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Knowing Your Audience

When I wrote Starstrikers I had in mind an audience of readers from about age 14 through adult. That’s the age I first started reading SF novels myself. I was not thinking about what makes a book appropriate for a teen as opposed to an adult, like using harsh language or sexual content or even violence. I was just writing what I liked to read. Which as it turned out, did not include graphic violence, sex or harsh language. As a consequence, Starstrikers is actually a Clean book. Most upstanding Christian readers would not object to anything in that book.

I believe that has actually helped the book find a wider audience than if it had been a strictly adult novel. More than one parent has asked me at signings whether the book was appropriate for their teenage son or daughter. I enthusiastically said that it was just fine for a younger reader.

When I wrote Tyrmia, I decided to take off those kid gloves and write an adult novel. By that I mean that I would write it for adults and not allow myself to be constrained by language or other adult content. It was not permission to be totally crazy, just a stance that the action would be appropriate for an adult reader. Tyrmia has the f-bomb in it. But only twice and only because the hero is warranted in using it. There is nudity and at least one sex scene. The violence is intense but not overly graphic. At least not by my weak constitution. It has a more mature theme.

It’s still early in the shelf life for Tyrmia, but guess which book sells better? Yup, the one that appeals to a wider audience – Starstrikers. This is not entirely due to the adult rating of Tyrmia. Starstrikers is after all a true Space Opera and has lots of SF elements to it. It’s also Military SF so it draws in those fans. Tyrmia is darn near a Fantasy novel in most respects. Closer to Steampunk than Star Wars. It’s harder to sell a hybrid genre book than one that is clearly within the genre it is appealing too.

As I write Starforgers, the prequel to Starstrikers, I’m again consciously attempting to write a clean novel appropriate for a wider audience. In fact the follow-on book to Starstrikers, the sequel if you like – Starveyers, will be clean too. So a young reader can enjoy three novels set in the same universe and a parent can be assured there is nothing inappropriate in those three books. But as my younger audience grows up, they will be able to come back to that universe and still be entertained, just in a more adult fashion. The adult books set in the Starstrikers Universe are all named after planets. Tyrmia is the first of that series.

Currently Starstrikers is not being marketed as a YA or even a Clean novel. I may change that marketing approach after all three books are completed. But for now most readers won’t notice anything missing from them unless they are looking for it. But when you read Tyrmia, you are aware that its not a kids book pretty early on. The problem is conveying this fact to parents of readers who are fans of Starstrikers. Many SF authors in the past and present have both adult novels and juvenile novels in their repertoire. So this idea of writing for children and for adults is not so crazy or new.

I sometimes wish that books were labeled like movies. If that were the case, Starforgers, Starstrikers and Starveyers would be PG-13 and Tyrmia would be R.


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