I went to college, graduated in the last recession (1982), and eventually found work as a writer, writing copy for brochures like "What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer" [don't get it] or ad campaigns or employee newsletters. Because I worked in health care, the government had rules about readability levels. I once wrote a brochure on necrotizing jaw fasciitis that read at a sixth grade level, even though it had those two difficult words in it many times!
I didn't start trying to write novels until I was in my thirties, and first published when I was 39. When my first teen book was published in 2006, Kirkus gave it the typical snarky review, but said something about how it might appeal to reluctant readers. I was totally unfamiliar with the term, and thought it odd when it turned up in review after review. Basically, teens have to read for school, at least some, whether they want to or not. Those are reluctant readers. Adults who don't want to read, don't.
And it turns out that kind of books I write - about danger and murder and kidnapping - are perfect for teens who don't like to read. And maybe thanks to all those years I wrote copy that had to pass government requirements for reading levels, I know how to communicate complex topics fairly simply.
Every week or two I get letters like these:
"You are an amazing author. I never really liked to read until I started reading your books I'M HOOKED! I couldn't put any of them down! They are crazy page turners! THANK YOU FOR WRITING BOOKS!!!!"
"I don't like reading. I would never read books. I'm the type to play sports but when I first read the few pages, it got my attention and I just needed to read more and more to see what is going to happen next. I love mysteries/horror/action movies. I would watch them all the time but when I read this book I really felt like I was watching the movie in my head . When I told my friend about this book and I was telling him what was going on I felt like I watched this movie but there was no movie, it was a book I read.
I never-ever liked reading at ALL! But my teacher ordered me the book Girl,Stolen and I didn't want to read it,but then I decided to.I only read the first two pages,and couldn't put the book down! I loved it!"
"You have made me love reading now and I thank you for that. I love your books I think you are so awesome and again thank you for showing me that reading is fun and NOT stupid."
I want to be reluctant readers' gateway drug.