Check here every Tuesday for a new blog on issues surrounding young adult mysteries and young adult writing in general.
This week’s blog is by award-winning young adult author Charles Benoit, who, for reasons that will shortly be made clear, once had the best reason going for wanting to see The Poisoned Pencil become a reality. Charles’ current book is Cold Calls, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. For some reason he also writes adult books.
Ok, let’s get this out there at the start of this whole Poisoned Pencil Press thingy. It was my idea. The name, the approach, the YA-focus. All me. You’re welcome.
Oh sure, Rob will probably point out some “facts” to dispute this, but these are small, almost trivial points that can be dismissed as irrelevant. Little things, like how he and Barbara had first envisioned a young adult imprint back when they started Poisoned Pen Press, or how they had the name and philosophy in place years before I started writing my first novel, Relative Danger, which they published in 2004. And knowing Rob, he’ll make a big deal out of a conversation we had over dinner the night of my book launch at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, the one where he asked me if I had any interest in writing a book for teen readers since he hoped to one day start a Poisoned Pencil line, and how I told him that it sounded silly and that I had less-than-zero interest in writing for kids. Yeah, he’ll dredge all that up, but it won’t change the simple fact that it was all my idea.
While I don’t see why it’s necessary, allow me to explain.
Back in 5th grade, I was a voracious, 18-hour-a-day reader, the kind you can be only when you’re a kid with no need for a job or a social life. I bet it describes you at that age as well, and I bet you have just as many fond memories wandering through your local library or bookstore. And like me, you may have stumbled upon the mystery shelves in the Adult section, where you saw covers that were a lot more interesting that what they had over where you were “supposed” to be. And the titles—The Big Kill, The Perfect Murder, A Dram of Poison, Murdering Mr. Velfrage, The Killer Inside Me—well, it sure made it hard to get excited about re-reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle. It was on one of those other-side-of-the-library trips that I came up with the idea for The Poisoned Pencil. “One day I will launch a high-quality book publishing company that will specialize in providing young readers with outstanding works of mystery and crime fiction. It will be a place where talented authors will be discovered and established authors will find an eager new audience. It will be a publisher that librarians across the country can count on to deliver the kind of books that will not only appeal to teens but to anyone who loves a great story, expertly told. I shall call this publishing company The Poisoned Pencil.”
Granted, there was no one there to hear it, and it may have been in my head, but I’m 100% sure I said it, or something like it, or something that involved some of those words in a different order and around another context. And I know for a fact that I knew both the word poisoned and the word pencil at a very early age. I’d like to see Rob dispute that!
Here are some different facts for you: In 2010, after publishing three around-the-world-adventure mysteries with Poisoned Pen Press, I wrote my first YA novel, YOU. Back then, there was no Poisoned Pencil (at least physically), but Barbara and Rob believed in me enough to help me find a fantastic agent (I didn’t have one before) who sold my book to Harper Collins. Today I’m with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and my newest YA, Cold Calls, was released just last month. But I’ll always be proud to be part of the PPP family and the many people there who believe in the magic of books. I’m looking forward to reading Poisoned Pencil books, just like I look forward to every new release from Poisoned Pen Press, because I know that with either imprint, I’m in for a great read. You are, too.
So congrats to Rob and Barbara and everyone at Poisoned Pencil. You’re going to make wonderful waves in the YA world. Even if it was my idea.