"The average reading level of American parents of young children is 7th or 8th grade, but 80% of pediatric materials f... More

Author Showcase

Summer 2005 Featured Author, Max Eliot Anderson

RT: It seems that all of your protagonists are pre-teens. What drew your interest to writing for this target audience?

Max Eliot: Years ago I worked in the production of hundreds of dramatic, 16MM films. This was long before home VCRs and DVD decks. My favorite productions were those for children because you could have wacky settings and characters, and a lot of action. So when I began considering the idea of writing for kids, I was drawn to the same age group, 8—13. They are the Tweeners; they aren’t exactly “little kids,” and they aren’t quite grown up either. They are forming their opinions about life and making choices they will carry into their adult years. I wanted to have an impact in the process by teaching accountability, responsibility, and character; all within the context of a rip-roaring action adventure.

RT: What can you offer to parents who are trying to help the reluctant readers in their house? Do you believe there would have been a way to reach you when you were younger?

Max Eliot: I think that, had I been forced to read, I may have developed these habits. But I grew up in a family of seven children, so it was easy for some things to be missed. At the same time, my father produced all these great films. I loved to hang out at the studio, day after day, just to watch production. I developed a love for things visual, and didn’t establish reading interests. My books are larger in size with larger type. I avoid big blocks of words. My sentences are shorter, I don’t dwell on boring details, and there is a lot of dialog. Readers will also find humor along with heart-pounding action. Readers also tell me that reading one of my books is like being in an exciting or scary movie…but its good scary, not horror or anything like that.

RT: When you have the opportunity to participate in author visits, what do you tell the kids about reading, particularly since it still isn’t one of your favorite activities?

Max Eliot: This past week I had the opportunity to do exactly this. First I asked the third grade class if there was anyone who didn’t like to read. I did this in such a way as not to embarrass anyone. Only one boy timidly raised his hand. I showered him with compliments for his courage and honesty. Immediately, five more hands shot up. Then I told the class that I didn’t like to read when I was a child, and that’s why I began writing for other reluctant readers. Next I asked the students to tell me why they didn’t like to read. Point-for-point, they verbalized the very reasons why I had grown up as a reluctant reader. Then I told them that reading takes you places; it makes you smarter, helps with spelling, and in taking tests. I also stressed that reading will lead them to success in life. The class last week had nearly 30 students, and I held their attention for an hour and twenty minutes. They continued asking questions even after their recess bell had gone off. Their teacher told me she was amazed to see this.

RT: Let's talk about your books. Each of your main characters is distinct, with lessons to learn about themselves. There’s Eddy Thompson the pathological cheater (Terror at Wolf Lake); Andy Washburn who wants less family togetherness not more (North Woods Poachers) and Randy Wilcox and his friends who have to decide what to do when they discover the money stolen from a bank (The Secret of Abbott’s Cave). How important are the moral lessons to these stories?

Max Eliot: The moral lessons are the central reason for the books. At one time, we told our young people that no matter what happened, or the trouble they got into, it was not their fault. We taught them to blame someone else. I believe we have a responsibility to try and leave this world a better place than when we found it. If we don’t do things to insure that the next generation will live as responsible citizens and raise their children to do the same, then we are only one generation away from destroying our culture. Many people in the history of our country made great sacrifices so we could enjoy this wonderful country.

RT: It seems that there are adventures anywhere you can go for outdoor/wilderness exploration. To date, you’ve gone as far west as Wyoming and Colorado; north to Canada; and east to Virginia. What drew you to these locations for setting your stories?

Max Eliot: Each of these locations is a place where I’ve traveled to, made films, or have lived at some time. They are places where great adventure is always a possibility. As a child, I always liked the outdoors, so this finds its way into many of the stories. The pattern you mention is simply the result of publication; the books are not being released in the order in which they were written. The very first manuscript I wrote, The Scarecrow, begins in a large city. The next story I’m planning to write, When the Lights Go Out, will take place on a military base in Germany, and will have a terrorist plot. I lived in Germany for nearly two years where I served in the US Army. Hmm…wonder how I picked that location?

RT: How do you come to select the plots for the adventure series?

Max Eliot: Each project begins with a title that comes to my mind. I type it onto a title page as if it were to be the next project, then I try to forget about it. I have several title pages like this. If you stop thinking about it, sooner or later it comes to you. My stories are like that. All of a sudden, the entire story will present itself, complete with main character, setting, and plot. I like to tell audiences that most of my ideas come while I’m driving, while mowing the grass, or taking a shower. I used to try to jot everything down, but this was difficult when I was dripping wet, and downright dangerous while driving. Now I quickly tell myself the story into a mini-recorder. But the plot is 100 percent driven by the title which came earlier.

RT: Each of the stories in your series opens with introducing the key members of the main character’s life. Frequently it is Mom, Dad, a sister, and maybe a pet. How important is building the story around family members to this target audience? Given that so many children come from disrupted or broken homes, what is your goal in creating this scenario for them?

Max Eliot: This is an excellent question. Again, this is a pattern that comes from the order in which the titles are released by the publisher. I like to paint a picture for readers, not so much as how their life might be right now, but rather, how things could be if they choose a certain path for their future. In other words, just because their childhood may have been difficult, they have the power to establish a life and family in the future that is whatever they want it to be. But my stories run the gamut. Divorce is a key element in Captain Jack's Treasure; there is an abusive, alcoholic mother in The Scarecrow; and Midnight Shadows has a father who is physically abusive to his son. There are several other scenarios like these, but you get the idea.

RT: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Max Eliot: There is something special happening with my books. I’m finding that once a family discovers one of them, they tend to purchase all of the available titles. I believe this is because the books are unique in the market. Parents are searching for material that will move kids away from so much time with TV, video games, computers, and DVDs. My books are the answer to this dilemma. I’ve written 32 manuscripts over the past three years. Parents can find out more about my books on my Web site. Children are our future. They are our greatest resource. We have the responsibility to give them all the tools they need in order to be productive, responsible citizens. An early love of reading is the key to their success. It took me more than 50 years to understand this.

Website: http://www.maxbooks.9k.com


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