BookTrust’s new writer in resident Taran Matharu has discussed the need for publishers to capitalise on young people’s enthusiasm for gaming through books.
The YA fantasy author known for the Summoner series (Hodder Children’s Books) takes over from illustrator Sarah McIntyre with a six-month residency with the reading charity.
Matharu, billed as a “Wattpad sensation” will explore the “benefits of reading and writing online, being a young writer and the intersections between books and gaming” in blogs and vlogs for the literacy charity.
He attracted more than six million reads on writing platform Wattpad after writing epic fantasy début, The Novice, as part of NaNoWriMo 2013, now published by Hodder Children’s Books. After launching on the Wattpad platform it attracted offers from six agents within 24 hours of submission, went to auction in four countries and helped launch the first ever UK-based Wattpad Convention in 2015. He went on to sign a six-figure deal for four books with Hodder in 2015 for the fourth book in the ‘Summoner’ series, due for publication in 2018, and a second series of three books, which will launch 2019.
The author, whose influences include Brian Jacques, Ursula K Le Guin and J K Rowling, said: “There is always going to be a struggle to grab the attention, attention-spans are getting shorter because there are so many demands on [young people's] time but that's not to say that books can’t fit the space, they need to adapt. Having more books online will help.
"Serialised fiction on the rise, and bite-sized entertainment like YouTube clips as well as cliffhangers from things such as 'Game of Thrones' show opportunities for publishing. I serialised my work on Wattpad, a chapter a day online and it really appealed to online readers and every day there was something to read, a cliffhanger, pretty much all of them ended on one, if not a massive one. Perhaps shorter-form books in quicker succession [could help publishers adapt]."
Matharu revealed that he had learnt about Wattpad whilst interning at Penguin Random House two years ago. He said: "I was asking my boss if I could show my work to an editor. He said 'Why don't you put it on Wattpad?' I think he was quite surprised it did as well as it did.
"If you look at Twitch [a video platform for gamers], it’s the only live streaming channel dedicated to people playing video games - this is an area people are incredibly passionate about there is a way of getting these people to read as well as play these games.
"I plan to make a list of best RPG (role-playing video game) books as part of my role, to explore the intersectionality between video games and books so parents who aren’t experts in gaming can find out about a book on this because ultimately it’s about getting kids reading."
Matharu also worked at e-book platform, BlinkboxBooks, in 2014 and then with the National Literacy Trust to promote Reading for Pleasure in schools.
He revealed how the previous writers in residence have inspired him in his new role. He said: "It feels like an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity, the people there before have been such successful authors who have done such a brilliant jobs."
Diana Gerald, BookTrust c.e.o, said: “We are delighted to welcome Taran as the next BookTrust Writer in Residence. The project gives visitors to the BookTrust website a unique insight into the minds of acclaimed writers. We fully support Taran’s mission to bridge the gap between video games and reading because to help get children turning pages, they need to be offered books that excite them. Taran’s thrilling books certainly fit that bill, especially for some of the more reluctant readers.”
The BookTrust writer in residence project has been running since March 2009 and has featured several authors and illustrators including Cressida Cowell, Sita Brahmachari, Patrick Ness, Polly Dunbar, Bali Rai, Matt Haig, Laura Dockrill, Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Philip Ardagh and Phil Earle. Each resident explores topics that they are passionate about with previous themes including the power of stories, diversity in children’s literature and the importance of libraries.
For more information, visit the Booktrust website.