James Dawson, author of teen read Hollow Pike , explains why he has to hold back on the cussing in order to get his books accepted by the gatekeepers , booksellers and librarians.
Any artist tries to reproduce reality on their terms. So, as an author, I aim to portray young adult characters in the most honest way possible. Logically, this involves them swearing. In Hollow Pike, I was allowed shit and any swear word
less than this one ie bloody, Jesus Christ etc. Interestingly shit was only allowed as a curse, not as a bodily function (all bodily functions were removed at the edit, to make the characters more aspirational). It was only when
editing my new, second novel that I asked if I could use even stronger swear words in an extreme situation of peril.
My editor was sympathetic and has no personal objections to stronger words than shit , but it was at this stage the gatekeepers were first mentioned. Booksellers, book groups, librarians and bookshop buyers form this steely line of
defence. They are arguably the most powerful link in the publishing chain. These are the people who decide whether or not to sell your product. Without them, a book, especially a book by a debut author, is relegated to the internet and warehouse
shelves thus limiting the potential contacts a reader can make with the book in the real world
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