Telling stories isn’t easy although Adam Baron makes it seem like it is. My former creative writing professor has just released his sixth book, and it’s both poignant and very funny. Boy Underwater, published by HarperCollins, hit bookshelves last month.
Sarah Hughes, fiction publisher at Harper Collins UK, reportedly called Boy Underwater one of those “once in a decade books,” adding that “Adam is exactly the kind of exceptional voice-led talent that we all dream of and I couldn’t be more delighted and proud to welcome him to the HarperCollins list.”
I talked to Adam about this heartbreaking, honest story about a broken family with secrets, told from the perspective of nine-year-old Cymbeline. We discussed voice, humour, planning (or lack thereof) and writing for young readers. Take it from me, you don’t have to be young to enjoy Boy Underwater, just young at heart.
Who wouldn’t love the opening few lines of Boy Underwater:
Here’s something you won’t believe.
I, Cymbeline Igloo, have never been swimming.
It’s the swimming bit you won’t believe, by the way, though if you don’t believe my name either, it really is Cymbeline Igloo, and you have to believe that because it’s written on my schoolbag and in my jumpers and on lots of other things, like my passport. You won’t believe I’ve never been swimming because I mean totally never. Not ever. Not once in my whole life. I am nine years old!
And so it goes.
Question: Adam, I read in a blog you wrote that you wanted to write a book for children whose lives are not perfect, where faily life might be unstable or where there’s mental illness. What advice would you give aspiring writers who want to tackle difficult possibly scary issues for young readers?
Adam: You have to take care of your reader, know that you have a great responsibility. They must always know that, while the journey may be challenging, you will bring them home safely.
Question: I also read in that same blog that there are some serious autobiographical details in Boy Underwater? How about on the lighter side? Are there any embarrassing titbits from the past that provided fertile material for Boy Underwater? Do tell.
Adam: Not really but my first memory is of falling into a swimming pool and sitting at the bottom of it, quite happily watching the flicking light. I was two years old. My heavily pregnant mother jumped in to save me.
Read the rest of my Q&A with Adam here in 26’s July e-letter. 26 is an association for writers to inspire the love of words.