Christian fiction author Tim Shoemaker is the award-winning author of the Code of Silence Series and a popular speaker—especially for school assemblies. When he isn’t on the speaking and teaching circuit, he’s busy working with kids and writing more great stories! He’s also an author of many non-fiction books. His books include Super Husband, Super Dad; Code of Silence; Back Before Dark; Below the Surface; Smashed Tomatoes, Bottle Rockets . . . and Other Outdoor Devotionals You Can Do With Your Kids; Dangerous Devotions for Guys; and more. He speaks for schools, churches, and parachurch organizations (such as Focus on the Family, Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conferences, International Network of Children’s Ministry, and the Moody Pastors’ Conference). In this interview, Tim shares his thoughts on his latest YA/Teen fiction book, Easy Target.
FF: Have you always loved books and reading? What about your childhood informed your love for reading and books?
I did enjoy reading as a kid. I loved mystery, adventure, and suspense. Reading was a chance to immerse myself in those adventures. And when I had kids of my own and started reading aloud to them, I LOVED seeing them drop into “story world,” totally captivated by a story. I think between my own childhood and reading to my kids, I learned the power a story could have in a reader’s life.
FF: How did you become a writer?
I had no dreams of becoming a writer, but often I made up stories and told them to my kids. Over and over they’d say “Dad, you’ve got to write these stories down.” I didn’t have any interest in doing that, but one time I tried writing a story. And I found I LOVED it . . . and discovered that is part of what God wanted me to do with my life.
FF: What motivated you to write Easy Target?
I love writing contemporary mystery or suspense, and also have a heart to help kids . . . to help them develop integrity and good character. So this was a foundational motivation. And for this book specifically, I am grieved by bullying . . . and the victims that are often unseen. And this was a way of me trying to help those who are hurting . . . to give them hope and answers. This was also a way of me helping readers “open their eyes” to see the hurting around them and to show them how they can be a hero, how they can help.
FF: What about the young adult genre do you enjoy?
So much!! This is an age that you don’t need to “write down” to,. so you can deal with real situations and tricky topics. And this age is on the edge of so many big decisions and paths that can take them to good places or bad. I love introducing characters the readers will love, and putting these characters in situations the readers resonate with. I feel by writing to this age group, I can help encourage them to make good choices, and spare them from so much hurt and pain they might experience otherwise. There are many books written for broken adults: I write with a heart to impact youth so they don’t become broken adults.
FF: Why did you choose adolescent issues such as bullying, suicide, and social media as your story focus?
I think they are so relevant to where these adolescents live. And the world doesn’t give great answers to these readers. It doesn’t often give solutions that work when it comes to dealing with these issues in the real world. Schools have anti-bullying posters up in the halls, and plenty of anti-bullying policies. But when you talk to the students, you soon find those things simply don’t work. Easy Target helps readers explore different reactions or responses to bullying, and we let them experience and discover what really works. And a story like this is a great way to open readers eyes to the hurting around them so hopefully they can make a difference.
FF: Tell us about your main characters in Easy Target.
Hudson is a homeschooled Christian 8th grade student who is suddenly thrust into the public school system after dad loses his job—forcing both Mom and Dad to work. He knows he needs to make friends fast—or become an easy target as the “new kid.” He sees some bullying situations that bother him and works to help some of the oppressed. He makes a couple of friends quick but even more enemies. What he doesn’t realize until later is that sometimes the greatest danger to taking on the bullies is becoming one yourself.
Pancake is a non-Christian guy at school who begins to find the courage to stand up for himself as his friendship with Hudson deepens. Maggie, also a non-Christian, is very skeptical of Hudson at first but soon sees qualities in him that she admires and desperately needs.
Giovanna, Maggie’s ex-best friend, is caught in the middle. She is part of the group that bullies but not really part of them all at the same time. She is the real easy target, and we see the desperation she feels and how it drives her to do the unthinkable. This is important for readers, and begins to help them see others with different eyes so they truly can make a difference.
FF: Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Interestingly enough, it was Giovanna, a character who was more of a minor character at first. She was a lot of fun for me to write. I think the thing that made it so interesting was that she was so overlooked, so vulnerable, and it was a chance to make that kind of person be seen more by readers in real life.
FF: Who was your least favorite character to write and why?
Some characters who bullied others were just hard to write, but it was gratifying to find a way to redeem a couple of these characters.
FF: What lessons can be learned from your main characters?
How to “see” others who may quietly be hurting or slipping between the cracks. How to look at things from the perspective of others, to understand them more fully. How to deal with bullying—what works and what doesn’t. How to be a real friend to others. How important it is to open up to parents and to tell them what is going on in the world and to seek their input.
FF: What is your hope for Easy Target?
That Easy Target will get into the hands of youth, parents, teachers, and librarians so that it can get wide exposure and awareness. My hope is that the book bears much fruit. I honestly believe this book can help our readers feel they are not alone in their struggles with others and give them realistic strategies to deal with people who make their lives miserable. For those who are oppressed, I think this book can give them hope and help. For those truly feeling alone, I think we can bring these Easy Target characters to life to the point where readers feel they have a friend in them. I’ve seen this happen so many times before. I also want to open the eyes of readers and help them see things from the perspective of others rather simply from their own point of view. I want to show readers how responding in love can make a difference.
Focus on the Family
Release Date: March 9, 2021
ISBN-10 : 1646070194
A school project goes terribly wrong in this middle-grade thriller about ex-homeschooler and Christian teen Hudson Sutton and his experiences in his new school. When he makes two friends and attempts to take on an established hierarchy of bullying, he doesn’t realize he’s taking a risk he never expected—becoming a bully himself.
From the same author who wrote the suspenseful fiction Code of Silence Series, this is a realistic look at the extent and reality of bullying, especially through social media, with a Christian protagonist who learns that relationships, bullying, and doing the right thing are a bit more complicated than he realized. It also touches on the subject of suicide.
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