Many would-be novelists dream of supporting themselves through spinning yarns. It’s fair to say that few ever do it. Until recently, Golden Valley writer Pete Hautman, who specializes in novels for young adult readers (he also writes for adults), supplemented his income through writing nonfiction. “I wrote a little over 100 nonfiction books for younger readers,” Hautman says, “Among them, Sea Otters, How to Juggle, and The Story of Thomas Edison.“
Before he began his writing career, Hautman, a St. Louis Park High School graduate, says he managed to spend a total of seven years in college and art school without earning a degree. “I don’t think I ever took higher than a 100 level class – you have to do real work [in the higher level ones].”
Today, he has published more than 15 novels. He describes his newest young people’s novel, Rash, published in May, as a “sometimes funny, sometimes not funny book about a teen growing up in the ‘United Safer States of America,’ circa 2074, when pedestrians wear walking helmets, football has been banned, verbal abuse is a misdemeanor, and obesity is a felony.”
Hautman thinks Americans are a little obsessed with being “safe.” This extends to his feelings about trying to control what kids read. He believes children ought to have the freedom to choose their own reading material. “Kids provide their own censorship – some things just go over their heads. You can read The Scarlet Letter when you’re 11 years old and enjoy it without knowing the ‘A’ stands for adultery.
“Growing up, I read the trashiest stuff,” he admits. “Hardy Boys, even Nancy Drew, a lot of comic books.” For a while, he even wanted to be a comic book writer. “I also read the good stuff – Mark Twain, Jack London, Catcher in the Rye. I raided my parents’ bookshelves for westerns and detective novels. A lot of it I didn’t understand.
“I still read trash – and good stuff.”