Another Column at MyShelf.Com
Babe To Teens, Past
A Youth Column
By Beverly J. Rowe

Vacations, Contest, and an Interview with Max Elliot Anderson

     Summer is never long enough, but still, it's usually great to get back to school to renew old friendships and make new ones. In the August column, I asked kids to write to me and tell us about their summer vacations. It seems that nearly everyone did some traveling. Here are some of the letters...

9 year old Steven wrote:
    I went to Las Vegas this summer with my sister and parents. I had never been there before. We had a lot of fun. We rode on a plane. We went to an amusement park, a magic show, a pool and Hoover Dam. Boy is that big. I also did a lot of swimming this summer, played Nintendo, played with my friends, read some books and rode my bike. I enjoy school and am looking forward to going back again.

    Emily really did some traveling...I know what you mean, Emily...I hate it when mean guys make me wake up!

9 year old Emily writes:
     My Summer Experience 2003 My mom and dad and me went to South Carlina. We live in Fairbanks Alaska and my dad is in the army. We took lots of miltary planes. We left Fairbanks and went to Anchrage. A mean guy made us wake up. We got on anothr plane and went to Washinton and Californa. We keeped missing planes to South Carlina so we got on a plane and went to Texas. We spend the night in a motel in Texas and the next day got on another plane and went to Delawar. Then we got on another plane and got to North Carlina. My Oma and Opa came and got us and drived us to South Carlina. We stayed some days with them and I got to swim in there pool. We went to my Muffy's beach and stayed some days there. My mom and dad and aunt Mary and aunt Michelle swam from the beach to the sandbar and we found lots of conk shells. We went back to my oma and opa house and then we tried to come back home but the plane was broken. We had to wait 5 days to get a plane back to Alaska. My opa came back home with us. He made lots of noise. He hurt is foot. He kept saing eee all the time.

dear bev
my name is briana,i'm 16 and live in south carolina. this summer has been a busy one for me. in june i went to florida with my mom to visit my grandfather. in july i spent a few week's with my dad's mother and went with her to pa for our annual family reunion. in august, i moved to a new town and started going to a new school. so, as you can see i've had a very busy summer. i can't wait to see which book you've picked to send me.

      Allison's friend is close to all our hearts, and will remain in our thoughts...

    i had a great summer, i spent alot of time with my friends especially a girl named chelsea. her brother was killed in iraq in the war this summer. we just hung out and talked alot. i was happy to go back to school though. i am in the sixth grade this year and its so much better than grade school.
allison - age 11

     Wow! Dannielle is going to be busy helping her Mom with that greatly expanded family!

     I had a great summer...I got two new brothers and a new sister! My mom had triplets on june 28th and they came home from the hospitel at the begining of August, on my birthday (the first)! So I had a fun summer!!
Danielle, age 12

Everyone who sent a letter will receive a free book. I hope they enjoy them as much as I enjoyed their letters!

With Halloween this month, be sure to check out the reviews of the newest and scariest books we could find. (links to be added)

Tell Me A Scary Story...But Not Too Scary
My Beastly Brother
The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin
Dracula and Frankenstein are Friends
The Legend of Five Great Deaf Ghost Stories


Oct/Nov. Contest Winners:


Max Elliot Anderson has just published the first of a series of adventure books aimed at tween boys. The first book of the series is The Newspaper Caper. Each book in the series will have different characters in a whole new adventure. These books are aimed at reluctant readers and have Christian concepts integral with the story. Here is what Mr. Anderson had to say about his life as a writer:

Lisa Wheeler  Bev: Mr. Anderson, I really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us at How long have you been writing? I was reading your biography information, and I'm compelled to get this question out of the way let me get this it true that you don't like to read? If not, why is that?

Max: First I wanted to thank you, and yes, I've always had a difficult time with reading holding my interest. Still I managed to go through high school and graduate from College with a degree in psychology. But I have always been more interested or stimulated with things visual. That holds true today. I read a lot in order to get information, but not for pleasure. I'm not sure I have an explanation for it.

I've been writing, without really thinking about it, for the past 15 years. That's because I've written hundreds of video or television commercial scripts for my clients. But it has only been 2 years since I began writing books.


Bev: Tell us about growing up, and your life up to the present.

Max: I grew up in a family of seven children. Four were older and two younger. My dad produced dramatic Christian films which were rented primarily to churches. This was light years before the advent of video as we know it today. Early on I was captivated with the way these films could touch the hearts, emotions, and lives of the people who saw them. My mother read to us when we were little and my dad told stories…lots of stories. One of our favorites was Willie the Ghost.

