This weekend, I'm off to Chicago to appear at the annual convention of the American Library Association.
My Friend Dahmer was, much to my delight, one of the most talked about Young Adult reads of the past year. It was honored with an Alex Award, one of only ten books selected, for outstanding YA books. That's the primary reason for my attendance at the convention, to pick up the hardware.
It wasn't by design that MFD fits into the YA category. In fact, I didn't give it a thought when writing the book. Call it a happy accident. I made the decision early on, when making my early MFD short stories years ago, to strip this book of everything that would be deemed offensive. There is no violence to speak of, no depictions of grisly butchery or sex with corpses or any of the unspeakable acts that Dahmer committed. Heck, there's not even any swearing! My view was that the book was controversial enough just in concept, without giving critics additional ammo to riddle it with holes. I also like that the book isn't what people think it is when they first crack it open. Many expect a certain tale, and when they get to the end, found that they have read an altogether different one. As an author, that's a bit of a rush to pull that off, and to hear that from readers over and over. I like being surprising.
Now, I freely admit the title is purposely provocative. That was a tad manipulative on my part, I can't argue that. But titles have to be provocative. The point is, after all, to sell books.
I suppose I should have anticipated the YA appeal. This book is about teenagers, and their secret world and their interactions, as much as it's about Dahmer. Even though it took place long ago, in a very different world, most of this stuff is universal. Apparently, I nailed that. And it's about a serial killer, which teenagers of any era dig big time.
In any case, I'm extremely grateful to librarians for championing My Friend Dahmer, You've been a real boon. If any of you would like me to Skype in for a book club or a chat, feel free to firstname.lastname@example.org