How does your garden grow? If it’s like mine, it has a lot of weeds.
My writing career is sort of like a garden. There’s a scratched-out patch of dirt where my experiences have been clawing at the ground like a chicken looking for grubs. The holes got deep enough to hold a few seeds, the ideas I had developed over a few decades of watching the world. Practicing the craft of writing served as water and fertilizer, and eventually some spindly, withered vegetation emerged from the soil and stretched blinking toward the sun.
I played that metaphor in my first story collection Thank You for the Flowers, published 10 years ago and bringing together my published work from the beginning of my career. At the time, I hadn’t developed a set voice or genre, much less the “author brand” that gets so much play these days as something more important than the words themselves.
The collection had some mystery, ghost stories, and gentler fantasy, which made it a little hard to market. I wasn’t yet enough of a “Scott Nicholson” to sell the book on the weight of my author brand alone. Ten years later, I am still selling the book, and have a few cases in the shed.
I re-released it this spring as an e-book, pretty much verbatim, and threw in a bonus story from my teen years, back when I wrote about writers who smoked cigarettes. That in itself is a valid reason to never write what you know.
But as I looked at my body of work, it made absolutely no sense to be tied to that long-ago paper version. My garden had grown lush, verdant, and fertile, and I’d written in many genres, and some readers who liked mysteries might not care for gentle fantasies featuring children and young adults. Though my own reading habits touch many genres, some people know what they like and stick with it, and they know better than I do.
So it made sense for me to re-align all my story collections and use Flowers as the platform for those young-adult stories. My most successful tale ever, “The Vampire Shortstop,” is about a little vampire kid who wants to win hearts, not just a Little League championship. I feel like a sap for saying it, but it’s the only one of my stories I ever re-read, and it makes me cry a little every time. Probably because both the vampire kid and the coach are partly autobiographical.
The collection also contains The Makers series, a set of stories featuring kids who control the natural forces of the world, such as the wind, rain, sun, and moon. Their emotional condition affects their duties, and it’s an idea I hope to spin into a series of novels sometime, especially as they enter their turbulent teen years.
I’ve put in a few spooky tales, too, suitable for young adults, and there are even a good number with romantic elements. So I classify it as YA paranormal or YA fantasy—yes, the labels get tricky, which is why YA is usually just all lumped together in the bookstore or library. I’ve heard Scott Westerfield say that’s why he writes YA, because he can hit every genre and not worry about the slots that adult fiction has to get dumped into for marketing reasons.
The other interesting accent to the Flowers bouquet is that the e-book has sold more copies this year than the paper version has in 10 years. I am grateful to meet new readers and have a book my daughter can tell her friends about at school without getting these narrow-eyed glances or calls from “concerned” parents. Kids know what they want to read and they know how to find it, and they are smarter than many adults give them credit for. And, yes, they do still read.
I usually write my novels at a PG-13 level anyway, and I edited a spooky fun comic for kids called Little Shivers, though I guess the rating goes up to R in some novels. But here’s a safe place for young readers to enter my garden and pluck a few of these strange specimens, and maybe move on to Drummer Boy or The Red Church, where my teen characters get into more serious circumstances. Really, almost all of my novels feature children as viewpoint characters in one place or another. I think it’s because I am permanently stuck in childhood!
I hope you’ll join me in the garden. Let the grown-ups worry about bills, insurance, and retirement. We’ll just stay over here in these stories where we never get old.
Scott Nicholson is author of As I Die Lying, Forever Never Ends, and 10 other novels, five story collections, four comics series, and six screenplays. A journalist and freelance editor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, he often uses local legends in his work. This tour is sponsored by Amazon, Kindle Nation Daily, and Dellaster Design.
To be eligible for the Kindle DX, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. Visit all the blogs on the tour and increase your odds. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free ebooks to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. And, hey, buy my books and put me in the Top 100 and I’ll throw in another random Kindle 3 giveaway through the blogs. Thanks for playing. Complete details at http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/blogtour.htm
I’d like to thanks Mr. Nicholson for taking the time to stop by!