Friday, 8 February 2013

Ask Agony Author

This week marks the introduction of a new column on the blog. In Ask Agony Author, I'll be inviting writers to tell me about their embarrassing problems and then using my years of experience and wisdom to ridicule and abuse them guide them to a solution. So, without further ado, let's...
Dear Agony Author,

You may know me as the creator of the bestselling children's franchise Artichoke Foul, a series I memorably pitched as "Die Hard with vegetables." My Foul series has brought me fame and riches, but it has also left me with an terrible yearning that I cannot seem to shake. Agony Author, I have an awful secret – I want to write books for adults.

I know this seems wrong, and I tried to disguise my intentions to avoid a backlash from my loyal fans. By starting off with a tribute to my late hero Douggie Adnams, I hoped to pass off my sequel to The Hairy Bikers' Guide to the Galaxy as the book that Douggie never wrote.
However, once I had set foot in the filthy world of fiction for adults, it became like a depraved virus, eating away at my self-control and self-respect. Since then, I've come out of the closet with a full-blown adults' crime novel called Unplugged and even sunk to writing about that clapped-out Saturday night time-traveller Dr Whoa!

Every time I see my adults' books on the shelf, I'm overcome by feelings of guilt and shame. I just know that my children's writer friends are laughing at me behind my back. Tell me, Agony Author, is it ever OK to write for adults?

Yours self-disgustedly,
Owen Cauliflower

Agony Author Replies,

Thank you Owen, for your painfully honest letter. It took a lot of guts to write to me, especially since I was one of the people laughing behind your back. The emotions you describe are natural and understandable. Many people feel ashamed to admit that they even read books for adults, and that is why popular series like Fifty Shades of Grey are available with special children's style covers for reading on the tube.

With the advent of the e-reader, many more people may find themselves able to secretly read books for adults, though it isn't clear whether they should be allowed. It has long been a well-known fact that anyone can write an adults' book and get it published, such is the lack of discernment amongst adult readers. Commuters in particular seem happy to read any old rubbish provided there is a sadistic murder every ten pages or a fatuous plotline about female empowerment through expensive shoes. Literary connoisseurs, accustomed to the fast-moving and innovative narratives in children's literature, are often appalled by the indulgent, navel-gazing tosh that constitutes most grown-up fiction. These books may win literary prizes, but I'm sure you could feel an equal amount of pride by winning the "County Wexford Best-Kept Wheelie Bin" competition. If nothing else, it would give you a handy place to shelve your adults' novels.

All of these unarguable facts might not help you, Owen, but I wanted to make sure you were fully aware of the cesspit of mediocrity you're stepping into. Rather than try to make you feel better about your choices, I'd like to emphasise that it's not too late to step back from the edge. Adult book readers, who have the mental capabilities of a guppy, will quickly forget you, while children's book readers have long memories and are fiercely loyal to their favourite authors.

Short of becoming Doctor Whoa!, you won't be able to persuade Douggie Adnams to write another book. You can, however, bring your own career back from the dead.

Yours tough-lovingly,


  1. Ooh - you have hit a chord there. Thanks for that much needed advice. :o)

  2. Well done Nick, someone needs to tell it how it is and that person seems to be you. Boo to adult fiction! ;)

  3. Ah ha ha, wait, while I catch my breath here, ah ha h a- nope still chuckling, I'll just have to come back next week...

  4. If my friend has a problem that really needs your advice should she contact you via Who Ate My Brain?
    Jan (on behalf of my friend)

    1. Your "friend" is certainly welcome to. I can give no guarantees on the quality of advice offered in return!