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An Author Joins Us: Henry H. Neff of The Tapestry series

December 6, 2010

Today, we are excited to feature a guest post from Henry H. Neff, author of The Tapestry series, a  thrilling blend of mythology, fantasy, science fiction and mystery.  School and Library Journal called the first book in the series, The Hound of Rowan: Book One of the Tapestry, “a solid and worthwhile beginning . . . [that] should help ease the suffering once Harry Potter withdrawal sets in” and Kirkus Reviews said “After devouring this title, young fans will clamor for more” of The Second Siege: Book Two of the Tapestry.

Click here to watch the book trailer for the new book in the series, The Fiend and the Forge: Book Three of the Tapestry , and you can visit the author’s websites for more details and interactive games:  www.HenryNeff.com and www.RowanAcademy.com.

You can also check him out this week on the following blogs: http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/2010/11/blog-tour-with-henry-h-neff-author-of_30.html  and http://www.forcesofgeek.com/.

Target Who?

Who is your target audience? It’s one of the most common questions an author encounters. Publishers, booksellers, parents, and prospective readers – everyone wants to know the intended audience. I’d imagine most authors have a ready answer to such a common question, but it always throws me for a loop.

I know why people ask the question. They want to know how to pitch the story or where to shelve the books. As human beings, we adore taxonomy. We crave mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive classifications. In children’s publishing, unless you’re writing for an audience that’s self-evident (e.g., What’s Happening to Me?) the industry tends to apply a formula in which the chief drivers are the protagonist’s age and gender and whether the story narrative sex or foul language. If a main character is a twelve-year old male and there’s no serious smooching, it’s likely that the book is going to be classified as middle grade fiction for boys.

And that’s how The Tapestry, my fantasy series, is often labeled. Its protagonist is a teen named Max McDaniels and thus it’s often assumed that I’m writing for preteen boys. The reality, however, is that I’m not. When creating my books, my goal is simply to tell an epic story as it’s meant to be told. To consciously modify the narrative, characters, or language in order to click with a specific demographic would feel contrived. If I have a target audience, I suppose it is myself. If The Hound of Rowan, The Second Siege, and The Fiend and the Forge can entertain or move me, my hope is that they will resonate with others. Whether that audience happens to be boys or girls or octogenarians makes no difference.

Has the fact that I don’t consciously write for a specific audience hurt The Tapestry? I don’t think so. Despite the fact that Max McDaniels is a teenage boy, I receive as much correspondence from adults as I do from children and as many letters from female readers as from male. I believe that the book’s narrative, extended cast of characters, and emotional range determine its ultimate audience much more than the age and gender of its protagonist.

For further proof, let’s look at The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins is a nebbish, middle-aged fellow who enjoys a quiet life at Bag End. As we know, he’s soon persuaded to join thirteen dwarves in their quest to reclaim their treasure and ancestral home from a fire-breathing dragon. There are no children in the story, no women, and the manuscript clocks in at nearly 100,000 words. If contemporary guidelines regarding protagonist age and audience held true, the bulk of Hobbit fans must be grown men in the midst of a midlife crisis.

But we know this isn’t the case. To my knowledge, Tolkien’s tale is beloved by millions of people all around the world – boys and girls, men and women. And of course, The Hobbit isn’t alone….

My point is not that bookstores should do away with children’s sections or that publishers cast aside useful guidelines. I understand their role and purpose. But it’s important to remember they need not serve as absolutes. This is particularly true for fantasy and science fiction – genres whose readers revel in escape from the expected and the everyday. Ultimately, I’m confident that if I write a good story, it will find the audience it’s meant to have.

And that’s why I’ll continue to write The Tapestry for anyone who loves fantasy, science fiction, mythology, and wonderful possibilities that result when they intersect our world. If that sounds like you, congratulations! You’re the target audience.


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