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By Ben Cameron, Feb 8 2018 10:57PM

By SJ Sherwood

The last thing I had intended to do was to write YA Dystopian Trilogy. I had originally planned to write an adult thriller and was almost ready to start the hard work. However, during my planning stage, I had set three questions for my lead character.

1. Who are your mentors?

2. Who do you turn to when you're in trouble?

3. Who can you trust?

As I started to dig into the questions, the answers that emerged made me think about who I really wanted to aim my book at.

I had not had the easiest of childhoods - an alcoholic stepfather and a self-absorbed, chronically angry mother were not the best combination for a happy marriage. I was shipped off to school and what felt like my heart being ripped from my chest as I was separated from my family home, turned out to be a seminal moment in my life. For the first time, I was given real attention and a structure - you know, time keeping, being polite, working hard, that kind of stuff. I also learnt the utmost importance of having positive people in my life.

But I realised, that for many, the above questions aren't so simple, as they wouldn't have been for me before getting sent away to school. I feel lucky that I was cut a break, but living in London, it's not hard to see disillusioned young men, who are more interested in materialism then understanding who they are and what they are capable of as unique individuals. Men no longer seem to have a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood.

They were the catalyst of why I ended up choosing orphans as my main characters - the image of the lost and forgotten. It's why I further isolated them in my dystopian world, and forced them to work together, to have to trust each other when they really wanted to run or even fight as the easier choice. We are all hard wired to be part of a group, a tribe, a basic family structure of some sorts. Ned, my main, protagonist is a contradiction. He's a loner by nature, but he craves friends. He's tough and self-reliant, but he wants to communicate and be part of a tribe. More importantly, he wants to do something with his life and he has to answer the three questions above in order to progress. I love his personal challenge.

The current YA market is dominated by some excellent women writers who pen strong female characters. The market it deep and mature, and sales speak for themselves. But if you look at books for boys in this bracket, they tend to fall into two board categories: your mini-James Bond/ Spy Hero; or the Apocalyptic/ Sci Fi where the lead character is an alpha male and somewhat stereotyped (sorry, fellow writers). Patrick Ness with his Chaos Walking Trilogy and James Dashner with his Maze Runner Series, gave us male characters who were looking to define themselves through the challenges they encountered. But, I feel, that what has followed has been a bit thin on the ground for teenage boys who want to read this type of book.

To date, most of my readers have been YA female teenagers or young women who have been extremely kind with their reviews. However, I'm slowly but surely tapping into those teenage boys who seem to get what I'm trying to say. If, like me, their start wasn't the best but they get a sense that you can pick your mentors, as you can your tribe and friends then I will have achieved something. And if, like Ned, they find that that thinking for themselves and learning to trust their instincts is something they have to develop, then perhaps us men don't need that rite of passage, just a better understanding of who we are.

And if one teenage boy gets to understand that his destiny is his choice and not chance, then, as a storyteller, I've hit my goal and I'll go to sleep a contented man.

SJ Sherwood is the author The Denounced. He grew up in a small town in rural England and spent most of his youth dreaming of escaping to the bright lights of a big city. He eventually made it to London where he writes, enjoys life, and strives to be happy. You can find out more at

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By Ben Cameron, Aug 31 2016 03:42PM

It took me a long time to admit to anyone that I read popular business books. You know, the ones that you see in the bookshops at airports and train stations - they usually have titles that are just single words (like Blink, Bounce, Nudge or Switch) or have numbers in them (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The 4-Hour Work Week, The $100 Start-up). I used to see them as pointless rehashes of common sense things that we already know. And I was 75% right.

But the other 25% has real value for authors and business owners – and if you are an independent (self-published) author than you ARE a business owner, like it or not! So here are my picks of books that can help authors to juggle their workload, think creatively and run their writing career like a business.

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

A terrific book about how to fail well - and how to learn from failure. Everything that you write will not be a masterpiece and as an author you only grow if you are taking chances and learning from the writing process.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

A collection of essays and columns by probably the best storyteller in the business book world. Full of fascinating business insights and counterintuitive revelations.

Entrepreneur Revolution by Daniel Priestly

If you are a part of the self-publishing world you are a part of the Entrepreneur Revolution. Priestly holds nothing back in his advice on how to create a profile for your business that will get you noticed and how to enjoy your life as a business-owner.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Lists! And even lists within lists! Allen is the king of the art of planning your day effectively, even if that means being super-efficient for a short time to get your jobs done so that you have more time to write.

The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan

I love a good mind map - my favourite tool for thinking though a problem creatively. It is also a great way to think through your book in a non-linear way to give you a different perspective on your work.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

How to create good habits and how to break bad ones. A book that is both practical and insightful, particularly if you waste most of your writing time checking Facebook.

So what are your favourite business books? I would love to know which ones and what they do for you…

Comments or questions? Leave comments here or you can contact us at, Twitter: @CameronPMtweets or Facebook:

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