Between the times I went to Columbia College in Chicago, and when I finished at Grace College, in Winona Lake, Indiana, I was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War but served my time in Germany with an armored battalion. My wife, Claudia, and I decided to get married a year early so she could have the experience of living in Europe for that first year.

We have two children, Jim, a student at Northwestern Law, is 25, and Sarah, soon to begin teaching early childhood after her studies at Auburn University, is 23.

I was "killed" on my bike, at eight years of age, by a hit-and-run driver in one of those black and white films, but the blood was only chocolate syrup. For many years I worked in my father's film company. I traveled a lot in production of films all over the world. My wife ran a large film rental library in the company.

Then we moved to Rockford, Illinois to pursue video production and television commercials. In one way or another, that's what I've been doing for the past 25 years with my two companies, The Market Place, and MVP Productions. My work has won several regional and national awards including three Telly Awards which are compared to the Oscar for non-theatrical productions. I've shot, directed, or produced over 500 national television commercials for True Value Hardware.


Bev: I just finished reading Newspaper Caper. I enjoyed it very much. What great kids the characters are. Are any of them based on kids you know?

Max: Thank you. And, no, the characters are really just made up people. That's true of most of my characters which must be nearing around a hundred by now with all the primary characters, their brothers or sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, and other characters unrelated to the main characters. But I'm sure that if I were to dig really deep I'd find several of them are hiding out in my subconscious someplace. I'm working on my 17th manuscript right now.


Bev: Tell me about how you came up with the idea for this story.

Max: The gist of the initial idea came from thinking it might be interesting to have some sort of a mystery going on and the kids could follow its progress through the daily newspaper. The idea that they might actually be delivering the papers, and the actual story line surrounding a car theft ring and chop shop, didn't occur until later.


Bev: Tell us about the plotting process for this story.

Max: I write in a sort of free form style. In other words, I know the beginning, middle, and end, but I may not know much else. In this case, I wanted to emphasize the importance of being a true friend along with the concept that God is there all the time, not just for emergencies. Once I've thought of the basic idea I've worked from no outline, a brief outline, and in some cases, an extensive outline. But what happens next is still a mystery to me. I am deluged with impressions, funny lines, situations, settings, and plot twists. I used to try to write them all down but this was futile -- especially in the shower or while driving. So now I carry a mini recorder with me at all times. But when it comes to actually sitting down and writing, I'm often as surprised as anyone by what happens. It is only after I've finished the first rough draft, and I begin to read it, that I even know what's in there. So the process is always exciting to me.

One interesting thing happened while writing Newspaper Caper. There is a little old woman who kind of suddenly appeared in the scene while I was writing it. Tom was going to the library as part of his investigation, and she was sitting on a park bench. I had not planned this in advance; however, she and her stolen car become quite important to the story. Those things tend to happen in the free form that I use.


Bev: Were you a newspaper carrier as a kid, or did you have to research the job?

Max: I wasn't. The only experience I had was when my son offered to sub for a friend who wanted to go on vacation for a week. Offering to sub meant that WE would do the job together since it required a car and he was still very young. But, you sort of instinctively know about a thing like delivering newspapers.


Bev: What about Juvenile manuscript readers? Do you try out your story on kids before publication?

Max: Definitely! But not for the purpose of making changes. I have a very definite goal for the books I'm writing and a pretty clear indication that God is very much at the head of it all. I probably have around a dozen people who read the manuscripts and make comments. I'll change minor inconsistencies, but there have never been any major changes required. And it's the comments from kids that mean the most. Here are just a couple:

NEWSPAPER CAPER - Your story was funny and exciting. My favorite part was when Tom was stuck in the building with the attack dogs I liked it cause it kept on getting more and more interesting and exciting. Other books start to get boring but this one didn't. Can I read Mountain Cabin Mystery? Ethan, 12 years old.

TERROR AT WOLF LAKE - What a great story! I was hooked from page one to the end. It is rare that anything hooks me like that... except for Star Wars (of course). I could see parts of me in Eddy, Chet and Rusty. - Brian Baden, 13 years old

Bev: Tom, Jimmy, and Matt would make great series characters. Are these boys in Terror at Wolf Lake, your new book that is coming out in November?

Max: People who have begun to read my work discover that I break a lot of the traditional rules. This is done purposely. And one of the things that always drove me crazy was when you'd have two cousins, or twins, or whatever, and all these wild, fantastic, bigger than life things that could never happen to any one of us, were happening to them on a daily or weekly basis. I found that silly. Yet I wanted to deal with stories as big as those or even bigger.

