Pseudonymous Bosch is the author of the Secret Series, five books about a Big Secret, so secret that he really shouldn’t be writing it down except that he’s just not good at keeping secrets. So far I’ve only read the first book in the series myself (The Name of This Book Is Secret) but the final book You Have to Stop This was released this year.
I caught up with Pseudonymous Bosch (or, at least, a fairly convincing Impostor) and spoke to him briefly about his books, writing, and avoiding writing. Here, then, is a spoiler-free interview.
GeekDad: My first question is, of course, how do we know that we really are speaking with the actual Pseudonymous Bosch and not the Impostor?
Pseudonymous Bosch: You don’t. Then again, how do I know I am speaking to GeekDad and not some advanced paternal logarithm designed to make me confess all my secrets?
GD: How did you come up with (or come across) the story of The Secret?
PB: Here is the secret story behind The Secret Series: I wrote the first book, The Name of This Book Is Secret, in elementary school — as an adult volunteer, alas, not as a student. The book was written in installments through the mail as part of a program called Writing Partners. Fourth and fifth graders in the school were partnered with adults who had no connection to the school, basically as pen pals. We were suppose to contribute writing to each other through the mail for comments and critique, not as a mentor but as a peer-to-peer thing.
My writing partner was a fourth grader named May (the first book is dedicated to her, Writing Partner May), and she sent me stories and poems. She drew a cartoon about a chocolate bar that was afraid of being eaten because she knew I loved chocolate a lot. I decided to write a book for her … but I couldn’t think of a title. Then I thought, maybe that’s because The Name of This Book Is Secret!
I sat down and wrote a preface about The Secret, which still exists in the book today pretty much verbatim. So then she wrote back wanting to know what this big secret was, and I couldn’t tell her. So I sent her back a chapter full of Xs because it was a secret chapter, with everything crossed out. She wrote back, saying “Why don’t you send me a real chapter?” Then I tried to write a real chapter, and she started giving feedback. So a good chunk of the book was written through the mail, in installments.
I didn’t necessarily think I was going to finish the book at first, let alone publish it, but the rest is secret history…
GD: Had you written anything else before this?
PB: I’d written all kinds of things, but never any books. Screenwriting, mostly, some journalism, editing for video games. But no books.
GD: Have you stayed in touch with May?
PB: Yes, she was in fourth grade at the time, and now she’s in eleventh grade. She’s a grown-up now herself.
GD: Is she going to be a writer?
PB: She wants to be an editor, actually, funnily enough.
GD: All the practice she got from editing your book?
PB: Right, exactly.
GD: Your writing style and desire for obscurity reminds me of another gregarious narrator, Lemony Snicket. Was your work influenced by his Series of Unfortunate Events? It appears that, like him, your warnings about not reading your books aren’t being taken seriously. Do you have any convincing arguments for why we should not read all five of your books?
PB: Lemony Who? No, seriously, I am a great admirer of Mr. Snicket’s and am flattered by any comparisons. As for convincing arguments against reading all five books, well, I have to admit they’re a tad long. There are plenty of much shorter books available — with more pictures!
GD: What, besides chocolate, fuels your writing?
PB: I’m not sure exactly, but it is roughly approximate to the compulsion to pick at a scab.
GD: Now that the final book of the series is out, do you have anything else up your sleeves, or do you plan to vanish into the shadows?
PB: Writing is a difficult business, at least for me, and I have long been searching for a way to get out of it. The result: my new diabolical master plan, a book that readers will write for me. It’s called Write This Book! and it should be available in a year or so.
A lot of my fans all want to write. They say they’re inspired to write by my books, and they send me writing, they want advice on writing. They want to know where I get my ideas, how to get a publisher, this and that. So apart from my natural laziness and desire not to write any more myself, this book came out of the interest of so many of my readers wanting to be writers.
It’s not so much of a how-to book as it is a kind of half-written, guided mystery. Parts of it are going to be multiple choice, choose-your-own adventure, parts of it will be more like Mad Libs, some silly stuff. Lots of reflections on reading and writing by Pseudonymous Bosch. Parts of it will be entirely left up to the reader to write.
Hopefully there will be some interesting enhanced ebook reader or it might be online, but we’re still working out how exactly that will work. We’re hoping that will arrive about a year from now, we’ll see.
GD: Is it possible, in today’s world of Google and Wikipedia, to really vanish into the shadows?
PB: No. But perhaps it is possible to create a shadow self that will deflect attention…
GD: Any final advice you would like to give to young readers?
PB: Do as I say, not as I do!
For more about Pseudonymous Bosch and The Secret Series, visit his website www.TheNameOfThisWebsiteIsSecret.com.