When my daughter was younger, I delighted in sharing my favorite authors with her, regularly reading aloud from my beloved childhood books. But somewhere along the way, the tables turned. My daughter learned to read and quickly found favorites of her own. Before I knew what hit me, she was telling me what to read, and quite insistently too. I tried to keep up as she recommended books by Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, and Wilson Rawls. But then she discovered Pseudonymous Bosch. And it became all about him.
Pseudonymous Bosch is the anonymous, mysterious, and generally hilarious author of the Secret Series. From the first page of his novel The Name of This Book is Secret (pictured above), the author urges readers to put down the “very dangerous book” which contains “a big secret.” Drawn in by the entertaining antics of a narrator who so clearly does not want to tell his tale, readers quickly become engaged with the story, which is riddled with codes and puzzles for clever children to decipher. Equal parts playful silliness and intriguing plot, the first book leaves readers eager for more. The books that follow do not disappoint: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, This Book is Not Good for You, and This Isn’t What it Looks Like are jam-packed with suspense and adventure. The fifth and final book in the series, You Have to Stop This goes on sale in stores tomorrow.
In conjunction with the release of the new Pseudonymous Bosch book, Austin’s own BookPeople is hosting a literary camp in which the elusive author himself will play a part! “The Name of This Camp is Secret” enrollment is open to children age 9 – 13. The camp will be held at BookPeople on Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 2, 2011. Registration is required. Also, on Sunday, October 2 at 4 p.m., Pseudonymous Bosch will visit BookPeople for a booksigning event. No registration is required to attend the booksigning, which is free and open to the public. If you would like to have a book signed, it must be purchased from BookPeople. You Have to Stop This will be available for sale beginning Tuesday, September 20, 2011.
So, who is Pseudonymous Bosch? I’m sure that is a frequent Google search, with fans desperate to uncover his true identity. I did a little amateur cyber-sleuthing of my own and came away with a general impression of the mystery man: he seems like a really nice guy. On his Facebook wall one woman wrote, “My daughter, Audrey, received a letter from you yesterday and I think you may have just made her year!” Another child wrote Pseudonymous Bosch with a request for an interview, and he graciously answered all of her questions. And then, of course, there is the story of how the Secret Series began, which the author talks about during his appearance on The Today Show. Mr. Bosch was participating in a volunteer program called Writing Partners, where elementary students were partnered with adults to exchange work for “comment and critique.” He was partnered with a fourth-grader named May who sent him poems and stories through the mail. Not having anything to send her, he started writing a story about a secret, which eventually grew into his first book . The Name of This Book is Secret is dedicated to W.P. May (Writing Partner May).
Eager to learn more about Pseudonymous Bosch, LiveMom posed a few questions to the enigmatic writer.
LiveMom: Was the Secret Series your first adventure in writing for children?
PB: Not at all! In previous years, I tried everything from dry-erase boards to wet cement to dusty windshields; alas, children chose to ignore every word I wrote. Oh, I also tried writing a few movie and television scripts for the younger demographic–or as I refer to them, the age-challenged –with only slightly more success.
LiveMom: How did you come to participate in the Writing Partners elementary school program?
PB: My arm was twisted. Hard. And believe me I’m scared ever to participate in a volunteer program again. The first time, I wrote a reckless, irresponsible, secret-spilling novel. Who knows what could happen next! The new, more terrible secrets I could spill…
LiveMom: Do you think your writing style was influenced by initially writing for an audience of one?
PB: Yes. In all seriousness, what I’ve learned from writing the Secret Series is the importance of audience–not in the sense of a demographic, but in the sense of a person or persons that you are writing to or for. I wrote the first novel in installments through the mail for a fourth-grader named May. Essentially, each new chapter was a new letter addressed to her. And it was in writing to her that I found my voice.
LiveMom: Your books are a tremendous amount of fun to read, but I can only imagine the work that went into developing the five stories in this series. How long does it take you, on average, to complete a novel?
PB: After the initial series of installments that I mailed to my writing partner, the first book dragged on for several years and literally dozens of drafts before my editor considered it finished. Subsequently, I was, er, under contract and my feet were held to the fire. The result: a lot of screaming…and one book per year.
LiveMom: Do you come from a creative family? What did your parents do to encourage your creativity as a child? What advice would you give to aspiring young writers?
PB: Creativity is in the eyes of the beholder, but yes, by most standards I come from a creative family. While I don’t want to give away too much, I will admit that this particular apple did not fall far from the proverbial tree. Indeed, you could say I got stuck in the tree and never reached the ground. However, the single most significant thing my parents did to encourage my creativity had nothing to with their careers or interests per se: it was removing the television set when I was seven years old. Within a year, I was reading a book a day, which I continued to do well into high school. A compulsive disorder that led more or less directly–albeit over the course of many years–to the writing of the Secret Series.
LiveMom: Do you have any favorite contemporary middle grade or YA books that you would recommend (to children or to adults who may now be hooked on YA fiction)?
PB: Many kids who like my books also like a deliciously bloody book called A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, as well as the wonderful and witty Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart. For slightly older readers, I recommend the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl which has introduced–brilliantly–one of my favorite genres, southern gothic, to the contemporary YA scene. True, these authors are all friends of yours truly, but that only makes my recommendations more heartfelt.
LiveMom: I was surprised to discover you have also written a short story, “The Attack of the Flying Mustaches,” under the name Pseudonymous Bosch. Will you continue to write under this nom de plume now that you have completed the Secret Series?
PB: Nom de plume? Pseudonymous is an old family name! In any case, it’s true PB is getting a little tired after five books. Hence my new project: a do-it-yourself mystery called Write This Book! Do-it-yourself because I refuse to do it myself. You want another Boschian mystery, my dear readers? Write it yourself…
LiveMom: When you imagine a movie version of your books, which actor do you mentally cast to play yourself and why?
PB: Robert Pattinson. No, Taylor Lautner. No. Robert Pattinson. Yes, Robert Pattinson! And for all the obvious reasons.
Thank you for the terrific questions. I only fear that you have tricked me into revealing too much!
Heidi Gollub loves exploring Austin and beyond with her 4 kids. For more local adventures for families, visit her site Free Fun in Austin.