These are just extracts from an excellent profile of Robert Muchamore by Bridget Galton in Ham&High – clicking through to the full piece is recommended:
It was when nephew Jared hit his teens that Muchamore got the idea of writing for children.
“He was very bright, but I was frustrated because, being quite a bookish person, I saw he didn’t engage with books at all and, when I looked at what was on offer, I didn’t blame him.
“I was always a kid who read but found it frustrating after nine or 10 to find books I wanted to read.
“Post-Harry Potter, publishers gained so much confidence that they could make money out of children’s books but back then there wasn’t much for that awkward age when you are not really an adult but not a kid any more.”
He instinctively knew that “fantasy: punch-ups, girls and soap opera infighting is what kids enjoy reading” and invented intelligence officer James Adams as a better looking, braver alter ego. “He was the person I wanted to be when I was 12. All James’ likes and dislikes are mine. He likes Arsenal and hates mayo and ketchup, but he is the cool version of me, good looking, blonde, tough, brave and gets girlfriends. It’s pure wish fulfilment.”
He honed is dialogue on cnoversation overheard on the bus:
“When the bus stopped outside Holloway school it was flooded with kids running up and down the stairs fighting and swearing. I was quite irritated at the time but in terms of writing it gave me a real sense of their dialogue – so that’s what I wrote, the 390 bus minus the swearing.”
And on the importance on writing from the mindset of your audience:
Staying in touch with his inner 12-year-old, remembering what it felt like “to be acutely self-conscious and not know who you are or where you fit in” is all part of the job, says Muchamore, who points out that writing for children involves a different skill set to adult fiction.
“A lot of adult authors have tried to write for kids and completely failed. You have to get into their mindset, remember you are writing for people whose emotions and attention spans are different. Kids have this incredibly intense feeling that everything in the world should be right and just. I get furious emails about perceived unfairness. Ultimately they regard having a happy ending and the good guys winning as right.”
On boundaries of decency when writing for young people (Muchamore has had books banned by at least one school)
“With my publisher, I’ve set unofficial guidelines – mild sex and swear words, some sexual references but no explicit content. My rule of thumb is the EastEnders test – would this happen in an episode of EastEnders?”