As many literary 007 fans are well aware, last month saw the release of Charlie Higson’s non-Bond adventure novel The Enemy in the UK.
Although best known in the world of Bond for his (so far) five Young Bond novels, in a new interview with the Irish Times, Higson discusses some of the themes in this new horror story that aren’t so different from his past adventures featuring the young British spy in the making.
‘Obviously, there are things kids are interested in and not interested in,’ Higson states. ‘They’re not interested in mid-life crises and marriages breaking up, but that still leaves a huge range of human emotions they are interested in. You’ve got to take a subject that is going to be relevant to them. I don’t think there necessarily has to be kids in it for them to like it, but it helps for them to have someone to identify with. I didn’t approach it differently to the four adult thrillers I wrote in the early 1990s. You have to watch the language, of course, but that’s it.’
He continues: ‘As a kid, if I read something I liked, I tried to write something like it. I enjoy the process of writing—the idea of creating something that wasn’t there before. In my teenage years, I’d be writing big, long fantasy books instead of doing my homework. Back then, there was very little of that kind of Tolkien-style medieval romance around; it hadn’t taken over the world like it has now. I loved myths and legends, King Arthur and Robin Hood. I used to like to read things where the hero had a sword. That to me was a good book.’
The scent of danger and violence is often a winning formula for drawing in young boys to stories like The Enemy and the Young Bond books. As Higson explains, he had to push this point when embarking upon his 2005 Bond debut, SilverFin: ‘Children’s publishing is run almost entirely by women, which is by no means a complaint, but occasionally they can lose sight of what it is boys want in fiction. I had early meetings with Puffin, and they’d say: “It’s quite violent. Does it need to be?” I’d say: “It’s James Bond!” Even a 10-year-old is going to come to it with certain expectations about violence. You have to give them that or they’ll be bored and won’t accept it. And when [Puffin] saw the effect it had, and the fact that boys loved them, they relaxed. They were concerned that the teachers, parents, librarians and booksellers were going to say “We’re sorry but these books are too violent.’ But because boys did like the books, they all got behind it.’
‘Since I started, a lot more people have come into the boys’ action-adventure field and now you get guns on the cover, which was absolutely forbidden before.’
He further credits Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling for generating a new level of respect for children’s novels. ‘The children’s book chart was originally created because books for children wouldn’t show up in the bestsellers’ list,’ Higson states. ‘They created their own list, and now they have to keep the children’s chart because if they put them back together there would be no adult books on it—apart from people like Dan Brown. All of us kids’ writers are eternally grateful to JK Rowling for opening the eyes of publishers and of the media generally. Now, kids’ books are respectable.’
There’s much more. Head over to the Irish Times for the complete interview.
- Order the UK hardback edition of The Enemy from Amazon.co.uk
- Order the UK paperback edition of The Enemy from Amazon.co.uk
- Order the UK audiobook edition of The Enemy from Amazon.co.uk
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