So, I decided to write an adventure series with one big difference. All the books have different settings, stories, plots, and most of all, different characters. This allows me to move to any place in the country and begin telling a story. But I joke with people about what trouble I'm going to be in if someone ever begins asking questions about specific characters and plot from one of my books. In many ways, it's almost as if I haven't read it yet.

Terror at Wolf Lake also has three main characters, but their names are Eddie, Chip, and Rusty. This allows me to continue to explore or to insert any combination of personality types in order to tell the story. Some just teach a moral or spiritual principle, but others are evangelistic. That would be different if my characters were reoccurring.

It just so happens that there are no girls in these two stories and yet girls appear in several of the others. But the books are primarily for boys ages 8 - 13. That's my target.

Bev: I know that kids love series books. Do you have plans for the further adventures of Tom, Jimmy and Matt?

Max: I never thought of that before you asked, but my previous answer covers it I think. It's doubtful that a thing like that would happen, but who knows?


Bev: What do you think is the main thing that makes kids "reluctant readers?"

Max: I expect it would be because they are intimidated by blocks of words on a page. They, too, may be more visual than linear, as I believe I am. In my research I looked through nearly two hundred books. I found some were just silly. Others were too unrealistic, while quite a few were simply slow and boring. I wanted things to be happening, exciting, realistic, and very visual. So that's what I hope I'm writing now.

But I'm finding that the manuscripts appeal to young, old, boys, girls, and reluctant as well as avid readers. Besides being visual and exciting, they employ a lot of dialog. I think the primary difference in what I'm doing is that I like to think of myself more as a storyteller than as a writer. My books are a bridge between books that are just words on a page, and the films, DVDs, television, and video games that seem to appeal so much to kids today.

Bev: What is your advice for parents to get kids interested in books?

Max: This isn't intended to be self-serving, but if a parent has a reluctant reader, my books will break through that barrier. They've already done that. Here is a comment I received from a mother who had actually asked to review these first two books:

These books are fun, engaging, and exciting. They aren't necessarily for boys who have difficulty reading, but more for kids who just don't like to pick up a book; you know, the kids you have to bribe to get them to read!! Well, they won't want to put these books down. I tested them out on my own 12 year old, and he absolutely loved them! In his own words: "Mom, you have got to tell this guy to write more of these books, they are even better than Star Wars!" Holly Cameron, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Bev: Do you have any advice for kids who want to be writers?

Max: Yes, and it's the same advice I took. I read in a couple places in my writing research that if you truly believe you can write…you can. This doesn't mean you can sit down in front of a computer for the first time and write like a genius. What it does mean is that if you work hard at it and don't give up, you can do it. I'm living proof of that.

Bev: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share with us?

Max: Just that there is a lot of material out there that is designed to pull our kids off the path. So much deals with witches, warlocks, demons, dragons, and dark fantasy. It's important to get books with positive stories that teach moral and spiritual truth into their hands so the concepts can get into their minds.

Less than two weeks ago I nearly died after losing almost half my blood supply. No source was found after a week in the hospital and plenty of tests. Once I began writing these books I have been inundated with all kinds of difficulties, tests, and pressures. There is no doubt in my mind that there are reasons for these. I believe it's to try and discourage me from doing what I'm doing because the hearts and minds of our children are at stake in my opinion.

Beyond that, helping just one young boy discover that books can be fun, exciting, scary, funny, sad, happy, and Christian, with a gigantic story, is what I'm all about as a writer.

Bev: Thanks so much, Max. I will be reviewing Terror At Wolf Lake when it comes out in November. I'm looking forward to that, the title sounds exciting and creepy!


Newspaper Caper
Max Elliot Anderson

Tweener Press
September 2003
Children/Fiction [Ages 8-14]

Reviewed by Beverly Rowe, MyShelf.Com
Buy a Copy

     Tom, Jimmy and Matt have a joint newspaper route, and the boys are up early every morning delivering the papers on their bikes. The boys read about a series of auto thefts in their neighborhood, and one morning they see a couple of men acting very suspiciously. They are pretty sure that the men are stealing a car. Tom sees the name Jake embroidered on one guy's pocket.

     The same Jake turns out to be a mechanic at a relative's garage, and he acts very secretive when the boys are around.

    The boy's adventures as they take matters into their own hands and investigate the car thefts are hair rising. They befriend an elderly widow whose car is stolen, and encounter vicious, boy-eating watch dogs and the thieves themselves at the chop-shop used by the crooks.

     This story contains Christian concepts...God is very much a part of the boys’ lives. The characters are very well drawn and realistic. The plot is exciting and the suspense builds to a surprise ending. This thrilling story is written with the 8 to 14 year old reluctant reader in mind, and the kids just won't be able to put it down.

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Max Allen Anderson
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