Glenn: I want to talk to a friend here, Richard Paul Evans. He is the author of...I don’t know...how many millions of books have you sold, like 20 million?
Richard: Approaching 20 million.
Glenn: Yeah, happens all the time. Twenty million books, and he had a book called Michael Vey, a series, about three or four years ago. And he said, “I got a publisher that is telling me that I should dumb it down.” And I’m like, “Don’t do it.” And it was a young adult series. And we just went into publishing with Mercury, Inc., and so he published the first one with us and all of them with us, and it’s been a great relationship. And this is…the fourth book comes out today, Michael Vey: Hunt for Jade Dragon, and it is tremendous.
Raphe and I read it over the summer, but it is a series that I want to share with you because (a) Raphe loves to read now. He loves books. He didn’t when we first started, and now I can’t get his nose out of books. But it is also a book that I think without trying to teach things is teaching things. It’s teaching kids how to be kids, kids how to be heroes, how to make tough choices, how to love their mom and dad, without ever sounding like that—a tough book to write. How are you?
Richard: I’m well, thank you.
Glenn: Good. Comes out today?
Richard: Comes out today.
Glenn: Got your fingers crossed?
Richard: Uh huh.
Glenn: Yeah. This is one of the few books that has gone number one on the New York Times without a big movie. You know, it’s not Twilight or anything that goes out number one every time. Why? What’s happening?
Richard: I think it’s the message. I think America is hungry for this. And sometimes what you have to do is kind of counterintuitive to the industry. So where this doesn’t have a female protagonist—
Glenn: No vampires.
Richard: It’s not dark, not occult. It’s a story about a good kid, a humble kid who has some interesting challenges. He has Tourette’s syndrome, and he has electricity. And he gets put in difficult circumstances, and he solves the problems.
Glenn: Difficult circumstances is putting it—how many people in the audience have read the book? Have you all read the book? Okay, so a lot of people have read the book. Difficult circumstance might be a little mild. He’s taking on a group of people that want to take over the world. And in the first book, you do such a great job at these kids are offered anything, just do what I tell you to do, and you’ll be richer and more famous than you can possibly ever imagine. And the way the enticement is so evil and so good, and the way it happens in the real world, you know what I mean?
Richard: Uh huh.
Glenn: But then things become a little more difficult to see and easier to give up, you know? At the beginning of this book, they’re kind of tired; they don’t want to go on forever.
Richard: They’re filling their conscience. It’s like there’s…they know what’s right, and they want to do what’s right. And eventually it’s like you can’t buy that. You can’t buy peace of mind and peace of heart, and these kids are making good choices. But through the book, it’s like yeah, it does…are you talking about the good kids?
Richard: Yeah, the good kids, it’s like how long do we have to fight this battle? Because they’re real kids. It’s like one of them says, “Why can’t we just go back to where we used to be?”
Glenn: How many adults feel that way about what’s happening? Right, why can’t we just go back? I just want to stop fighting this battle. I just want to go back to the way it used to be to where I believed in things, and things were stable, etc., etc. But you don’t get that opportunity. We were blessed for a long time to live under the illusion that we don’t have to fight that battle. These kids go back and do it. And I don’t want to give any spoilers, but they’re going to have some things they’re dealing with in the next book that are even darker and more difficult as things go on.
You’re getting pushback—you’ve had people tell you…you had a publisher say dumb it down; it’s too smart, which I love, by the way. And then you’ve also had publishers or people tell you you shouldn’t write this because there’s no female…the hero should be Michelle, not Michael. And the other piece is that they wonder why you’re even wasting your time with a young—
Glenn: So how do you answer?
Richard: I actually posted a letter. It was a candid response to all my readers and those out there who said, “Why are you wasting your time?” It’s like look, I don’t make as much money writing these books. I can write adult novels and do great. It matters. It matters that our kids have heroes. And if you look at the last successful series, Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, they are all female protagonists.
As a father of four daughters, it’s important that our daughters have heroes, not that Hollywood is producing the kinds of heroes we want, but they need role models and strong role models. But what about our sons? Our sons are being thrown under the bus. They’re failing in school. They’re committing suicide at five times the rate of girls. They’re not getting into college. It’s like they need a hero. And so there is a subculture that is so anti-boy.
So when I created Michael Vey, I’m not surprised I was attacked by making a good kid who’s a hero. You know, there’s strong female characters and heroes in the book, absolutely, but Michael is a humble leader. He is not the swagger. He’s just a kid who wants to do the right thing. He loves his parents. In fact, that’s the number one comment I get from school teachers. It’s like gasp…he loves his parents. As if this is some huge leap of faith that we can’t cross.
Glenn: So we’re going to go to the audience here when we come back, but where does the series go from here? This is book four. You’ve got seven that you have. Where does it go from here? Are you finished with it?
Richard: No. I’m along for the ride, and I’m fascinated by what’s happening, because I’m looking at Hatch, and it’s scary when this thing kind of downloads to me from wherever it comes from, what I’m seeing, because I started seeing more and more relevance with what’s going on in the world. As Hatch figures out how to take over the world, it’s like you can buy the world. It’s like if he’s out there providing clean energy, people will just follow. And he’s actually twisted the truth so the good guys are bad, and the bad guys are good.
Glenn: It’s really amazing, and it’s been a real blessing, because, you know, especially my kids, they don’t want to talk to me sometimes about what’s coming in the world, you know? My older kids, my adult kids, I found out a few years ago, started at eight, started writing down my predictions and charting them and saying is Dad right or wrong about these things? And as they started coming true, they would check them off. So no, and I’m not kidding you, so now my older kids, we sat at the dinner table last Sunday, and they said literally just like this, “So…Dad…so what do you think is coming then?” And it scares the heck out of them, so they don’t necessarily like to ask me those questions.
This was such a great device to be able to say, without talking about politics or anything else, say do you notice how the bad guy here is manipulating? You notice how people are being used here? Look at what he’s just done. Can you think of a way that that would be used on people or could be used on you? And it’s fantastic, so I thank you for that. We’re going to go to the audience here in just a second.