Friday, April 24, 2009

So many murderous girls...

I was tooling around on the book tracking/social networking site Good Reads (of which I am a member) tonight and, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I was reading the reviews of my little book, 100 Girls. Many of the reviews point out the fact that for a book aimed at young adults, it's amazingly violent.

This is interesting to me. My immediate response is, "it's not meant for young adults!" or, at least, it's not aimed at them specifically. Also, a lot of folks seemed to imply that the art's being so violent is somehow Todd's fault. Poor Todd Demong! I have to take the blame here and point out that Todd didn't draw anything that I didn't ask him to draw. Todd is actually a very nice man who, as far as I know, has few violent tendencies. He's Canadian!

When I sat down to write the book, I had no specific audience in mind. I was writing it for myself. So, in that case, I guess one could say I was writing it for slightly depressed thirty-something men who'd recently been laid off, but that's kind of a niche market. I took the story exactly where it wanted to go without worrying about who might be reading it in the future. I figured that if people didn't like it, for whatever reason, then they simply wouldn't read it. A not unreasonable assumption.

I remember the first time I had a little mental "uh-oh" about the book's content. I found out that some friends with an eight-year old girl were giving it to their daughter to read because it was comics, which the girl liked, and it featured a strong female protagonist. All good enough, but while she sat there reading the comic, all I could think of was Sylvia's tearing the arm off a wolf creature. And her implied killing of a man. And so on.

When the book was originally published by Arcana, it was released sans any kind of rating or age recommendation. It was only when the book was picked up by Simon and Schuster that that publisher placed it at its young adult imprint, Simon Pulse. When I learned what their target market was for the book, I gritted my teeth and wondered what they'd say about the violence.

And (I hope I'm not telling tales out of school here) they never mentioned the violence. The one thing they asked if we'd mind removing was a bit of (in my mind, very coy) sexiness between the adult characters Tabitha and Chase. This actually left Todd and I a bit flummoxed. Sylvia does many terrible things in the course of the book, both on-screen and off, and a shot of Tabitha in her underwear and Chase's bare chest is what they didn't like. Todd and I had our agent tell Simon and Schuster we'd rather not alter or drop the offending scene and nothing more was ever said about it.

Back to the violence.

I always assumed that if people questioned the violence, that they would assume I had an overall plan, or goal, in using it. And I do. I totally do! It's important in the story. Really. Of course, I'm not going to tell you what the purpose of the violence is right now, but rest assured it's not merely gratuitous. I say "not merely" because I am aware that it may very well be gratuitous. I'll expand on that purpose someday when either Todd and I finish the story we've set out to tell or when it becomes apparent that we'll never be able to finish it. For now I hope raders will trust me.

One last thing: the title of this post come from a review from a comics web site wherein the reviewer called me to task for the brutality in the book. We later had a one-on-one conversation where I believe I assuaged his concerns. Would that I could do that with everyone who is put off by poor Sylvia's behavior.

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