Balloons, plenty of snacks, a comforting tower of books, and a packed auditorium. The occasion? A visit by the outrageously popular YA author Anthony Horowitz to my hometown of Montclair. The event was enthusiastically hosted Watchung Booksellers — and the audience was VERY EXCITED! One kid behind me kept calling out, “I love you, Tony, I love you!”
The object of all the hoopla, Tony himself, was endearingly frank and funny. Best known for the Alex Rider series about a skateboarding teen recruited by MI6, Tony has written more than 50 books and countless TV shows, including Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders (a favorite of my husband David and my son Alex). His 9 Alex Rider novels alone have sold more than 12 million copies worldwide — and counting.
But here’s the scoop: Tony wrote 15 novels with only fair to middling success until he hit the jackpot with Stormbreaker, his first Alex Rider thriller. He dreamed up Alex by thinking back to his love of James Bond movies. Wouldn’t it be great, he thought to himself one day, if James was young again — say a cool teenage boy? He took the name Alex from the son of a friend and came up with Rider because it reminded him of cowboys and knights. Later he tested a bunch of names with 100 kids. Percy Threadneedle lost and Alex Rider came out on top. Bingo!
Tony had lots of stories and some great advice for young writers in the audience — and all of us as well:
1) Read a lot. The more you read, the better you’ll write.
2) Write a lot. The more you write, the better you get — and the more energy
and enthusiasm you bring to the page, the more your readers will feel.
3) Get out and have lots of adventures, so you’ll have something to write about.
4) Believe in yourself — there are plenty of people around who won’t. Forget
about them — you’re the one who counts.
5) Never give up. There’s only one difference between a successful and an
unsuccessful writer: the unsuccessful writer gives up. Keep on writing.
“When I write a book, it’s pure. The whole world belongs to me…. I’ve been writing for 20 years and I’m still as excited and passionate as I was when I first picked up a pen.” Next up: a Sherlock Holmes novel. Write on, Tony, write on!