Sunday, 8 January 2017

Should authors worry about giving away spoilers? By Keren David

I have a new book out this month. It's called The Liar's Handbook, it's published by Barrington Stoke (the specialist publishers for dyslexic readers), and it has a gorgeous cover, designed by Tom Morgan-Jones. It's about a teenage boy called River who is a compulsive liar, on a quest to dig out the truth about his mum's seriously dodgy-seeming boyfriend, Jason. 

Unfortunately, there's not much else I can tell you. I can't tell you anything about the real life cases it is based on. I can't tell you about the research I did, or how strongly I feel about....but that could give away....and so....

The problem is that one doesn't want to spoil one's own story. And yet, often the spoilery stuff is the most exciting thing. So, on school visits and on panels, in blogs and interviews, you effectively gag yourself. 'It has plot twists!' you promise. 'It's really interesting!'  But the fact that one book  is actually about...say....bisexuality. I can't really say that.  Or another might be about mental breakdown....but does that give away too much?  Or this one is about policemen who....No, I can't say more. I mustn't. The book isn't even out yet. 

This wasn't a problem for my first book, When I Was Joe, when the Interesting Thing (boy goes into witness protection) happens in virtually the first chapter, making it easy to talk about. Or in my standalone (soon to be a musical), Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, where our heroine's jackpot is detailed in the first sentence. But my last three books have all had late twists, which must be concealed when talking to people who haven't read them, making my job just that little bit more difficult.

I am an idiot. 

Some authors don't worry about giving away major twists. Karen Jay Fowler's We are All Completely Beside Ourselves has a major twist on page 77, which changes the whole way you  understand the story -  a twist which she was happy to talk about when publicising the book. And I imagine that the spoiler drew more readers than it annoyed. But I feel that books for children and teenagers are different. You want to keep them reading to find out what happens next, not give it all away before they get their hands on it. 

So, I hope you will read The Liar's Handbook, even though I can't tell you much about it. It's about lies and truth and ....and....other stuff. And I will try to remember to keep my USP and my twists separate from now on. And I am very interested to know if any of you have the same problem, and how you handle it.


Sue Purkiss said...


Sue Bursztynski said...

At least it's your book to make that decision about. How do you think it feels to be a reviewer who, perhaps, dislikes the twist, but can't mention it because of spoilers? So has to say, "I have problems with this book, but can't tell you why, because of spoilers". ;-) Or have an author moaning that you HAVE done spoilers on their magnum opus? (There's one author who will never get a review from me again because of her public whinging about that.)

Sue Bursztynski said...

I should add, if she'd sent me a private email about the matter, I would have apologised and rewritten.

Clara Bartlett said...
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Dawn Finch said...

Recently I met someone who is very big in the book world and she told me that she always reads the end first! I couldn't do that, and I'm not overly keen on spoilers. However, I'm only bothered by them if the book is meant to have an element of mystery.
I recently saw a whole article in the Guardian listing books with unreliable narrators. I hate that because now I know that the narrator is unreliable and I feel that has robbed me of a major plot twist!