Fundraiser: “Bobby”

Last month, a long title. This month, a very short one. Meet “Bobby.”

Bobby cover

ALL PROCEEDS FROM THIS STORY BENEFIT THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION!

Bobby’s life is a story of tragedy and privilege. Of death and victory. Of defeat and faith. See it from the inside.

As with all of the fundraisers, this story is only available for one month and costs $1.99. Please buy the story and spread the word!

August ACLU Fundraiser DELAYED

Hey, all! Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the August story will not be available today. It will be up later in the week. Apologies.

In the meantime, check out the cover:

Bobby cover

Slider Review

I don’t typically review books, mostly because I’m lousy at it. But recently a very fine novel crossed my threshold and I thought I’d tell you about it. It will be on store shelves in September, so consider kicking off your fall reading with…

Slider by Pete Hautman

Slider cover

Here’s a secret I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone before: Pete Hautman (whom I’ve never met) is responsible for one of my books.

You see, I read and devoured and was forever transformed by his quite exceptional novel Godless, which is still, in my estimation, one of the best critiques of religion I’ve ever read.

In under 250 pages.

Godless coverI was utterly gobsmacked by that book, by Hautman’s audacity and intellect and wit. And by the fact that he was able to establish and transform characters and offer up a scathing rebuke to religious thought, all in a little over 200 pages.

Meanwhile, I had just written 600 pages about a kid screwing his teacher. Consider me properly chastened.

I wanted to do what Hautman had done and so I wrote Hero-Type, in which I tried to apply a Hautman-esque ethos to politics. (I failed miserably, but that’s not his fault.)

Anyway, I’m in awe of Pete Hautman, so I was thrilled to get my greedy little hands on an advance copy of Slider, his new middle-grade novel.

Slider is the story of David, an endlessly hungry tween who aspires to competitive eating greatness. He can slurp down an entire pizza in nothing flat, and now that he accidentally charged $2000 on his mom’s credit card, he really really needs to win the big state eating contest…or he’s dead meat.

Throw in adolescent confusion, two best friends who seem to be becoming closer than is comfortable, and an autistic younger brother who sucks all the oxygen (and attention) out of the room, and you have a recipe for something truly different and powerful. In Hautman’s hands, that recipe ends up perfectly balanced. He deftly combines humor, pathos, yearning, and introspection, never allowing any one of them to overpower the others. You’re rooting for David all along, living in his head, and never once do you feel manipulated by authorial fiat.

Most amazing of all, Hautman makes you care about the obsessive detail of a competitive eater, even if the thought of eating more than one hot dog at a sitting makes you want to retch.

Slider has brains and heart and an iron cast stomach…and it certainly has one hell of a funny bone. You can preorder your copy with the links below.