September 24, 2012
• Describe your latest book My latest is the second book in the Accidental Adventures series, "We Dine With Cannibals." The series tells the tale of 11-year-old twins Oliver and Celia Navel, who want nothing more than to be left alone to watch television. Unfortunately for them, they live at the Explorers Club with their daredevil parents; their mother has gone missing, and they are doomed to a life of excitement and adventure. In their latest unwanted adventure, Oliver and Celia travel from the ruins of ancient temples to the shadowy forests of the Amazon searching for El Dorado. If they can survive their ordeal, decipher the clues, and outwit the bad guys, they might just reunite their family, save the world ... and get cable television.
• Why write? What makes writing a book worthwhile? When I was in fifth grade, I didn't much like to read. I endured a few books because I had to, but preferred playing video games, watching TV and poking things with sticks. Anything but reading! Now, all these years later, as a lover of the written word, I set out to write the kinds of books I would have liked when I was 11. I want to tell stories that excite the imagination, provoke laughter, and keep kids turning the pages with a flashlight beneath the covers hours after bedtime. To tell a story that sets a child on the path to a lifetime of reading makes writing books absolutely the best job in the world. I feel bad for the authors of grown-up books, who may never know the thrill that can bring.
• How has growing up and/or living in the Baltimore area influenced your writing? I think most writers are outsiders to some extent, and Baltimore is kind of an outsider city (there's a reason we have the Museum of Visionary Art). It's a quirky town, neither North nor South, and we certainly have characters. In fact, every neighborhood is kind of a character. So I think, growing up, the city fed my imagination. Plus, growing up in the city of Poe and Mencken, it was hard not to feel a certain romance for the literary. There is also, in "We Dine with Cannibals," a deadly game of dodgeball inspired by own experiences on the elementary school blacktop at Gilman.
• Is the written word in trouble? Are authors an endangered breed? Absolutely not. I think we are in a golden age for story-telling, especially for children's books. There are more exciting, high quality stories being written for young readers now than at any time in history. I am perpetually amazed by the variety of the work being produced by my colleagues. The barriers to publishing are, of course, lower than they have ever been before, and eBooks and Amazon are upending the traditional models of the publishing business, but the writer's job remains the same: to tell stories. Whether they're being read via Kindle, iPad, Nook, or, my favorite, a printed bound book, the words are still what matters. Can you connect with a reader? Can you make one laugh or cry? Can you tell a story truly or, inspire new ideas? If so, you will find your audience, one way or another. That is not going to change. There is no other media that gives a person the intimate connection with another imagination, across time and space, the way reading does.
• What's your next project? In April, the third book in the Accidental Adventures series, "We Give a Squid a Wedgie," comes out from Puffin Books and in June, my first book for teens, "Proxy," will be published by Philomel.