Tony Lee

Tony Lee Badger Learning AuthorTony is a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author with a career including Doctor Who and Star Trek for IDW, Spider Man and X-Men for Marvel, Superboy for DC Comics, MacGyver: Fugitive Gauntlet with show creator Lee David Zlotoff for Image, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: The GN for Del Rey and Battlestar Galactica for Dynamite Entertainment.

With a new career emerging in film and TV screenwriting in both the UK and the US, he's also the screenwriter of The Mild Bunch, with Colin Baker and Frazer Hines attached to star in, and The Last Moriarty, co-created with Lee David Zlotoff.

Adding to his successful titles, Jigsaw Lady and Stalker for Badger Learning's Teen Reads II series, he has also written Otis, for their stormy reluctant teen reader series, Dark Reads II.

Q&A with Tony Lee

What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?

I've done a series of school talks called 'Change The Channel' over the last few years, aiming primarily at reluctant readers, learning what they like and don't like about reading books. And, during these talks I found myself using the Badger Learning books, time and time again as a resource for schools. It made sense to work with them on stories!

What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?

The main one is boredom. They don't care about the journey, all they want is the destination. So you need to find a journey that they relate to. Something that they can go 'yeah, I'd do that', so if they like football? It's a footballer. They like horror? Then throw them straight into it. Find the thing they really like, and find the book using that. I once met a student who hated reading, would never read another book again, but loved fishing and actually had lots of books on fishing - but he didn't class them as books, as he had this mindset from school of what 'books' were supposed to be.

What is your favourite type of character to create?

Someone with a dark and mysterious secret, who might not be helping the hero for the reasons we think they are. I've always liked that sort of person, the one who could betray you at any moment... but doesn't.

What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High Interest appeal that really engages young readers?

In my comics, I've always ensured that I get to the action, I throw the reader straight into it. And in these two Teen Reads, I do the same. From the very beginning you're in there with either Billy or Aashif, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel.

What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?

Most students I speak to think that as they can't read 'grown up' books or books comparable to their age, they're stuck on Spot The Dog or Janet and John, and this embarrasses them. But these books have twists, horror and are far more graphic than the usual books aimed at such a young reading age. This makes them unique, and gains a 'coolness' that the kids can use. Anyone can read these books. And if you don't like reading, a scary book might pull you back in.

Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your two upcoming Teen Reads titles?

Shocks and cliffhangers. Strange, unexplainable things and people really not having a good time. These aren't happy, romance novels.

What are the major themes of your work?

Supernatural, SciFi, Historical are the main ones. I often use a solo protagonist but sometimes I enjoy working with a group. I also enjoy writing 'what happened next' books, so showing further adventures of The Baker Street Irregulars, or re-writing classic legends like Robin Hood or King Arthur...

What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?

I have no controls - I write it how I like and then I go back through it. When I was young I remember reading books like Star Wars and Nine Prince In Amber, and I still read these today. Even comics like Tintin had an extensive vocabulary. I don't think using long words loses a reader, I think long unexplainable passages of text does. But at the same time I have an editor who reigns me back in if I go too far!

What is your favourite children's book?

I was a massive Secret Seven and Famous Five fan when I was a kid, but I mainly read comics like Batman, Superman, Asterix and Tintin. The books that got me really into reading were actually the Target Doctor Who novelisations.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?

Never start at the beginning when working out a story and always work out the book, even if it's very rough before starting - otherwise you'll get halfway through and you'll realise you've wandered off the path and are now deep in the woods.

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