Lee Bacon is standing on the platform waiting for a late train in Munich. This is unusual, as trains in Germany are known for being impeccably punctual.
While waiting, Bacon thinks of the opening for his first children’s book, “Our class got out of sixth period early the day my parents tried to flood the earth.”
Coincidentally, Joshua Dread (Delacorte Press, 2012), the story of a 12-year-old boy who discovers his parents are villains and he also has superpowers, is now being translated into German. The book will also be published in Australia, France, Israel, and New Zealand.
“I was so focused on just getting my book published in America,” said Bacon, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. “That really feels like icing on the cake.”
Originally from a small Texas town called College Station, Bacon began writing stories at the age of seven, drawing goofy illustrations and making family and friends laugh. His first story was called No Way Out, about a spy named Lary. Yes, he spelled it with one ‘R.’
Like most of us, Bacon left his childish beginnings and struggled to write for adults. Then came rejection after rejection.
In an unexpected turn in life, Bacon would find his niche. In 2007, he left the country to be with his long-distance girlfriend, now wife, in Munich. He began reading children’s books to study German when he rediscovered an old love—writing children stories.
“What I like about kids’ books today is that there is a version of reality that is strange and familiar, in a lot of ways, but you don’t have to explain it,” Bacon, 33, said.
One Amazon reviewer commented, “There’s a supervillain trade fair, unstoppable monsters, robotic butlers, flying SUVs, celebrity superheroes appearing in the pages of tabloid magazines, zombies–not to mention, tons of action and humor on every page.”
Underneath the wackiness is a simple statement: Joshua Dread just wants to fit in. Every kid does. These common facts of life in children’s books attract a wide audience from children to adults.
In Joshua Dread’s world, the superheros and supervillains occupy a celebrity status similar to reality TV. Bacon’s small fans thought of him as a celebrity when he visited their schools to do readings. Did you take a limo? Were you recognized? His school visits included California, New York, and Texas.
He said he enjoyed reading the voices and acting out the scenes for the fourth and fifth graders. “It’s interesting to see what they’re curious about. What they laugh at and respond to.”
These moments remind Bacon how much their minds wander with excitement and endless energy. While writing the first book of the series, Bacon said his editor emphasized that he was explaining too much for his young audience and needed to keep the story focused on the action. “With my first book, I had a tendency for characters to think through things they were going to do,” Bacon said.
Now the second installment, Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero releases September 24, followed by Joshua Dread: The Dominion Key, which publishes May 13, 2014. Bacon is already at work on the fourth.
He also has an e-book original short story, A Mutant Named Mizzie (Delacorte Press) and it releases April 9. Captain Justice, a main character in the Joshua Dread series, comes to the rescue of a mutant baby.
Bacon said he is planning a second round of school visits next month in Arlington, Texas.
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