Tag Archives: Joe Craig

Boy heroes

I’ve feasted on this boy hero (or killer….) stuff all week. Meeting Andy McNab (or not?) and finally reading Joe Craig’s Jimmy Coates, and now I’ve polished off my active week with the latest Alex Rider. I suppose he’s proof that I’m not entirely sequel-proof, since I think this one might have been Anthony Horowitz’s eighth.

At first I found the ‘warming-up’ adventure in Scotland a little boring, to be honest. Although I was on a hot and crowded train for 100 pages, and maybe being slow-roasted made me slightly irritated. But it was soon back to normal, with Alex skipping school and almost getting killed in ten different ways in a very brief period of time. Again.

I suppose it’s what we like? Daughter wondered if the fact that Alex turns 15 means there will be no more? He could settle down with Sabina and grow wheat, or something.

Wouldn’t be surprised if charities now hate Anthony for opening our eyes to how easy it is for them to manipulate us and our feelings and more importantly, our wallets. Mind you, as your resident cynic I didn’t have far to go.

Crocodile Tears (that’s the title, btw) has yet another mad baddie, of the kind who conveniently sits down to boast to Alex at the end, so that we all learn exactly what’s been going on. Why do they all do that? From gambling in a Scottish castle to a GM lab in southern England and on to Kenya for the big finale. Even Mr Blunt is getting a little bit soft, and I wonder who Anthony based his new Prime Minister on? He’s an idiot.

Unlike Jimmy Coates, Alex may not set out to kill people, but he does, regardless. And for a blonde he’s quite intelligent and resourceful. Could we have him as a brunette next time, if there is a next time?

Jimmy Coates

The Jimmy Coates books were not what I’d expected. I’d imagined something fairly light and childish and average, and that was so wrong. Joe Craig seems like a nice man and hopefully won’t want to kill me for thinking that. Jimmy Coates on the other hand; he’s a killer, and dangerous. But only 11, which is young.

And with my visual memory problem I’ve never been quite sure who is who. I mean, why give your hero a name so similar to your own? Maybe Jimmy Coates wrote the Joe Craig books?

Anyway, Daughter had the first two JC books (Killer and Target) on her shelves, signed and everything, from when Joe visited her school. So I read them and do you know? They are good. Not at all as I’d imagined. I was a little put off the description of Jimmy as a killer, because it doesn’t sound very proper for a young character. Bad influence on the impressionable reader and all that.

So, this is – probably – set in our time, but in an alternate Britain, a totalitarian dictatorship where people are relieved not to have to vote, because how could they know who would be best? The Prime Minister has helped design Jimmy, who is only 38% human, into a killing machine for the government.

Jimmy isn’t best pleased when he discovers this, seven years before his intended awakening at 18. He seems to belong to NJ7 (one step on from MI6, you know), and they are scary unpleasant people, who don’t like the French. It’s a new way of showing young readers how easily things could be very bad indeed, and I think this will work far better than any preaching at school or in the news.

Also different from my expectations is that each book may come to an end of a kind, but it’s an on-going adventure, or problem, so the reader will want to go on and on. We need to see if Jimmy can change his destiny, and what will happen in this dreadful country. How will I find the time? Tell me that, Joe.

Promotion

After I’d blogged about When I Was Joe by Keren David last week, I very carelessly asked Keren if she had any events coming up. A festival in October and some school invitations, was her answer.

This set me thinking. Some of you will remember me moaning about the lack of effort Faber put in for Nick Green’s The Cat Kin book, and then dropping the second novel because the first one didn’t sell fast enough. Seemed to me that was in proportion to their efforts.

Surely it’s for the publisher to do something of some kind for any new book, and especially when a new author is involved? Once Keren’s tenth book is out and if there is no publicity, I and other fans could at least realistically go into a bookshop, should they still exist, and ask if Keren has a new book out, or do they have Keren’s latest book? If I don’t know she exists or that she has written a book, I’ll never ask those questions in the first place, will I?

It’s now nearly two years since I wrote my Guardian blog about Nick, which received a number of useful comments, and in particular one from Joe Craig, who wrote about what he’d done. By the sound of it, he made two school visits per week for 18 months, which is enough to make anyone tired. And not everyone can do it, as there might be boring things like paid jobs getting in the way. But I can’t help feeling that if the publisher doesn’t wheel you out to all sorts of places with good support, getting prospective fans to you, then it’s what you must do. We have a Joe Craig book upstairs in Daughter’s bookcase, which is proof that it works. Daughter is not really prime Joe Craig fan material, but she was moved to buy a book because she saw him.

Facebook has been reeling under discussions about whether fan pages are a good way of spreading the word about new books. I don’t know. Is it? Keren made her own page, because her publishers didn’t know how to do it. I can’t help but think that in that case they should learn. I had an email from Bloomsbury ages ago about their new page for My Love Lies Bleeding, which is yet another vampire book. I haven’t read it, but it looks fun, so it all depends on my time. But I would guess Bloomsbury did the work. And if a page like that has little or no effect, it doesn’t cost anything to make.

I suspect authors have to do much of the work themselves. Caroline Lawrence spent years promoting herself and her books, or so it seemed to me as the on-looker. She had a great act, with all her Roman stuff, so it was probably easy to attract interest and to entertain the thousands of children who saw her. But she still had to do the work, and write, and do research. And get up early to travel.

Back to Keren, who made sure I got a copy of When I Was Joe. The publishers sent it out, but she supplied my name. I don’t have a relationship with them at all, since if I had, the logical thing would be for them to send me Keren’s book, or ask me if I’d like to see it. It’s what other PR departments do. Hopefully they won’t do a Faber on her, and I really feel this novel should do well, but even rather good ones need plenty of elbow grease. Mainly the author’s.

I checked with Keren, and in her own words, this is what she did:

“-  joined SAS and SCBWI and connected with as many people as possible. Very much helped by general welcoming loveliness of everyone I ‘met’.
– increased contacts on Facebook.
–  started a blog. Also started reading and visiting other people’s blogs and leaving comments.
–  identified good book blogs to send review copies to. Offered to write guest posts. Took up offers of interviews on blogs.
– joined Twitter and built up followers on Twitter by following lots of other people.
–  created Facebook page.

In general I try and make sure that I support others by twittering their stuff and reading their blogs and supporting their work and generally putting in what I take out.  Have met brilliant people through all this, made fantastic friendships and gained a lot of what publishers call ‘early buzz’ that I hope will be useful for the sales team to use.

Some unexpected things that have happened as a result:
My book is featured prominently on a dating blog written by a 29 year old guy in Liverpool about his disastrous romantic life.
A book blogger threw an online  launch party for me, which attracted hundreds of hits and 73 comments.
‘Met’ Caroline Lawrence as we twittered about X Factor and she kindly offered to read my book and then reviewed it on Amazon.
I have had two mentions on the Book Brunch email that goes out to the publishing world.”

That just leaves the hundreds of school visits and Keren should be fine… Though like any sensible writer, it appears she’d prefer to be writing another book.