I've just been speaking to Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series. He's got a new one out featuring most of the same characters, but without Percy, which introduces three new heroes.
I've spoken to Rick once before, less than a year ago, and although there is something of the earnest schoolteacher meets CEO of a mid sized company about him, I like him a lot.
He's passionate about getting kids to read. His inspiration for the Jackson stories was his own son's problems with reading. He needed to tell a story in an efficient, page turning, unputdownable way.
Mixing up High School with the Greek Myths did the trick and if you've got a child in the 9+ range I suggest you get them a couple. They are great fun and actually easier to read than say Harry Potter or Philip Pullman.
I think this is a greatly over looked aspect of being a writer. Too many critics rush to dismiss novels that they consider 'easy' or 'throwaway' or 'pure entertainment' and that goes for kids books as well as adult fiction.
It's harder and harder these days to find the time to read a book. We're bombarded with alternatives. TV, internet, going out, all night swinger parties (if you happen to be an MSP that is).
But - and Rick makes this point - reading a novel: being able to read a novel. Or a non fiction book. It's a real skill. It's a different, more engaging, deeper experience than skimming through a website, reading a newspaper or updating your Facebook page with photos of your new kitchen.
I met a pal for a drink last night and he couldn't think of the last time he'd read a book. Six or seven months ago, he thought it was. "And it was rubbish," he said. Which struck me as a bloody shame. There's so much good stuff out there. But I also think it's up to the writers to engage with their readers, keep them gripped from page one, and to serve up an experience that will make them think how worthwhile reading can be.
I'll post the interview with Rick in due course.