February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ’s SummerTeen Speaker: Gareth Hinds

SLJ‘s online event, SummerTeen: A Celebration of Young Adult Books, is just one month away, and we’ve asked some of your favorite participating authors a few questions in advance of the August 9 show. First up is Gareth Hinds, whose graphic novels include Beowulf, a retelling of the oldest extant poem in English, and an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

SummerTeen, which takes place between 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., includes an impressive lineup of the hottest names in YA lit—including Barry Lyga, Garth Nix, A.S. King, and Maggie Stiefvater—all talking about a range of topics that school and youth services librarians care about.

If you’ve signed up for SummerTeen, make sure to gather your students to hear Hinds speak on the “Classic Twists” panel from 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Make sure to keep an eye out for more of these brief interviews in the days and weeks ahead.

What do you like best about writing for a YA audience?

Hinds: I don’t write for one particular audience, I just try to share what I love about the classics, and it turns out that middle and high school students are a great audience for my books, because they can use some help understanding what’s so great about these (rather intimidating) works.

How did you end up writing graphic novels?

Hinds: I came to graphic novels as an illustrator, wanting to tell stories with pictures. I wanted to tell the best possible stories, and I didn’t feel like my original writing was that great, so I decided to start by adapting some of the greatest stories ever written.

What’s one of the most moving things you’ve heard from a reader?

Hinds: This actually came from a teacher, but it was about one of her teen students, a young man who was apparently in a pretty bad place, getting involved with gang violence. She gave him my Beowulf and he really got excited about it, looked up my website. When he found out that I use computers to make some of the art, and that I worked in video games, he got really interested in computer graphics, and turned all his energy to that, and I guess it really pulled him out of that situation. I love my job anyway, but hearing that kind of thing makes me feel like I’m actually contributing something.

Do you ever worry about your being censored or challenged, and how does it affect your work?

Hinds: I don’t really have to worry about the content of canonical literary works being challenged, but I do have to be conscious about how I draw certain things, especially nudity. There are various scenes in The Odyssey, for instance, where I covered up the characters a bit more than Homer probably envisioned, and in the bedroom scene the morning after Romeo and Juliet’s wedding night, I have her wearing a nightgown, which maybe wouldn’t have been my first choice. But I have to ask myself whether these changes actually interfere with the story in any way, and if the answer is no then I make them, so that teachers won’t be afraid to use my books with their students. I want to make their job easier, not harder.

How valuable are librarians at getting the word out about your work?

Hinds: Librarians are fantastic. I have no way to quantify it, but whenever I chat with librarians at a trade show or an event, they are always fun, smart, awesome people, and are always excited about sharing my books.

What are you working on now?

Hinds: Romeo and Juliet will be out next year. At the moment I’m taking a short break from Shakespeare to work on scripts for a couple of original projects.

Read other SLJ SummerTeen interviews:

Earl Sewell

Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library JournalStronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.